“Should I give my child an allowance?” asked the woman behind the counter. Her question caught me off guard; it’s not a typical question for strangers to discuss. An allowance is a regular parenting topic that we all address at one time or another. Many of us have pondered what role if any should allowance play in teaching our children financial responsibility. I know I’ve had this conversation with multiple women over the years and the discussion always excites me. Before we dive in, let’s first define what an allowance is.

What is an allowance?

I think most of us know what an allowance is yet; we may define it differently which I’ve learned can create some unnecessary debate. The dictionary defines an allowance as, “give (someone) a sum of money regularly as an allowance.” Allowances are given for position, not for performance.

Should I give my child an allowance?

As we answer this question, let’s remember that parenting is as unique to us as our fingerprints. We have similarities that bring us together, and we have differences that can divide us if we’re not careful. It’s always an encouragement when we share what has worked in our homes and what hasn’t with an appreciation of our uniqueness.

There are many variations to allowance as each family works to find what is best for them. According to Psychology Today, the three most popular forms of allowance are as follows.

3 Most popular forms of allowance

  • No Chores Necessary- Parents often use this method to “teach” their children about money. Giving them a set amount (usually on a weekly basis) without any requirements or expectations on how they receive the money. Many times parents do set parameters on how they spend the money. As pointed out in the article, Should you give your child an allowance? Children may learn that money comes from authority as a gift. Is this what we want to teach our children?
  • No Allowance At All- Other families choose not to give any allowance at all. Children are expected to work in the home as a contributing member of the family. Lewis Mandell believes that to train children in financial responsibility they should never be given an allowance. You can read more about his years of study in this article printed in Time magazine, “Why giving kids an allowance may not be teaching them anything.” 
  • No Free Money- is a method some families choose in place of a typical allowance. Instead, of a child being given money for their position in the home they are given money for their performance in tasks. Correctly used, this method has the potential for teaching our children that their work is valued. Being careful that we don’t accidentally teach our children that all work has monetary rewards.

As we look at all the variations to how families have applied allowances in their home, it opens up the discussion to more questions.

What does an allowance teach our children?

Teaching our children financial responsibility is an essential aspect of child training.  None of us want to see our children struggling financially. I firmly believe that we are teaching our children more lifelong lessons than we realize, especially in the area of money. For example, US News points out the dangers of allowance and the “me” generation in their article, How to reduce kids’ sense of entitlement in a “me” generation. It’s easy for allowance to give children a sense of entitlement rather than responsibility especially if the parents haven’t carefully considered the management of allowances. We can’t overlook the dominant application of allowance in our children’s lives.

created to work

Were we created to work?

YES! Yes, yes!

I didn’t always understand this truth.

I grew up most of my life thinking that work was a curse.

It was something I “had” to do and worked hard to finish so I could have the weekend “off.” I worked for vacations and soon started to resent how much work I had to complete for that brief time off.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that the Lord showed me that work was a blessing. I still remember the amazement in my morning devotions as I considered this idea that God has wrapped every blessing given to us in “work.” Just think about it. God gives the Israelites the promised land but first, there was the journey and the battles. God tells us that children are a reward, a blessing to us, and yet they arrive with work (labor) and take work to care for from that day on! I started to see countless examples through Scripture of work and blessings being joined hand in hand.

5 Areas of human work

Theology of Work describes five specific areas of human work laid out in the Scriptures.

  • Dominion
  • Relationships
  • Fruitfulness/growth
  • Provision
  • Limits

It’s an interesting article that takes a look at what it means to work in God’s image as well as how God has equipped us for work. One of my favorite passages is in Genesis 2:7-9; 15

Genesis 2:7-9; 15

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there he put the man whom he had formed.  And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ge 2:7–15). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

What impressed me most about this passage was that God placed Adam in the garden to work before sin entered the world. I don’t know why I had always thought that work was a curse for our sin.

Were we created to work?

Yes, absolutely!

Financial Responsibility

How can I teach my child financial responsibility?

As Dave Ramsy points out in his article, Why your kids don’t need an allowance, children learn by example. I know I’ve taught my children more than I realize over the years. To listen to them now as adults sharing what they “learned” is humbling and at times funny. Had I known they were absorbing as much as they were, I hope I would have been more intentional.

It’s been most surprising, how it wasn’t the “big” vacation or well thought out lessons that they remember most. Instead, it’s been the small, everyday activities, which I didn’t even realize they were committing to memory. Because of this, I want to encourage you to invest your time in your daily example. Talk about your struggle to not shop impulsively and how you set up safeguards to keep you accountable financially. Let them see you budget the grocery money and make choices not to overspend. In my experience, those moments will teach them more than a structured curriculum

Resources to teach financial responsibility.

There are some resources we have used in our home. I’ll list those for your consideration below. Please remember that when you shop through our blog, we are given a small percentage of your sale through our affiliate partner. It adds no extra cost to you but is a blessing to us. Thank you in advance for how you support us.

  • Financial Peace Junior is a game designed to help you teach your kids about money. Packed with tools, resources and step-by-step instructions for parents. Ideas for activities and age-appropriate chores are included.
  • The Opposite of Spoiled a practical guidebook with a value-based philosophy. Identifying a set of traits and virtues that embody the opposite of spoiled. The author shares how to embrace financial responsibility and help parents raise kids who are more generous and less materialistic.

To give an allowance or to not give an allowance that is the question.

In my opinion, no you shouldn’t give your child an allowance, but you should provide opportunities for him/her to earn money. We want to ensure extra work opportunities in the home where they can apply their talents and learn new skills. Our children should learn they are paid for their performance and develop the character of doing all their work without arguing, grumbling and as unto the Lord. God’s got a lot to say on this subject of work and compensation for our work, both physically and spiritually. Take some time to do a topical study with your family and grow together. You’ll be glad you did.

It’s your turn now.

What do you think?

Should I give my child an allowance?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Until our next chat,

Mrs. Joseph Wood

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