Why I don't give my kids an allowance.
I have a confession. For years I've been hiding the full extent of my parental negligence. No more. I'm letting the cat out of the bag.
I do not, nor have I ever, given any of my five children an "allowance".
Years ago when I was a much greener, wet behind the ears, parent I assumed that I would eventually put my children on the dole and that this would be proof my parental provision for them. They would learn to take care of the money entrusted to them and we would all be happy with the arrangement.
That day never came. For one reason or another I found other things to spend every last cent of our family's income on. I squandered it on things like food, shoes that fit growing feet, and keeping the power from being shut off.
Still, I assumed I would give them an allowance someday. Someday when we had a little more cash left over. Someday when I'm not such a flake. Someday when I actually have some sense of stick-to-it-ness, consistency, and follow through. Sadly that day never came...and then it just didn't seem to matter any more. We still have no cash left over at the end of each month, I'm still a huge flaky space cadet...and somehow my kids have always had everything they need.
I started thinking about it the other day and I realized that what may have started as an unintentional circumstance became something that has actually been quite valuable. I no longer don't give an allowance by accident...I don't do it on purpose. If that makes any sort of sense.
I shall preface my reasoning by saying my intention isn't to publicly shame "allowance" giving families, make you feel all icky inside, but rather add perspective to this non-debate and share some observations. In the end I really don't give a flying squirrels fuzzy hiney what other families do with their money. There is more than one way to skin a cat....or a squirrel. You parents are quite competent enough to figure out what works for you and your kids.
First of all, not being on a parental dole has taught my kids that they are not entitled to what we have. Our money is not their money. This is a lesson best learned before they are expecting us to pay their phone bill when they're 30, or fighting over our inheritance when we croak (or worse yet long before we're dead)....not that there will be one, but you get the point.
They don't, by merely existing, have the right to expect a fistful of dough to be given to them on a regular basis. I want to teach my kids the opposite of entitlement, and it would seem that giving them an allowance would work contrary to that goal. At least it would make achieving that goal more difficult.
My kids trust that we will look after their needs. I've told my kids, from the time they could whine, that when they need something we will get it for them. I ask them if they've ever gone without something they needed and if they trust that we take care of them. Often we have purchased what we know they will need (or even just sometimes want) before they even know they need or want it. Sometimes we treat them to something "extra" just because we delight in their delight. We enjoy giving them good things, but I want them to be grateful for what they have. I want them to carry a simple sense of contentment and gratitude into adulthood with them.
They learn to value money and work for it. I've noticed something evolving in my oldest kids. Their rare whine for an allowance, has been replaced with complaining that they need a job. They are constantly coming up with ways they could make a few extra bucks. They have been known to scour the ditches for beer cans they can return, or sell lemonade on a hot summer day. Now that my daughter is 12 she has been babysitting regularly. She saved up money to take a babysitting course and viewed even that expense as a strategic investment into her budding childcare career. She is working several hours per week...in fact she was out late babysitting tonight and will be babysitting all day Saturday. She is a hard worker, she's great with kids, and she doesn't text her friends while she's on the job. She realizes that if she does a job well it will lead to more jobs. In the last couple months she has saved up nearly $300 by working hard, proving herself responsible, and not wasting what she did earn. She now adds up the value of things by asking "how many hours would I have to work to pay for that?". She doesn't ask us for things she wants, she sets a goal and then goes out and works for it. Sometimes that goal is just a new pair of jeans.
My 10 year old son is slightly jealous of his sisters success and is insisting I let him advertise his own lawn mowing business this summer. I'm not so sure about that one yet, but he is chomping at the bit. I keep reminding him that if he can prove himself responsible in the small tasks the larger "jobs" will gradually start coming.
One nice thing about the big kids bringing in their own money is that they can buy the things that are "wants". There is no way on God's green earth that I will buy them a smart phone, or an ipod touch...but I'm more than eager to encourage and cheer on their efforts go buy one themselves. This may sound stingy but mostly it's just reality. When you live off of one income, have five kids to feed, and have some odd priorities like "mission trips" to Mexico and international adoption, the budget gets whittled pretty narrow. We've been forced to allow them to struggle and "go without" certain things, but now I'm realizing that that struggle is actually a really good thing. I have also noticed that they are generous with the money they earn. Aili's babysitting money has at times been completely spent on sibling Christmas gifts, and donations to help fund adoptions.
When you work for something you appreciate the value of it, and take care of it. When you learn to be content you are freed up to be more generous.
I suppose you could trade an allowance for household chores and create a points system in which an allowance is earned. I'm just not that organized.
I also think that "chores" are just part of being a family. I do occasionally pay a child to do an "extra" sort of a non-routine job but for the most part I want my kids to learn that being part of a family, or a community, or a Church means that you serve others. You don't serve in order to get. You serve your family out of love, and because that's what keeps everything running smoothly. "Chores" for us constitute anything that needs to be done at any given time. I really try to avoid the "That's not my job!" scenario. In this house everything is everyone's job...sometimes certain jobs just get assigned to certain children depending on ability level.
Here's the big idea. I desire that my kids develop a sense of personal and civic responsibility. I want them to appreciate what they have and learn what real contentment is. I want to encourage virtues like ingenuity, creativity, tenacity, and work ethic. As far as I can tell, not giving them an allowance is just one way to make teaching those things a little easier.
If I'm wrong, they can save up their money to hire a therapist who will sympathize with them as they describe the details of their deprived childhood.
Soli Deo Gloria,