Many parents often wonder, when should I start giving my child an allowance? And what “chores” if any should the child complete in order to receive the allowance? And finally, how much should the allowance be? These are issues that have no one right answer.
As with many parenting issues, the answer comes down to how do you envision your family unit working and what values do you hold high in your home? For instance, some parents believe it is important for children to learn that there are certain things to be done around the family home that the child is expected to do, such as put their dirty clothes in the hamper, make their bed, keep the playroom tidy, etc., and that these chores should be done simply because they are a part of the family. In other words, they are expected to be done and therefore they should not be paid for them. However, a neighboring family may feel completely different about this and feel that these activities warrant an allowance and this can help teach the value of hard work.
An allowance can also be used as a valuable learning tool and help to instill good financial skills at an early age. Kids can experiment with their allowance to save some, maybe for that long wanted toy, or blow it all on an impulse splurge for something like candy. How they decide to spend that hard-earned allowance demonstrates to children that you can earn money but once you spend that sum it is gone until more is earned.
Whatever you decide is best for your family is fine so long as you are consistent and follow through – these two factors are the key to success with small children.
What can my child do?
Typically around age 3 to 5 you can start giving your child allowance. At this age, a child is old enough to understand behavior and consequences – i.e. when I help my mom set the table for dinner every night, I earn $4 allowance that I can use to buy Hot Wheels cars at the grocery store. Some common chores that children do to earn an allowance include setting the table for dinner, clearing and wiping off the table after dinner, helping unload the dishwasher, taking out the trash, putting their laundry away, making their bed. The list could go on and on.
The amount of an allowance is often tied to the child’s age. So a five-year old would receive $5 a week. However, parents should feel free to set the allowance amount at a rate that falls in line with the expectations of what the child will be doing with the money. So, if the intention is to save some and spend some, the allowance rate may be set at a higher amount to meet this goal. It is also important to ask yourself, as the parent, what do you expect your child to purchase with his/her own money and adjust the rate accordingly.
In sum, remain true to your family values when determining what to do about an allowance and set clear expectations with your children!