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Allowances Need to Be Given Carefully

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I’m in favor of giving kids allowances, but it needs to be done carefully. We don’t want our children to think that everything they do deserves a cash prize. As members of a family unit, there are certain household responsibilities that the family should just pitch in and do. Examples might be helping to put laundry away or helping to bring in groceries.

Then there are the daily chores-type of responsibilities and the once-in-a-while responsibilities. This is where I think an allowance or some sort of “payment” is very appropriate. Doing daily chores and receiving payment at the end of the week for the successful completion of those chores helps kids understand the concept of “real world” work. It sets expectations for them, and it gives them an opportunity to do something that is appreciated and valued; that can lead to an increase in self-esteem.

It’s also important that the parent deduct from the allowance when chores are not done, or are not done as expected. We don’t want our kids to fall into the expectation of getting something for doing nothing. I see that happening far too often in the candy aisle of the local grocery store; begging until the parent is on the brink of being half-crazed and gives in just to save his/her sanity is a handy-dandy trick of many kids. We have to be careful not to fall into that trap. We, as parents, have to set the example of good work=good reward, poor work=poor reward.

The once-in-a-while responsibilities can offer great cash or item advantages for the doer. My granddaughter identifies specific things she wants to work for ahead of time. By doing that, she’s actually looking for ways to earn those items. For older children, that extra money can come in handy when it comes to going out with friends, saving for something special, or paying to fill the car with gas. These are a take-it-or-leave-it offer, so parents can’t be upset if the child decides not to do it. As with the daily chores, these opportunities open up not only extrinsic rewards, but also intrinsic ones. My granddaughter is so proud of herself when she earns her rewards, and she especially loves the praise. Parents should make it a point to give verbal rewards and appreciation…not just monetary. It’s those words that kids carry around in their hearts and minds.

With allowances, it’s also important to have serious discussions about spending. With little ones, it’s pretty typical that the money will burn a hole in their pockets once they get it. But, even in cases like that, you can still teach valuable lessons. A colleague has a child who earns $5 a week for doing various chores around the house. She is ready to spend the minute that money hits her hand. At first, her mom took her to Target where her daughter happily spent her money. Then she took her to a local second hand store, and she showed her daughter how her $5 stretched into more things there. Now, her daughter wants to shop at the second hand store first.

With any age, it’s critical for parents to hold firm to “when it’s gone, it’s gone.” Kids need to learn how to budget, and they can start doing that when they are young. Helping them develop a savings plan, open a bank account, and/or create a budget can be some of the most important skills we pass on to our kids. Fiscal responsibility and accountability of our kids prepares them to successfully handle one of life’s biggest challenges.

Dr. Sharon Sevier has been in education for 40 years. During that time, she has been a classroom teacher, a school counselor at every level, a district director of guidance and counseling, and an adjunct faculty member at various colleges and universities in New York and Missouri. Sevier is currently serving as the Chair of the Board of Directors of the American School Counselor Association.

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