How Allowances Can Help Parents
As a teacher, I had to manage 20 plus kids all day for 180 days every year. And most of the time, this meant getting 20 people to do things they would prefer NOT to do. So how do teachers manage kids and have careers that last 20 years or more? Trust me when I say using too many words is NOT your friend. Yelling and screaming is not your friend.
Part of the way teachers get kids to do things they don’t naturally tend to do is by setting up consequences. And this is where YOU come in as a parent. This is where giving your child an allowance can help you manage them now, and in the future. The reason it works is because it builds on two key factors kids need (1) Empathy and (2) Consequences.
What An Allowance REALLY is
An allowance is something given to a family member. It is a gift. Many people believe that allowances should be earned for working around the house. In other words, paying kids to do household chores. But in my experience as a teacher, what this does is send the message that kids are not really part of the family. Being part of a team, or a family, means that certain things have to get done, for everyone. Chores are something family members are expected to do. Shopping, cleaning, homework are all things that families do. Chores are what make kids feel needed and that they are and integral part of the family. “I am part of this family, and I need to help run our life together”. That is the ultimate message chores send kids. Your kids are not service providers. They’re family. It is expected that they contribute to the success of the family’s well being.
Empathy and An Allowance
Empathy is something that is necessary for all parts of life. But ironically, it does not occur to kids to be empathetic naturally. It is a skill that has to be taught. To understand what another person feels is something we learn to do. And ultimately, being able to be empathetic leads to a happier and more productive life. It allows for more meaningful relationships. Ultimately, empathy is the key skill to happy living.
So, when you give your child an allowance, you are saying, “I understand how you feel about wanting things. I want things too. Everyone wants things. So because you are part of this family, I am going to give you X amount per week. You can save or spend your allowance as you wish (providing it is not illegal).” In doing this, you are modeling empathy. You are also setting the stage to teach how to handle life’s frustrations and realities.
Let Your Child Spend Their Allowance As They Wish
It is normal to want to put restrictions on what kids can do with their money. As grown ups, we know how hard money is to come by. But the truth is, money is one of those lessons everyone has to learn the hard way. It is almost certain you child will misallocate or spend all their money way before their next allowance pay date. When that happens, your chance to model empathy again AND teach how to deal with unpleasant consequences will arise. Here is a possible exchange that may happen:
KID: Mom, I need my allowance again. I want to buy X.
MOM: Me too. I need my paycheck again. I want to buy X. You get your allowance on Friday.
KID: No Mom, really. I need my allowance. Other moms give their kids their allowance early.
MOM: I understand about needing money. And you get your allowance on Friday.
KID: Mom, C’mon. Just this one time. I really need to buy X.
MOM: I can relate. I need to get my hair done. And you get your allowance on Friday.
If this kind of exchange continues, you can ask “What do you think my boss would say if I asked her to pay me early like this”. “What do you think you need to do so you always have money to buy things with your allowance?”
In this dialogue, you are teaching your child the value of money and the consequences of how it feels to have no money. You are also empathetic. But there is no yelling, or shaming or telling your child they should have done this or that. It is all implied. Your child is getting the message. You love them, you will pay their allowance on Friday, and you understand what it is like to run out of money. That’s a lot of life lessons being taught. So use an allowance as a way to manage behavior and show your kids how much you love them.
Some of the ideas in this blog post are from the book Love and Logic
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