Giving Kids Allowance Teaches Them Bad Manners

Kids allowanceI’m a firm believer that everyone who lives in a household should chip in to make sure it’s clean, functional, and reasonably happy. Anyone under the roof, from small tikes to big, grown folks, can lend a hand to make sure the funky trash is taken out, the bathroom is devoid of science experiment-like parasites, and the dishes don’t stack up like a Lego tower looming over the top of the sink.

So remind me again why we pay our kids an allowance to do the chores that ultimately contribute to their health, safety, and peaceful living? Seems kind of crazy that we, the parents, pay them, our offspring, for doing basic things they should be doing to help out around the house anyway. 


I started breaking my face up at the idea of giving Tween Girl Supreme cash for chores when she started asking questions along the lines of "what will I get if ..." whenever I asked her to do something she deemed extra. Oh no, baby girl, I warned. You’ve got the game twisted. What you get is to live in a place that is, if we play our cards right, varmint- and vermin-free. As an added bonus, you get unlimited snacks, beverages, a warm (or cool) place to sleep at night, a free wardrobe, and access to amenities like Wi-Fi and cable. All free of charge. I just need you to pull your weight.

Furthermore chickadee, I told her, I am not your maid nor am I your employer. I am your mother, and this here is a cooperative effort.

Considering she’s as tall as I am (the benevolent gods who dole out height cut my supply off at a little over 5’3” way back when I was 12 myself), she can reach, pull, and carry just like I can. Not that I make her do the bulk of the grunt work that you and I know takes to really keep a house spic and span, fellow Stir-ette. (Ugh, that reminds me that I SO have to clean the bottom of my stupid stove.) She’s getting off easy by keeping a room clean and carrying a few loads of laundry from the car back to the crib. The idea of paying her for responsibilities she should willingly assume seems a bit backwards. And I’m concerned it’s creating this unrealistic expectation that she'll be on the receiving end of cold, hard dollars for her every little effort, which isn’t true — or how I’m trying to raise her.

Besides, with that kind of attitude, she won’t see the value in unpaid internships when she gets to college or volunteer work for her community because, as far as she’d be concerned, her time is money.

As a woman with a gazillion dollars worth of student loans and credit card balances hanging on my shoulder blades like the illest-fitting bra ever — debt I accumulated when I was young, frivolous, and broke — I want her to learn way earlier than I did what the value of money really is. I want her to know how to balance a checkbook and read a statement and know how to budget her funds, no matter how major or minor they might be. It’s my job to set her up to learn those things and drill them into her before the good folks at Capital One or (good gracious) Sallie Mae start buzzing in her ear about the easy breeziness of signing her name on a promissory note or contractual agreement.

I’m just not sure there aren’t better ways to teach her about money and responsibility than paying her for something that really isn’t anything special.

So I’ve implemented a new system that clearly separates a gift from payment. I give her a gift for doing well on her report card, clearly at my discretion and not subject to any obligation, meaning if I don’t feel like it, I don’t have to do it. And I pay her for harder jobs done, like cleaning the car, reorganizing the kitchen cabinets, or hauling cinder blocks across the yard (I kid, I kid).

Do you give your kids an allowance? What do you feel it teaches them about money?

Image via GoodNCrazy/Flickr

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