I have some really practical Intentional Parenting thoughts for you today about our children’s allowances. There are a few different approaches we’ll look at, and I’ll let you know why we chose the one we did.
There are three broad approaches to allowances. (I’m making up these categories.)
- The Beneficent Ruler approach
- The Employer/Employee approach
- The Citizenship approach
The Beneficent Ruler Approach
In this approach, there are no allowances. The parent buys the child what he wants. While it feels generous, this approach is subject to the mood of the parent, who might choose not to buy a new toy because she is angry with the child or in a hurry. The parent may also be tempted to bribe the child in order to influence the child’s behavior in the store. Furthermore, as the child grows, his expectations will become more and more expensive, creating problems for the parent who will inevitably have to start saying “no.”
I don’t recommend this approach after the child learns to count money. In addition to the issues above, the child will not learn the value of money or how to save it. He also won’t understand why some shopping trips result in toys and others don’t.
No matter which of the next two approaches you take, an allowance is a good idea. It helps your children learn how to manage money and how to save for things they really want. I am so thankful my mother taught me how to spend and save money. I’m fairly sure it’s that experience which has helped my own family stay out of credit card debt!
The Employer/Employee Approach
In this method, parents pay children for the completion of chores. Although we don’t use this approach, I have friends who do, and there are some benefits to it. Children learn the value of their work—that effort has rewards. Parents sometimes quantify purchases, saying things like, “That book costs five dishwashings.” This can be helpful for children who don’t grasp the concept of paper money and coins yet. Children will also have incentive to do their chores because of the reward, and the punishment for incomplete chores is built into the system.
The Biblical basis for this approach comes from verses like 2 Thessalonians 3:10.
For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
The Citizenship Approach
In this method, all members of the family possess certain rights and responsibilities inherent to their positions as family members. Members have the right to an allowance, that is, to a small amount of money that can be used at one’s discretion. They also have a right to be heard and to provide input into big decisions (financial and otherwise). At the same time, family members have certain responsibilities simply because they are part of the family. Parents go to work or work from home, children go to school, parents drive places, parents buy groceries, children obey parents as governing authorities, etc. Everyone does household and yard chores appropriate for their ages and strengths.
Even if you don’t do your chores all week, even if you get disciplined every day, you still get your allowance (unless part of your discipline is the loss of that allowance, which we’ve never done).
I prefer this approach because it’s not really about the money. It’s about the family and each person’s permanent place in it. Through it, we teach our children about our (and therefore God’s) everlasting love and generosity but also our response of obedience. We fulfill our duties because we’re part of the family, not because we get something for it. We receive an allowance because we’re part of the same family and not because we did something to deserve it. Sure, it makes chore completion more of a hassle, but I think it’s worth it.
The Citizenship approach refers to our citizenship in the Kingdom of God. The Biblical foundation for this approach comes from verses such as this:
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. -Romans 8:17
Just a couple of details, if you’re interested.
- Each person’s allowance (including parents) is half their age. So the 10-year-old gets $5/week. (We might have to change this in the later teenage years, but it’s working for now.) This helps us modify amounts as the kids get older. Because we parents get an allowance, too, the children watch us go through the same waiting times and decisions as they experience. They don’t think we can just buy anything we want because we have the ATM cards.
- We give occasional advances if there’s a good purchase that probably won’t be available later. We are faithful, however, to ensure that it’s repaid. Learning about debt is part of the experience.
- The children tithe on their allowance, as practice and as an act of worship.
What about your experience as a child or as a parent? Please share some good allowance strategies or ideas in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!