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Why You Should Separate Allowance From Chores

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With all the recent talk of how this generation is raising whiny and entitled kids, the last thing we parents want to do is hand over money to our kids for no reason. Isn’t that the epitome of spoiling? So, to correct for that parenting mistake, many parents today have decided that it’s better to make kids earn their allowance. After all, in the real world you get paid to work and if family life is preparation for real life, this should be a good practice too, right?


Hmmm – let’s explore that idea….


If we go with this approach, then what exactly should be the fair market value of putting your dishes in the dishwasher? What is minimum wage for making your bed? What if you have a double bed or a bunk bed? Surely that is worth more than a single since it’s bigger. What if you spontaneously ask your kids to help carry in a load of groceries from the car, but since you don’t pay them to do that job, they refuse to help you? Imagine they get a big fat wad of cash from Gramma for their birthday so they decide to stop making their bed cuz they don’t need more cash at the moment?


Do you see just how crazy this becomes?


Yes, it’s crazy-making because the family is not an economic system, it is a social system. Do not confuse the two because they are wildly different and the rules that apply to the social laws of a group dynamic are NOT the same as the rules that apply to the work force in a free economy.


Instead, I recommend that parents see allowance as a part of teaching children money management skills and chores are to be done because everyone is expected to pitch in with the workload of the family. They are unrelated.


When you start an allowance it is not “free money” but rather a shifting of responsibilities of who makes purchases on behalf of the child.


For my own children, allowance started when I realized I was always the one opening my wallet to buy them juice boxes from the vending machine outside the change rooms when we finished swimming lessons. I asked my kids if they would like to get an allowance so they could buy their own juice and they were thrilled. They felt very grown up. The money they received was based on a budget of a single line item: juice – $2. As they got older we added more items to their budget as they took responsibility for paying for their piano lessons, buying milk and pizza at lunch and completing their scholastic book order.


Having an allowance also meant they could learn the important lesson that if you lose your money it doesn’t get replaced. They learned that it is better to pool your allowance with your sister and buy a toy together so you can get something bigger! They learned that the dollar store dolls that look like Barbie are crappy and their limbs fall off so it was better to save and get a better quality doll that will last. What I had not anticipated happened the first Christmas my kids had money to buy do their own Christmas shopping for others. When Christmas morning arrived they ran downstairs to open gifts. What did they want opened first? The gifts they had purchased to give to their parents. They were genuinely more excited by the feeling of giving to another seeing the delight in our eyes than their own. Beautiful!


I hope this inspires you to get cracking on allowances! If you don’t teach them about money – who will?

About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

More about Alyson

2 Responses to “Why You Should Separate Allowance From Chores”

  1. Melanie

    Great article! I wonder what an appropriate age to ‘start’ giving allowance would be? And if you start giving to the eldest child wouldn’t the younger be interested in being included even though he may be starting younger? Thanks!

  2. Allison

    I love the idea of separating allowance and chores. I have a 7.5 year old and a 4.5 year old and we are currently using a ticket system (e.g., for every chore they do they receive a ticket and can turn x amount of tickets in for a dollar store “prize”). However, I completely agree that this sends the wrong message and they should share responsibility for the functioning of the house. How would I differ on allowance amount, and when/how often are they receiving allowance? What if they don’t do their chores? Do they continue to receive allowance since one is not contingent upon the other?


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