Giving Children Allowance: Yay Or Nay?

Written by

Kate Maclean

4:00 pm


After a few years in this material world, young children begin to pick up that money is central to existence in 21st century American society. They aren’t born with the nuanced understanding of money that you (hope to) have as an adult, but they have heard reference to it, seen it, probably tried to eat it more than once, and are soon citing it as a solution whenever they are in want of something.

Teaching children about earning money is intrinsically tied to work ethic and establishing a difference between paid and unpaid work. One theory argues a difference between cleaning up after yourself (dishes, making your bed, sweeping, feeding the dog) and work deserving of pay. The argument goes that children need to learn to be responsible members of a community where they accomplish basic—unpaid—jobs that help the community thrive. When they are children, this community is their home. The hope is that this translates to future, responsible community members. The theory continues that outside of these basic unpaid chores are opportunities to work for pay: helping out the family business, particularly onerous home tasks, working for a neighbor, a child’s own entrepreneurial endeavors, etc.

Some parents think allowances shouldn’t be tied to any work, and others want to pay their children as enticement to read books and brush teeth. Whatever the origin of the money, parents next have to decide how they help (if at all) their child manage this new windfall. Some parents advocate the Principle of the Three Jars: save, spend, and give. Every time a child acquires money, they put a third of that in each jar. Other parents advocate for savings, and even offer their children matching contributions to the child’s savings account.

Every parent has their own insight for what did (or didn’t) work for them as a child, and each parent has their unique method of applying this to their kids. We want to hear from you! How do you teach your child a healthy reverence for money? Do you give your kids an allowance? Do you assign chores? Are they paid? Do you have guidelines for what they do with their money? What was your experience growing up? In the end, what are your thoughts? Allowances: yay or nay? Share your insight, wise mothers, in the comments below.

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Our boys are grown and we did a combo approach. On Friday nights we had a family cleaning party…loud music while everyone worked to dust, vacuum, clean bathrooms, change sheets, and feast on ordered in pizza. Everyone helped with daily chores like loading/unloading the dishwasher, setting/clearing the table, picking up/tidying, and sweeping the floors. After age 6 or so, each child got an age-appropriate allowance independent of any chores/behaviors as we did not feel they should be paid to participate in keeping up our family home. It was great b/c then if we were shopping for a friend’s birthday present and they wanted a toy, I could say, “By all means, you have your money.” When they’d see the price of the desired item, more often than not they’d pipe: “–$ for this?!” and refuse to make the purchase. They became savers of their own accord. When they received money gifts for birthdays and holidays from family, we encouraged allocating some for spending and some for saving. I wish we had been more proactive about charity allocations though they did regularly cull their gently used toys for donation.