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Parents often ask me about whether they should give their teens an allowance. Some feel that children should do their chores because it’s the right thing to do, and they should not be paid for it. Others think giving them an allowance is a good way to teach how to save money. As with many topics, there is a middle ground—where children can learn to contribute to family life without being paid for it and also learn about the value of money.

It might be a good idea to have a list of chores that everyone in the family is responsible for doing without expecting money. This could include making their own bed, putting their dirty clothes in the laundry room, and putting away the things that belong to them. Other chores could be offered as ways to earn money (vacuuming the den, dusting, washing windows, or working in the yard). You could use an app like Allowance Manager  to keep up with how much each child has earned. Some chores can be available to your children if they want to do them, and others can be required chores. You and your children can decide who does what to make it fair to everyone in the family.

There are a few key points to think about when making the decision about whether to pay your children for working around the house. First, consider that earning an allowance is one way to teach them about saving money. Kids should not be handed money for every game or electronic gadget they want. They should have to work for it.  A second thing to consider is that children should not be paid unless they do their chores well. They need to know that the quality of their work matters. Finally, make sure to set up a schedule of expectations for what needs to be done and when it should be completed. You will need to be clear when payday is and be consistent about giving them the pay they earned.

In my 30 years of teaching adolescents, I have noticed that the students who have the best work ethic at school are the ones whose parents required them to help out at home. Having a strong work ethic is connected to success in school and later in life.

You might also enjoy reading Summer Chores Teach Kids Responsibility  and Should Parents Pay their Children for Good Grades?

Tagged in: Allowance Livia McCoy
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“Mom, can I go to the movies with friends tonight?”

“Mom, I REALLY need this new mascara.”

“Mom, I need $450 for the band trip.” ($450!?!)

“Mom, these shoes are too cute. I must have them…the company gives back to charity, and they only cost $70!” (Um…only? Plus, I don’t like them; they remind me of ugly 80s shoes.)

Right. All the purchases they think are great deals aren’t much of a deal to me.

My pockets are full of holes lately. Or more like full-of-my-14-year-old's-hands-reaching-in-for-hand-outs!

To be fair, there were school-sponsored fundraisers for the band trip expense. But selling crappy chocolate door-to-door isn’t something we are happy about (it netted about .20 cents per sale, btw!). Instead my daughter (the 14-year-old) and I came up with our own fundraiser. We called it: “Ask Dad,” and it involved finding out what tasks needed to be done around the house, and her doing them in exchange for us paying for her trip.

This included:

  • cleaning out the under-house storage room and helping haul the weird junk left-from-previous-owners to the dump;
  • tearing up a corner flower bed that needed a complete overhaul, removing all the plants, weeds and bushes, and then helping till the soil, dig and plant new plants, and tend it all-summer-long;

And my favorite:

  • clean and detail the family wagon (BEFORE each family road trip).

I love a clean car to start out on a long drive! And professionally detailing the mom-van costs more than $100!

Oh, and of course, pretty much all the babysitting of her younger siblings we might need on a weekly basis…say, for the rest of her life.

So, are we slave drivers? (Yes, that's her in the photo above, slaving away.) The funny thing is I’ve always been a HUGE fan of paying children an allowance. I love that it teaches math and organizing skills. For years I’ve expected all my kids to pay their own small school fees like for a school issued organizer or P.E. fees. Plus they pay for half of larger items like gifts for friends’ birthdays or to save up to purchase a much coveted toy of their own.

Where did we go wrong with that?

It was working right up until that $450 band trip. WHAM! And the movies-with-friends/mascara/awesome-shoes-I-NEED-Mom(!).

In short, the kids have all grown up.

And when I pay them an allowance, often they save that money and I still end up paying for the 14-year-old's movies-with-friends/mascara/awesome-shoes, along with a “promise-I’ll-pay-you-back(!), Mom!”

This brave new world of an older kid and money isn’t working out.

How do you come up with a plan to help your kids learn the value of money AND the value of work? Because I want them to genuinely enjoy the moment when they realize: “I did that, I saved for that, I am awesome” Or, even better, the moment when they realize that that “thing” isn’t worth $70 in the first place—“I’d rather save my hard earned money!” (A mom can dream, right?)

Until we figure out the magic solution to this allowance conundrum, we’re happily resorting to slave labor (as much of it as we can get out of the 14-year-old). Because movies-with-friends/mascara/and-shiny-new-must-haves don’t come cheap

At least we’ll have the learn-to-work part of the equation down.

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Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?