Our goal as parents is not to raise children, but rather to raise responsible adults.  Sadly, too many parents end up with chronically-dependent high school graduates who can’t manage their lives — or their money.

So today I want to make the case for giving your kids allowances!   They will be much better prepared for life.  And that means your life will be better too!

But first, I want to share with you an email I received from a missionary mom in Nicaragua, where I did a parenting seminar a few years ago.   She followed my advice about giving kids allowances, and surprised me with this beautiful testimonial about doing it with her THREE YEAR OLD!    [I’ll insert my comments between hers.]

.Our 3-year-old son is learning the value of $ as he spends all his $1 per week on gum.

We might think of it as a waste of good money, but he’s learning to decide what matters to him.  Someday he’ll figure out that there are better uses for his money, but he’s got to learn that for himself over time.  Most importantly he’s learning that adults are trusting him with the responsibility of making his own decisions.

He is quickly learning which gum pack gets him the most pieces.

Amazing!  Notice how he already is learning to stretch his dollar, to look for bargains, and to do comparison shopping to get the best value!

He is learning not to eat the entire pack in 2 minutes because he doesn’t have $ to buy more.

See how he’s learning about delayed gratification, patience, pacing himself, relishing what he has, and living within his means!  How many teenagers never learn this!

He even paid me a nickel the other day to carry the laundry into the house because he did not want to do it.  I explained to him that it is one of the small chores he is required to help with and therefore would have to pay me for his portion of the work.  Amazingly he looked at me square on and asked, “How much?”  I told him, “One nickel,” and he paused, thought, and finally said “I want to pay you because I don’t want to do it.”

This three-year-old is already learning to weigh pros and cons, to make decisions, to negotiate with others, and to wrestle with priorities regarding his time, money, work & leisure!

I share this because if someone told me that this stuff would work on a 3 year old I would never have believed it.  But, he is the youngest of 3 so we included him in the process because he was feeling SO left out.  Now we know it is effective even at 3.

I love this story because it vividly demonstrates how giving some measure of financial control even to the youngest of kids can serve to build their character.

I’ll blog again soon with Part 2, making the case for HEFTY allowances, but let me close this post with some general thoughts about giving kids allowances.

  • It makes children feel valued and trusted and gives them a measure of control over their lives.
  • It gives them money to waste.  Failure is a great teacher.
  • They can experience the joys of giving and the rewards of saving.
  • It minimizes whining in stores about things they impulsively want (“Did you bring your money purse?  No?  Well I guess you’ll have to remember to bring it next time.”)
  • It gives you opportunities for reasonable, non-emotional disciplinary action (“If you forget to do your chores, no worries, it just means you’ve hired one of us to do them!”)
  • It doesn’t cost you anything.  You’re already spending money on your kids — this just transfers responsibility onto them for certain purchases.
  • Because if you hold all the money, they’ll always be coming to you for withdrawals, which can cause conflict.  Better to dole it out deliberately and let them learn to manage it.
  • Parents can still set limits on what money is allowed to be spent for (but remember, don’t prevent them from wasting it.).
  • Instead of butting heads with them about their financial wants, it forces them to make decisions about what matters most, learning important life skills.
  • It gives them assets that can be used to reimburse you for any damage they may cause.
  • It gives us opportunities to help consult with them about their financial choices.
  • It makes you the coolest parents on the block!