Parenting Advice: Tips on Allowances
The allowance, an allotment of money for the child's own use, is needed in
the same way that tools, pencils and paints are needed, not as something of lasting
value in itself but as a means of gaining useful experience.
To be successful educationally, the allowance must be regular, the amount and
the interval remaining the same over a period so that the child can count on it
and plan ahead. If there is any uncertainty as to next week's allowance, if it
may not come, or if it may be cut in half, the child will use the money when he
gets it for fear there will be no more. Unable to plan, he cannot learn to spend
wisely; neither will he develop the feeling of responsibility or his own spending
However small the amount, the allowance has educational possibilities from the
very beginning. At first the child may be tempted to squander his entire fortune,
whether it be a dime or five dollars on just plain junk. But he will soon tire
of this, particularly if there is something he really wants to buy.
A parent's patience may be tried as he watches the young child choosing among
the various offerings in the toy department. Sometime he will buy something that
is so flimsy and bound to come apart, or a game that is beyond his understanding
to learn. It will be hard to see a child letting himself in for a disappointment,
and it is also hard to see money being wasted. Don't count this money as wasted,
but as the "price" of the education which the child is learning. The
price is low, much lower than it would be if the child waited to learn how to
spend money until he was older and his mistakes more expensive.
There is no "right age" to start all children on an allowance with money
of their own since children differ so much from one another as to the age at which
they learn to count and as to their readiness to make choices or take responsibilities.
The circumstances under which children live also varies tremendously. A city child
will have lots of places to spend their money and want money earlier while a child
living out in a rural area will have less chance to spend and to want to buy,
for at least a few years.
Usually the time to start a child on an allowance is when he can count, when he
begins to understand what buying means, and when he has some opportunity to buy.
For most children, this time will come between five and seven years of age. Simply
asking for money is, of course, not enough. Each parent must make the decision
himself on when to start his child on an allowance.
The amount of the allowance cannot be stated as so much money at one age and so
much at another age. The amount will depend upon the living conditions in the
community, on the family income, on the child's own understanding of the uses
of money, and upon his growth in the skill or managing it.