Your children’s weekly allowance can provide an important opportunity to teach the values that are salient in your family. It is wise to think through as parents how much money you want your children to have, as well as how you want to do it, so that the experience becomes a learning one for them. The noun, “value,” is defined as worth, importance and appeal. Allowance provides children a chance to gain an understanding about monetary value, as well as ethical and moral values. And the lessons do not have to be taught through parental lectures. The beauty of weekly allowance is that the learning is experiential.
There are many ways to be creative about allowance. Here are some of the values that can be reinforced in the process:
1. The value of money:
When children are giving decision-making power over how to spend their money (within age-appropriate limits), they begin to learn how to match their wishes to the costs of things in the real world. They learn to prioritize what they want, and to make choices about how to spend their money. So, for example if they spend all of their money at the beginning of the week on candy, they will learn that there’s none left when the family takes a visit to a Dollar Store later in the week.
2. The value of economizing:
With experience, children can learn how to delay gratification, and plan how to save or spend their allowance. Children can begin to learn that if they save several weeks allowance, and don’t spend it on frivolous items; they can actually buy something more expensive and desirable.
3. The value of work:
Some parents divide up the child’s allowance into chores, and give out the weekly allowance to the extent that the chores were completed. So for example, each chore can be reimbursed at the rate of $2. A $6 allowance could be rewarded when their room is clean, the garbage is taken out, and their assigned night’s dishes are washed. If one chore is not completed, the child’s allowance would be $4 for the week. This creates a logical consequence for not doing their job, as well as an incentive for getting the work done. As a child gets older, more weekly chores can be added, which may raise the amount they get for allowance.
Some families provide children a chance to make more money, on top of their allowance, by doing extra work at home. Doing an extra load of laundry, mowing the lawn or weeding the garden can all be tasks that can bring additional money, if a child is saving towards something special.
One caveat: It is important that allowance not be withheld as a consequence for other problems. They should know that if they do their chores, they can count on the money. Other appropriate consequences should be found, logically tied to the given situation.
4. The value of saving:
Parents can insist that a portion of their child’s allowance be put away in a bank account for college, or some other goal. So each week, let’s say $1 is saved. Some parents will give an additional “match” in the banking account if more than the required amount is saved.
5. The value of giving:
Parents also can use weekly allowance to teach their family’s philanthropic tradition. Some families have the child set aside 10%, a tithing rate, for charity. Others may have the child put a certain amount of their allowance in their church’s collection plate on Sunday. Jewish families sometimes have children put part of their allowance in a tzedakah (or righteous deeds) box, before the Sabbath. At some point in the year (around a holiday or at the beginning of the year,) the child can decide what charity to support. This becomes a time for them to explore what is meaningful to them. Writing a letter to the charity to go along with the check can be an important learning opportunity.
6. The value of love:
Giving an allowance to a child can be an expression of your love for them, and a sense of mutual give and take within a family. One family gives an extra dollar on top of the amount given for chores “just for living.” This dollar cannot be taken away, but is something the child can count on every week, even if they have been uncooperative. This is one tangible way to express to your child that your love for them is unconditional.