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Mom's Time Out

Setting an allowance

Mary Angel

(8/2015) Responsibilities, chores, allowance? Some families have chores that relate to allowance, some families have chores separate from allowance. I have found, as I discussed last month, most families have some sort of chores (even though my son thinks he is the only one with chores). Allowance is a different matter though. I have heard a wide range of ideas about how much allowance and how allowance should be earned and distributed. My family has implemented a number of policies on allowance. Here is the good and the bad of our allowance experiences.

When we only had two boys and a small baby we started by giving the boys allowance that was very small and what we felt was appropriate for their age. We were simply trying to teach them to make good choices with their money. At the innocent ages of 7 and 5 they usually wanted to spend their money the minute they saw some candy, Legos or Star Wars figures. This is when we saw some major flaws in this plan. They were given money for no good reason and spent it at a momentís notice. We realized we needed to revamp the allowance plan.

We decided there needed to be a reason for the allowance. The boys needed to, at least in some small way, earn the money. In the past I have discussed my surprise when I found out what chores my friends kids (who were the same ages as mine) were capable of doing. When the boys were this age I hadnít come to that realization yet. However, we still knew the boys were old enough to complete some basic chores. We started having them clean their rooms, gather laundry and set and clear the table. We used these chores to, in some way, justify the piddlence we gave them. This worked for a while but as they got older it fell apart.

We also considered separating the chores association to the allowance. So they would get allowance regardless of doing chores. This new system would require consequences for not completing the assigned chores. That consequence could come in the form of grounding, or loss of privileges, but either way there would be a punishment. Regardless of them doing or not doing their chores and receiving a punishment, they could never be penalized by losing their allowance. The problems with this system were many.

The first problem we ran into was no matter the punishment for not completing their assigned chores they were going to get the money that they so desperately desired. Whether they were going to spend it immediately on candy, or some cheap toy that would break by the end of the day, or they were saving for a new video game or expensive doll, they were still closer to that goal. They werenít as motivated by the loss of privileges whether it be for a day or a week as they were by the loss of the money! The second problem was the amount of time and concentration this plan took. Not only did I have to keep track of the chores each child did, but also who was in trouble for what and what the associated punishment was and for how long. I am pretty sure there have been at least a few times when a child has convinced me that their punishment was shorter than I had originally made it. Lastly, as I stated, there were no consequences that involved the allowance. The kids quickly learned that no matter what, they were going to receive their allowance. Needless to say this system was very quickly revoked.

At this point we had four kids (albeit one was in diapers). We discussed making each chore have a monetary value attached to it. So you could earn more or less based on your effort. This plan seemed to make the most sense, but it also went through some changes and revamping over the years. With this type of system you need to be very careful what value you place on each chore. An ambitious child could end up earning more money than you actually can afford. We thought one quarter, a mere 25 cents, didnít seem like much at all. When you make every little task you want your child to accomplish worth a quarter that can add up pretty quick. Multiply that 25 cents by, say 30 or 40 little chores in a week and multiply that by 4 kids. The bottom line was this didnít work.

After we adjusted the individual value of each chore then we had to consider what a chore was. Were we going to make basic hygiene a chore? Next we had to decide whether every chore, no matter what its difficulty level, was to be assigned the same money value. We were pretty sure the older kids would feel that cleaning an entire bathroom was not equal to helping mom fold towels. This is when I started reading a book by the Economides Family called "The Money Smart Family System". The family who wrote this book actually had five kids and developed a system that dealt with all of the issues that took us years to work through and many more.

I desperately wished that I had this book earlier. This book addressed the issues of age appropriate chores. They suggested that the chores be grouped into categories/ or times of the day. By doing this you can assign age appropriate chores to each child and you can then adjust the amount each chore section is worth based on a childís age. This also gives you the ability to give each child a "raise" as they get older and are, consequently, able to do more difficult tasks. It also made a point we had never considered, a pivotal and quite simple (in hind sight at least) point. That point is that none of this will work if you do not inspect what you have asked your children to do. By inspecting, encouraging and correcting, your kids will learn the right way to do things and there will be accountability. This is the biggest step we had been missing all of these years.

The bottom line is what every allowance you give your kids and whatever system you choose to enlist in your family, just make sure you donít miss this valuable chance to teach your kids about finances.

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