Recently I gave my children their first paid gig: picking up leaves and acorns. We have a nice play area in our backyard with rubber mulch, and it was getting taken over by the invaders of autumn. I gave Lamb and Monkey each a bucket, and I told them I would pay a penny per leaf and a nickel per acorn. Monkey quickly filled his up and came running back. I showed him how to push the leaves down to make more room in his bucket, and he went happily off to earn more money.
When all was said and done, I paid Monkey $1.35. I paid Lamb… are you ready for this?... $9.55! She was quite the hard worker that afternoon! Note to self: Make everything worth a penny next time…
Fast-forward a few days to Monday, when Lamb was home sick from school. As she sat on the floor and worked on a little craft, the following conversation took place:
Monkey (to Lamb): "Why are you cutting the couch?"
Lamb: "I'm not!"
Monkey: "Yes, you are!"
Lamb: "Noooooooooo!!!!! I'm NNNNNOOOOOTTTTTTT!!!!!"
Somewhere in my brain I heard this whole conversation, but the conscious part of my brain just heard "Fighting kids. Must stop." So I stopped them and talked to them. Then I played back in my head what had transpired, and I wondered if I should go over and check the couch. "Nah," I thought, "she's FIVE, not two. She knows better."
And then about two hours later, my mom was over and said, "Oh no! What happened to your couch?"
Sure enough, there was a 2-inch gash along the couch cushion, made by a nice pair of kid scissors. So Lamb and I had a talk. Not to pat myself on the back or anything, but I was actually quite pleased with how calm and compassionate yet firm I was, almost like an actual good mom. But during the course of the conversation, I asked Lamb how she thought we should pay for the repairs, and eventually "we" decided that she should give me all of the money in her piggy bank. (And yes, she has an actual piggy bank.) That included all of her leaf and acorn money, plus a few dollars in coins that she had accumulated over time. She was devastated. (By the way, what on earth made her decide to slice open the couch, I still don't know.)
But as we discussed this consequence, she said two things that really stood out to me. "Now how will I save up for anything?!" and "But no one ever wants to give me their money!" I was impressed that she had given thought to saving up for things, and struck by the fact that she relied on us giving her the occasional quarter in order to do so.
So that got me thinking… What other jobs would she be willing to do for a penny or nickel at a time? No wait, that wasn't it. It was… Maybe it's time to start an allowance.
And then I started researching allowances, and let me tell you—expert opinions vary widely on the topic. Here are just a few of the results I found in my search:
- From crown.org – "Don't link allowance to routine household chores. Children have chores because they're members of the family; they get an allowance to learn how to handle money. Linking the two may result in children who won't do anything without pay or children who decide the money isn't worth the work."
- From daveramsey.com – "Start paying them a commission for chores they do around the house… Do not give them an allowance."
- From ehow.com – "Provide your child with a weekly or bi-weekly allowance, depending on how often you get paid. Letting your child know that his "payday" corresponds with yours can help drive home the idea that money has to be managed and made to last until the next payday."
- From kidsmoney.org – "Their first allowance should be given at a minimum of once a week."
And that's just the beginning! A wide range of opinions can also be found on what age a child should be, how much they should be given, how involved the parents should be in how the money is spent, and on and on and on.
I just wanted a simple way to help my daughter save up for something!
So now Mr. Fantastic (That's how I'm referring to my hubby from now on—I may even go back and do it retroactively. He's not a big blogging fan, so maybe this will help me to earn some brownie points. Plus, he IS pretty darn fantastic.) and I are trying to decide how to handle this whole thing. Do we give her an allowance or a "commission"? Maybe we should give her some basic responsibilities and then she earns money for chores she does on top of that…? But if we do that, will she start to expect payment every time we ask her to do something? If we give her an allowance (and not a commission), will she think that money just grows on trees? How much is appropriate? How do we help her learn how to spend it? Should we start something with Monkey too? How much of her allowance should be set aside for the therapy bills that she will inevitably need after being raised in this house?
And that's where we are, in the midst of the great payment debate. So what do you do? Do your kids get an allowance or a commission or neither? Or both? What are the parameters? Do you have a set of written rules—amounts, times, conditions, etc? Let's hear it—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Commence! J