Monday, February 21, 2005


An allegory:

Husband has a job; wife works at home, being a homemaker and bringing up the children. Wife wants to buy a book.

Husband says "well, I have the money in my account, but you don't get your allowance until Thursday, and by the way, you have to wash my car and change three fuses before you can have it. And you can only buy the book if I think it is appropriate"

It all depends on one’s attitude to property and resources within the family. I do not think those doing the earning should dictate what happens to all the money; other members of the family contribute to family life in other ways but do not end up with $$$.

In favour of an allowance system: if family works out how much spending money is left after rent, bills, food etc., and works out what sorts of money-spending activities each is likely to want, then sharing out the money saves the child(ren) having to ask for permission or approval. It respects their autonomy, and means that they themselves can learn (with advice where asked for) about managing their finances, and about choosing the resources they want around them.If child blows a week’s allowance on something they immediately regret, then parent can help them minimise the frustration (selling item on Ebay? What is the shop’s returns policy? Does a friend want to do a swop?)

In favour of not having an allowance: as long as everyone has a sense of how much money is available, and everyone is prepared to put a rational case for their spending plans, and everyone’s desire for a share of the family resources is met, then handing the money around can be done in an ad hoc way. This requires everyone involved to be happy to justify their expenditure – it might be rather collectivist for some. “Mum can I have £30 for some DVDs?” “no, we have no spare money” “why not?” *blush* *stonewall* *hedge* *equivocate* “your hair cut looks lovely, mum; what did it cost?…”

At the moment, I would advocate an allowance for what used to be called “pin money”, so that every child, from when se expresses an interest in having money, can buy a magazine, some sweets, some Star Wars stickers, a small lego set, without having to ask anyone. Instant larger purchases have implications for the finances of the whole family, and therefore should be open to discussion.

I would never advocate forcing a child to perform tasks for a share of the family money, especially since it is not easy for children to earn money in the West. If what the family can spare is insufficient for the child’s needs, then helping them to make money legally should be a priority for the parent – paper round; computer programmer; making cakes for the Women’s Institute; whatever.But forcing someone to vacuum in order to be allowed a share of the family resources implies that only those actually earning $$$ should have a say in how they are spent.


Anonymous said...

I agree that requiring someone to ask permission to use money at any age is controlling and demoralizing and should be minimized. That being said, there is a reason why children are given an allowance in exchange for chores. First, when a child gets an allowance, they are given their share of disposable income to use at their discretion (in other words, so they don't have to ask permission for every purchase). More importantly, though, it is a way to get the kids to help out around the house. Very few households have stay-at-home parents; since they are at work all day, children are asked to help out around the house. Providing them with a reward both encourages them to complete their chores without fighting, and it also treats them like adults--that is, you get compensated for the work you do. Nothing is more demoralizing than being forced to work for nothing.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a weekly allowance is in order, with bonus payments for chores.

I have to disagree with the previous commenter: the chores ought to be strictly optional.

I don't think most children are in fact "asked" to perform chores, they are forced into doing them, either by overt threats or by subtle means. This is done because chores are considered virtuous by parents, who were forced themselves to do chores by their parents.

To force children to work -- even for cash -- is not much better than slavery.

The analogy with adulthood responsibility fails because adults choose their jobs and have the option of quitting.

Withholding food and clothes from children would be illegal and abusive. Presumably nobody expects children to have to work for their food and clothing. But what about luxury items? Remember that yesterday's luxuries are today's necessities, including items like phones, computers, bicycles.

Rather than debate which category these items fall into, just pay an allowance and let the child decide (with help and advice if necessary).

Anonymous said...

As an experienced amateur domestic, I can do cleaning jobs automatically and without thinking -- actually, I am thinking, but about something entirely different.

Being helped by someone else usually makes the job *harder* because I have to keep track of their actions too which distracts me from my important thoughts.

Far better for my children to be doing something creative and enjoyable. This will help them gain more independence, love of life and learning, and productive knowledge.

So when I'm old and grey they'll then be able to buy me a spendid retirement bungalow. Assuming they *agree* to that of course...

Robert said...

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