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Kids, Allowance, and Chores

Financial Building Blocks

According to the same survey by Zillions, about three-quarters of all allowance recipients (of all ages) were supposed to perform chores to get their allowances.

Some parents give allowances with no requirements on the child's part. Others make performing chores a condition of receipt.

Child experts hotly disagree on whether allowances should be conditioned on performing chores. Each side believes strongly in its position. On the one hand, requiring work for pay prevents a child from believing in entitlement. There's value in doing work and being rewarded for it, and it's good training for getting a job.

On the other hand, others believe that chores should be required just because a child is part of the family. Just as Mom and Dad aren't paid for shopping, cooking, and repairing the broken porch, a child should be required to contribute his time and effort to help with the family work load. Conditioning the receipt of an allowance on performing work can lead to disaster. A child may think that all jobs around the house should be monetarily compensated. A child who continually tries to negotiate and renegotiate his workload and allowance may be in perfect training for a job with a union or the NLRB, but he can cause endless friction on the home front.

Piggybank on It

If you decide to condition an allowance on doing chores, you must be realistic in setting the dollar amounts. There's no lesson in having your child work for sweatshop wages. Keep in mind that the current federal minimum wage is $5.15 an hour.

Obviously, the decision of whether to attach strings to an allowance comes down to what you think best in your family. You may, of course, be influenced by whether you were required to perform chores when you were a child and how you felt about that at the time. Whichever way you come out, make sure that the rules are clear—and be consistent. Think through which alternative you'll use, and then follow through.

There's another string that some parents put on the receipt of an allowance: good behavior. If a kid fights with his brother, breaks a lamp, or talks back, a parent might threaten to dock his allowance for this bad behavior. Some child experts think this type of string isn't a good idea, though: They don't believe it works to create good behavior—it just punishes a child without any benefit. You, of course, must decide on punishment for bad behavior, and you may think that withholding an allowance for a week or a month may be appropriate in certain circumstances.



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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Money-Smart Kids © 1999 by Barbara Weltman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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