The kids were getting restless today, as were Chris and me. The house was a mess and no one wanted to pitch in and get it done. I saw the day slipping away and in a slightly desperate moment, I blurted out to my younger two, ‘OK kids, if you wipe down the (leather) sofa, I’ll give you 50p each.’ They looked at me for about a split second and couldn’t run fast enough to ask Daddy for the special leather cleaning wipes. He looked at me with a look of ‘really?’ (also for about a split second) before handing them over and watching them get to work. I decided I had to be fair and offered my oldest daughter the opportunity to tear herself away from the TV and earn £1 for cleaning her bathroom. She (thankfully) jumped at the chance. I proceeded to make her a list of what to do and in what order and she went up to get started. I supervised the younger two while Chris went up to help the oldest. The next half hour was bliss. Everyone was working together, there was no squabbling, or whinging or nagging. Every task got done, and in fact, my oldest, along with my husband, proceeded to do our bathroom and vacuum upstairs too. (She got £1.50 for her efforts.)
This whole thing happened spontaneously, but Chris and I had discussed allowance and using money as part of a reward system before. At the beginning, I was totally against it. I reasoned that the kids got the things they wanted between birthday and Christmas gifts and random treats throughout the year. I didn’t think they should get paid to do things that need to be done in the course of running a household. Everyone needs to do their part to contribute as a part of the family. I do still believe that, but over time, I have also seen a need to teach children about money management and about having an entrepreneurial spirit. I never received an allowance growing up and I wish I had. I would like to teach my kids the value of money. How to save for something with your own hard-earned money. What is feels like to part with the cash. How to prioritise purchases. These are invaluable life lessons and I believe they are just as important as teaching your child to swim or how to wash and dress themselves. If they don’t learn how to handle money well right from the start, it will be much harder when they get older.
So what we have ended up with is a new star chart system. If they get a certain number of stars, they receive a set amount of money. If they don’t, they don’t get any money. This is the current set-up, but when I had originally considered linking money with their behaviour system, I had made it like a banking system. Each star (task or behaviour) was worth a certain amount of money. There was a maximum that could be earned, but if a star was not achieved, then the money also was not earned. I am still undecided about which way I prefer, but I’ll try what we’re doing right now for a few weeks and then compare the earlier idea. ( I still think the banking idea teaches them even more about how money works.)
I know that allowance and using money in a reward system is a hot issue. In fact, I got flamed on Twitter by a random person for ‘paying my kids off’. But I still stand by what we’re doing. It might not be right for everyone, but it’s right for us right now. Do you give your kids an allowance? Is it tied to behaviour or chores? How do you feel about it? Please leave me a comment. I always love learning from all of you, and maybe you will show me something I haven’t considered yet.
Looking forward to hearing from you!