I’m a firm believer in not paying my kids an allowance. And no, I’m not just a meanie. It’s important to me to make sure that my kids understand the relationship between work and money. I’ll explain my unconventional approach below.
Why I Don’t Pay my Kids an Allowance
1. Picking up toys, clothes, books, and trash that belong to you is not an option in my house. It’s part of keeping clean and healthy. You wouldn’t pay your kids to take a shower, so don’t pay them to pick up after themselves.
2. The family serves as a sort of miniature model for the real world. We love and care for each other — without expecting something in return. This means my older son may have to take out the trash when dad works late, or the youngest may have to help with dinner if a client calls while I’m cooking. Making this concept an expected and normal part of life now will make it easier for my boys when they’re grown and have families of their own. We don’t keep tabs or a “you owe me” list, and we don’t feel cheated if all we get in return is a simple, “thank you.”
3. As part of the family, my kids are responsible for contributing to the well-being of the entire family. This may include doing dishes, folding laundry, or carrying in firewood in the winter. These are tasks that benefit the child and the family, and they are therefore not rewarded with money.
4. As a farm family, my kids are also responsible for many things that might surprise you. My youngest helps change oil and repair tractors and trucks, and my oldest has helped birth calves and carry bags of feed that weigh as much as he does. They also help maintain a four acre garden and assist with canning vegetables every year. These activities also benefit the family (and extended family) and are not rewarded with an allowance. While helping with these types of chores, they’re learning life skills that will help them as adults.
5. Pet care is another area of expected daily work without pay. We have two house bunnies, two farm dogs, and a load of cats that require feeding, watering, brushing, waste removal, exercise, love, and attention. These activities are performed every day, rain or shine. Just as the adults care for the farm animals in inclement weather, when sick, on holidays, and when we’re bone-weary tired, the children are expected to care for their pets, as well. Supper for humans is not served here until all the animals have eaten and are cared for. The farm animals and pets rely on us for their necessities. This teaches the kids responsibility and interdependence without extrinsic rewards.
So what DO I pay my kids for? I give them money when they go above and beyond what is expected. Get straight As in school? Help dad chop firewood in 10 degree weather on a Saturday afternoon? Walk your brother to the bathroom in the middle of the night because he’s afraid of the dark? Help mom by scrubbing all the kitchen counters after you spill jelly in front of the microwave? All these things are rewarded with a little extra money.
My kids also have a list of items that are on my to-do list that they can perform at any time for pay. These are MY chores that, if they so choose, they can take over to free up my time for other activities. This provides them with an opportunity to save for wanted items and to learn the true value of a dollar.
Do you give your kids an allowance? How do you teach them financial responsibility?