Giving kids an allowance is a tried and true method of introducing children to financial responsibility. At the same time, kids also need to learn how to perform basic self-help tasks and take care of their belongings. In some households, the line between allowance and chores becomes blurred, with parents or caregivers only handing over an allowance if their children complete chores satisfactorily. This is a controversial way of approaching kids’ money, with good arguments on both sides.
Chores as a Job, Allowance as Pay
Similar to some parents and caregivers, you might see chores as your child’s job. He might not be able to clock in the way you do every work day, but like an employer, you assign your child tasks and expect that he’ll complete them as directed. Under this reasoning, it makes sense to treat allowance more like pay. Just as a boss is entitled to evaluate and withhold pay if you don’t perform as agreed, you should be able to adjust your child’s allowance if he doesn’t complete items on his chore list.
The advantage of sticking with this side of the allowance/chore argument is that your financial interaction mimics what your child eventually will see in an employment situation. He learns quickly that he is not entitled to anything, that he has to put some effort forth to get a reward. How big the reward is and how often it’s offered still is under your control, but your child comes to understand they have a direct effect on their monetary stability.
Chores as a Learning Tool, Allowance as Added Reward
Not all parents and caregivers see allowance and chores as similar to employment tasks and compensation. If you’re in this group, you might see your child’s chores as learning tools. For example, by cleaning her room, your child might learn skills of organization and spatial planning. Under this view, the role your child holds is not that of worker; it’s that of student. She is learning fundamentals everyone needs—in essence, the chores aren’t much different than, say, brushing your teeth or eating something. Generally, people aren’t paid for performing such rudiments, so chores likewise shouldn’t result in a payment.
The benefit of seeing chores more like learning tools is that your child will not assume that he will be monetarily compensated for the things he does. She will learn to do his chores more for the sense of accomplishment and pride she can get from the completion, not for funds—that is, the chores can build self-esteem, not the amount in her piggy bank. This self-esteem and the belief that money isn’t all that matters might be much more important to your child’s happiness than any dollar amount you can provide.
A Possible Compromise
Although both points of view on the allowance/chores debate have merit, it’s possible to find a reasonable compromise. This involves spontaneous financial gifts when your child clearly has demonstrated responsibility and maturity. The spontaneity prevents him from expecting rewards all the time, but the provision of the funds shows him that good choices and behaviors don’t go unnoticed.