I personally have no experience as a parent. Yet, at the same time, it’s fairly obvious being a parent comes with a lot of decisions on how to best raise one’s children.
As a child, and later as an adult, I made a lot of observations about the differences in terms of parenting other families had, and consequently it impacted us.
Naturally, I had friends and peers at school who grew up in households with separate expectations and priorities, as well rules they had to abide by. Some of us came from stricter upbringings as opposite to parents with a more laid-back attitude, or our parents were stricter in one area and more relaxed in another.
One of the areas I particularly noticed this divergence was when it came to allowances.
My family had a rather sporadic affair with the concept of an allowance. When I was in first grade, my mother tried to institute an allowance for us on a weekly basis. But it was hard for her to keep track of how much we were supposed to get, and even we forget sometimes. Having a calendar didn’t help, because we tended to lose it in the sloppy mess we had for a bedroom.
Then there was my dad who, having worked as a paper delivery boy and then at the local Napa store starting from high school up through college, balked at the notion of us getting money for free. If we got money, it was for doing extra chores beyond the bare minimum.
Other parents, however, gave their kids allowances. Fortunately, it didn’t cause any problems between the kids who got allowances and those who didn’t, but it was certainly interesting to see how it played out. Many of the kids who got allowances later got into spending problems, yet their siblings, who got the same allowance, are practically fiscal hawks.
And then there were kids who had no allowance and spent their money like a Las Vegas gambler every time they got their paycheck.
As someone who grew up with no allowance, I can see why parents might be wary about it. But I also saw how it worked with a lot of my friends.
I’m not one to tell other people how to raise their kids, especially since, strictly speaking, I admittedly have no experience with child-rearing. Nevertheless, if your kids are approaching that age where allowance starts to come up in conversations, here are some things to consider on why it may or not be right for your kid.
No matter what any legalist may or may not say, this is not a black and white moral issue. The Bible doesn’t address the concept of an allowance precisely.
Yet, it does say two important things that should be kept in mind. Men and women are not meant to live on an allowance when they grow up and leave their parents’ house. They are meant to live on wages they earn through an honest living as written in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, which states that “he who does not work shall not eat.”
In his letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul also wrote “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child.”
Regardless of whether a child has an allowance or not, when they become an adult, an allowance should be one of those things to put behind. An allowance should be designed to help kids out in that regard.
Essentially, the question that needs to be asked is whether an allowance will help or hinder a child when it comes to money and finance?
It is up to the parents and they alone to answer that question for themselves.
WHY IT MIGHT WORK
An allowance can be a great way to educate a child about basic finances. With a weekly, bimonthly, or monthly allowance, the money can act as their equivalent of a paycheck and allows them to determine how much money they will receive in a given timeframe so they calculate how long it takes to save up to a certain amount. This provides parents with a good opportunity to teach their kids about why it is important to save in order to buy things themselves, rather than look over at dad’s wallet or mom’s purse every time they see something they want at the store.
An allowance can also come in handy when teaching a child the concept of wages and how to balance a budget. Additionally, kids who get an allowance can learn to handle a significant amount of money and, through trial and error, figure out how to make wise spending choices, since they won’t be able to turn to their parents to bail them out when they have buyer’s remorse.
I personally saw a lot of kids who had difficulty adjusting to paychecks and having a substantial amount of money in their bank account when they had had little experience handling money prior to their first job. Their natural tendency was to spend it because they hadn’t learned how to save.
Also, allowances work well with kids who excel, either athletically or academically, and they simply do not have the time even for a part-time job. That way they aren’t punished for being productive or successful.
WHY IT MIGHT NOT WORK
The biggest problem I noticed with kids who didn’t do well with finances later in life and had an allowance as a kid is that they tended to treat their allowance as an entitlement, and therefore they grew up seeing money as something they simply received, rather than earned. It became an expectation irrespective of whether they worked or not.
Instead of being prepared to earn paychecks from their employer, they were better prepared to receive checks from the welfare office.
Some children are more susceptible to this than others, and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to the dilemma. It’s fair to say some kids will have a hard time with money, allowance or no allowance. But if a child considers an allowance a right, rather than a privilege, than it might be wise to discuss the matter before instituting one.
The other potential issue with an allowance is it can be hard to wean the child off from it and transition them to a job. When I started high school, my parents told me I had to get a job. Since I had no allowance, the idea wasn’t hard to grasp.
photo by John-Morgan