Family and parenting: child allowance

Before you begin giving your child an allowance, you need to decide what she will be responsible for, and you need to make your expectations clear.

When children begin to reach the age in which they understand the concept of money, parents generally begin giving them some type of allowance. The subject of money can cause some conflicts, however, between parents and children if guidelines aren't specifically laid out, and consistency isn't followed.

Children are typically ready for an allowance when they are school-aged, probably around five or six years old. The amount of money parents actually give children can vary widely, though. There are several ways of determining the amount of money you should give your child.

First, you need to determine what the allowance is actually for. Are you requiring your child to take on more responsibilities around the house? Are there extra jobs you are requiring your child to do, such as cleaning out the garage or hauling off broken limbs from the yard? Do you simply want to give your child money weekly or monthly with the understanding that he must do his regular chores to earn that money? Do you give enough money to cover things like school lunches, extra snacks at school, admission to movies, skating, etc., and video games, or is the money you give strictly for the child to use to buy extra toys or accessories that he wants?

The answers to these questions can help you determine how much allowance you need to give your child. If your child has regular chores that are expected of him, you might not want to tie those into an allowance. These chores may just be part of his role in your family, just as the chores you do make up part of your daily activity. In other words, maybe he shouldn't be rewarded for doing things that need to be done on a daily or weekly basis because this is what makes him part of a family.

However, if you have extra jobs that take more time and effort, you can tell your child that you will give him extra money for completing that job. Not only is he earning money, but he is also learning responsibility. This extra money that he is being paid can be in addition to the money you give him on a weekly or monthly basis.

Some parents don't give allowances, and instead, they hand out money when necessary. While this may reduce some conflicts between a parent and child, it can also increase conflicts in other areas. For example, if a child believes that she has such easy access to money whenever she wants it, she may not understand the concept of limitations. Although it may be easy for you to dish out money on demand and as you deem necessary, this may not be teaching your child responsibility and money management.

Giving your child an allowance can teach him how to budget his money. However, you need to give your child clear instructions on what he should spend the money on. If you expect him to pay for toys, extra treats, gifts for friends, video game rentals, etc., then you need to make that clear, and you need to give him enough money so that he can budget accordingly. If you only expect him to pay for extra toys and games, and you will give him extra money for skating admission, movie tickets, etc., then you should be able to give him less money.

Some parents give their children allowances with the understanding that they must place a percentage of that allowance in savings. In this instance, the parents are trying to teach their children how to budget and save their money, and both of these lessons are important for children to learn.

The amount of money that you allot to your child is up to you. You will need to decide what you want your child to learn as she handles her allowance, though. Above all, it is important that you communicate your exact expectations to your child, and you should also be consistent.

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