Success Stories for Children's Allowances
Finding an allowance system that works can be its own chore. Readers share their own strategies.
In response to my recent series of columns on allowances, a number of readers wrote to describe how they pay their children for chores done around the house. (See Allowance 2.0, Allowance Rules in the Electronic Age and Prepaid Debit Cards Encourage Spending.)
Keeping track of chores is often a tough job for parents, so I'm happy to share the experiences of two dads who have been successful.
I believe that a child as young as 3 should do a set number of chores each week and get paid a set amount for each one. I started this system when my child was 3. Now that he is 7, he has his own money to spend on whatever he wants when we go shopping. He knows that if he wants the $20 toy, he has to do extra work around the house to get the money and save up for a few weeks.
Not once has he ever started whining in a store because he couldn't have something he wanted. The answer to the question "Can I get this, Dad?" is always the same: "Well, how much money do you have? If you have enough, then go for it." More important, he knows how many chores it takes to get what he wants. Our system teaches work ethic and, I hope, teaches him the value of a dollar.
Paying for chores on a job-by-job basis is a practical way of making sure the work gets done. And you're also smart to give your son primary responsibility for making his own purchases. That's something parents should do with any allowance system.
I have employed the use of "incentive-laden" contracts with my children, ages 10 and 7. They earn points for certain achievements during the year. For example, homework completed in a timely manner is worth a point, and four points is a dollar. Grades are rewarded at a dollar per report-card A, with a kicker of $5 for all A's.
Chores on weekends are worth a dollar per day. All funds are paid at the end of the school quarter. In total, the kids can earn between $25 and $45 over a nine-week span. And they can buy what they want when we shop.
Using money to reward children for good behavior is a tricky business. Ideally, they should be doing homework and working hard in school because they get personal satisfaction, not just cash. And it would be nice if you rewarded them for improving their grades, not just for getting A's.
But so far you seem to have found a system that works. And like the dad in the letter above, a big part of your success is giving your children responsibility for their own spending decisions.