Title Disclaimer: Daniel is my go-to title guy. This was his first suggestion, and we laughed so hard we had to keep it. You’ll see it doesn’t quite fit the content.
Recently I’ve been thinking about money and children. Or more precisely, my thoughts are about children wanting money and how not to raise entitled, spoiled brats.
My kids have hit the stage where they want… everything.
Even though there are at least 42 stuffed animals currently residing in our house, Alice begs me to buy her one whenever she spots a cute ball of fur in a store. (To be honest, I understand. I also have a big soft spot for stuffed animals. I’m sure she senses my weakness.)
Until recently, I’ve been telling Alice that she can buy things with her own money. Well, she took that to heart, and the small fortune she had amassed during her eight years of life (about $5) has been spent on an impressive assortment of gum balls of every color imaginable.
Now I no longer have the luxury of telling her to use her own money. Her piggy bank is empty, and she has no consistent source of income.
During the months before Christmas, Ian was the champion of “I want…”. My mind numbing response was “Put it on your Christmas list,” while reminding him over and over that he would not get everything on his list.
Now that Christmas is past, the wants continue, along with my increasing insanity while listening to constant begging for this and that from both children.
Daniel and I had very different monetary backgrounds as kids. He had no cash flow until his first teenage job making soft pretzels.
I had cash flow at an early age (around 6-8 years old) due to working on the extended-family farm. From the very beginning, I was taught to divide my earnings into savings, spending and giving, a principal I continue to this day.
To be honest, I’ve felt strongly that our children should have some source of cash flow by 10-12 years old. I know it helped me establish a strong understanding of the value of money, and I want the same for them.
However, neither of us received weekly allowances for doing household chores, and as parents, we’ve been adamantly against giving an allowance to our children for completing chores. Chores should be performed (cheerfully, of course) because a child is part of a family. Chores give children a sense of accomplishment and contribution to the family.
But the wants and whining continued until I was ready… ready to pay my offspring to do chores as an avenue to teach them the value of money.
As I talked with Daniel, we agreed that there would be chores the kids were expected to complete and chores we would pay them to do. The list of paying chores was short, emptying the dish washer and folding large amounts of laundry with mom supervising.
It has worked beautifully. Each child is ecstatic when I say it’s time to fold laundry or that it’s his/her turn to empty the dishwasher. Fights have erupted about who gets! to do the work. The maximum each child earns is about one dollar a week because obviously there is a finite number of times these chores need completed each week.
Due to the slow accumulation of money, I feel the kids are beginning to understand they can’t buy everything they want. They have both changed the item for which they are saving several times, hopefully realizing (over time) that wants change and impulse buying generally isn’t a good way to spend your money. And Alice is starting to understand that buying a gum ball each week moves her away from making a larger purchase.
Despite it’s apparent success, I’m still struggling with our system. At some point in time, I feel emptying the dishwasher and folding laundry should be moved to the list of chores that are expected to occur without payment. What kind of pushback am I setting myself up for in the coming years?
Even now, they offer to do non-required chores but always accompanied by the question “will you pay me for it?” I feel our current system is definitely not teaching them to be helpful out of the goodness of their hearts; instead they are expecting payment for non-required services… feels a bit like entitlement to me.
Then I stumbled across this earth-shattering article, which basically says (if you can afford it) just give!?! your kids a set amount of money each month—no strings attached except that you help them divide the money into savings, spending, and giving (sounds familiar). Author Ron Lieber says “Don’t start it too late, don’t link it to chores, and don’t skimp.”
Sounds crazy, right?
The premise—kids should be given early and ample opportunity to learn to use money before they are making high stakes money decisions, such as going to college. Instead start them with small amounts of money and slowly increase the amount until they are responsible for their own clothing budget, for example.
Another glaring point by the author is that linking chores and payment is a huge no-no. Instead non-completion of chores should result in losing privileges… makes sense to me.
And yet this goes against every fiber of my being. Just give my kids money? How will they come to understand that money is earned, and that at some point, it won’t just fall from the ever-giving-parents? As teenagers will they possess incentive to get a summer job to start saving for college if mom and dad are already giving them money?
Well Mr. Ron Lieber, to say the least, I’m definitely intrigued and your book just went to the top of my reading list. (And to be completely honest, I’m having a hard time delaying my own instant gratification because I have to wait until your book is no longer listed as a “New Book” so that I can get it on loan from a distant library since my local library doesn’t have it.)
How about you… what do you think about allowances? As a parent? As a child who did or did not receive an allowance? Do you have any words of wisdom to pass along to me before I dive into this heresy?