Ask Dr. Susan Bartell: What’s the Going Rate For Allowance?

By Dr. Susan Bartell

Question: How do I decide on allowance for my young child or teen?

Answer: This is one of the most common questions I hear from parents. It made it as one of the top questions in my new book, “The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask”!

There are two schools of thought about allowance: one is to give your child an allowance for chores and the other is to give allowance without chores.

I recommend giving allowance WITHOUT chores–here’s why: You don’t get paid to do the laundry, make dinner, vacuum, take out the garbage etc. Being a member of a family includes doing chores and contributing to family. This should be expected of every child at a level of which they are capable and depending upon how many other school and extracurricular commitments they have.

If you pay them for chores, the lesson they learn is not to be part of your family, but that they are entitled to money for every little thing they do–believe me this is a very slippery slope. If you make allowance dependent on chores, it will become complicated and you will find yourself in a negative downward spiral–for example, what happens when you’ve taken all the allowance away? Now your child has no money and nothing to spend and is back to nagging you again!

The point of allowance is to teach your child how to manage money and to not constantly be nagging you for a handout for ice-cream and toys. You will do this very, very effectively by following steps:

1. Set an allowance that actually allows your child to purchase the items you decide she will need to spend her own money on (calculate how much ice-cream, saving for toys, money for play-dates etc actually will cost her), then make that her weekly allowance, plus maybe a bit more for saving for something long term.

2. DO NOT give her extra money in addition to that, no matter how much she asks if/when she runs out. This is how she will learn to budget, save and understand the value of money.

3. Don’t forward next week’s allowance to her if she runs out–stand firm and stick with it–she will learn about money and you will find that the nagging will miraculously stop.

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