My 12-year-old son, Blake, recently invested $150 in the development of skills that will enable him to be a professional graphic animator, possibly by the time he is sixteen. Part of this comes from the fact that we got rid of television in our home a few years ago, which leaves our kids a lot of time to develop artistically. Part of it, in my opinion, has to do with our philosophy on allowance and chores.
Izzy and I do things a bit different from how most other parents do them (no surprise there). We don’t pay our kids for doing their regular jobs:
- 5 minutes minimum daily bedroom cleaning.
- Daily bathroom cleaning.
- Daily vacuuming of the living room.
- Daily kitchen cleaning after dinner.
- Dog mess clean-up
We also expect Blake to babysit the kids without pay while we run errands (although we pay him when we go out for fun).
I suppose that’s debatable.
We do pay our kids an allowance, but their allowance is in no way tied to their responsibilities around the house. It’s a philosophy I believe in. If they forget to do their jobs they either get a lucky break or they have more to do the next day. But we pay them their allowance.
It was important to me that my kids never associate their responsibilities with getting paid. They clean because it is their responsibility as a member of the family and a resident of our home. If they ever get to a point where they refuse to clean, they will just lose all of their privileges, like:
- computer use
- friend dates
- desserts or snacks, or any foods not necessary to sustain life
- clothing that is not necessary to maintain modesty or health
- toys or fun stuff
- extra-curricular activities
So far the kids have never refused to clean, and complaints are fairly minimal. They forget a job here and there, but for the most part they just do them. If they forget and get on the computer, they run the risk of losing their computer privilege for the day. Blake often has his jobs done before we are even out of bed in the mornings. The kids understand that they have to do their part. Once their regular jobs are done, they are allowed to perform extra jobs for pay if we can use the help.
Allowance With No Strings Attached
We pay our kids allowance because we want to help them learn to use money. We refuse to pay them to do the things they should do. We have never, ever said they would lose their allowance for any reason. They don’t earn money for good grades or good behavior. They don’t lose their allowance for inappropriate behavior or poor grades.
- We expect them to be decent human beings because their actions effect others.
- We insist they get good grades because they are fully capable (or if they were not, we would expect them to get the kind of grades they could reasonably get), and because they will need to get scholarships.
- We can see they are capable of scholarships, so if they want to go to college, we require them to live up to their abilities and earn one. We have told them a number of times that we will not pay for their college tuition.
- We expect them to share most all of their belongings with each other. Having their own allowance enables them to buy some things that are truly their own that they do not have to share.
How They Can Spend Their Money
We have a collection jar for the purpose of donating to an organization called, Kiva. Kiva advances micro-loans to individuals in third-world countries who are trying to start or sustain a business. The kids are only allowed to donate a percentage of their money to this cause. We match their donations times 7.
We gave them a cap because:
- Trinity would give away most of her money and feel guilty about any she kept for herself if we didn’t cap the amount.
- We like the reverse psychology of telling them they’re limited in how much they can donate.
To help them learn to spend well, we have these rules for how they can spend their money:
- They have to declare to us their intention of purchasing something. We have the right to tell them no. For example, Blake can only buy one or two video games in a row, and then he has to buy something else before he buys more games.
- After declaring their intentions to us they have to post those intentions, along with the date, on the fridge.
- They have to wait 2 weeks after “declaring” before they can actually buy their items. This is the part that gets the most resistance, but they have realized how quickly they change their minds about what they think they want. They’ve also learned from this how seductive advertising sways them to make unwise spontaneous buying decisions. The 2-week requirement forces them to be sure they’re not acting from the gut when it comes to money. Every time they change their mind they see how the two-week wait prevented a poor buying decision.
Once in a while, when there was no real way to plan, we let them make spontaneous purchases.
I love the messages we send our kids every day with our method. As they get older, we see them invest more and more of their time developing their talents and skills. In my (biased) opinion, they’re growing up to be pretty awesome, independent individuals who understand their place in the tribe, as well as how their choices effect themselves and others. They’re very cool people.