Making Allowances Work

Making Allowances Work

By Barbra Alan

At some point, your child may approach you about receiving an allowance. This is something you should be prepared for, because your child will be. She may have all kinds of ideas as to how much she thinks she should get and what kinds of chores she’s willing to do for it. Before striking a deal with your young entrepreneur, there are few things you may want to consider to determine the best arrangement for you and your child.

If your child has requested an allowance but has a track record of being less than helpful around the house, introducing a modest monetary award at the end of each week for chores completed could be a mutually beneficial arrangement. He will learn the value of hard work and you will be able to cross one or two chores off your to-do list. Just be careful to assign your reluctant helper chores that don’t have dire consequences if they aren’t done. For example, you may want to wait until he proves his reliability before putting him in charge of feeding pets or watering plants.

If your child is already helping around the house without the motivation of a financial reward and approaches you about receiving an allowance, you have a bit more to consider: Should you reward her for doing chores that you previously established as basic expectations that must be met in your household? What would it mean if the chores she has been doing all along without a reward suddenly have a price tag attached to them?

To avoid any conflict or confusion, ask yourself this: Are there other chores that she could do that could be rewarded? For example, if you expect your child to make her bed each morning and keep her room clean, the two of you could agree that setting the table for dinner each night and putting her laundry away are the chores for which she will earn an allowance. This way, your house rules remain intact and your child has an opportunity to earn an allowance by making other contributions to the household.

Once you have decided that you would like to give your child an allowance, sit down with him and make the conditions of the agreement clear: your expectations for what chores he will do, how much the allowance will be and when it will be given. Depending on your child’s age and level of maturity, you may want to start small, with one or two chores a week for a modest rate and leave some room to grow in the coming years. Remember to discuss the consequences if chores are not done. You can even draw up a contract that you both sign and display in a central location (like the refrigerator door.) Regardless of how you reach an agreement on allowance, clear communication will be the key to success for you and your child.

Barbra Alan is an Alexandria, N.H.,-based freelance writer with two reluctant helpers of her own at home.


Earning an allowance is a great way for a child to learn accountability, teamwork and financial responsibility.

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