In our family, everyone is expected to help out. We don’t reward picking up or doing household chores with money. We help each other because that is what a family does. When something isn’t working out, we talk about it and make any necessary changes.
Separate from that, but along the same lines, is money. Everyone helps the family out in some way, regardless of whether they receive a salary or not. I include myself in that. I tend to think that I, in the role of mother and household CEO (as my husband likes to entitle me), play an integral role in the functioning of our consensually living family. I keep our lives going, facilitate learning, oversee that we have a pleasant place to live, work on projects, and so forth. And yet, I receive no salary. I can only imagine the resentment I would feel if I had to ask permission from my husband to go buy everything I needed.
Our previous system involved spending part of our family miscellaneous money on items that family members wanted. When our older daughter was around four years old, she seemed to have a hard time connecting the fact that when we bought something she wanted, that was because she was part of the family. Unlike our older son who seemed to feel comfortable with the system, she felt the need to have some money of her own. It was at that point that we started giving our older two children an allowance.
There isn’t a set amount. Some months we have more needs and expenses; this affects how much miscellaneous money is available for fun items, including how much money the kids receive for items they may want. We also still buy items for the kids and we definitely supply all of their needs, but they are learning financial responsibility by practicing financial responsibility.
The point of an allowance is to provide children with experience in the use of money. They gain this experience by exercising choices and assuming responsibility in how they use their money. Connecting an allowance to chores would change the focus from learning financial responsibility to a punishment/reward system directly connected to our desire for them to help out. Their desire to help would stem from a desire for a financial reward rather than on an instrinsic decision to help others. This would also leave the loophole that many children discover – if they are willing to forego an allowance, they don’t feel a need to help out around the house.
At the same time that our children are practicing financial responsibility through how they use their money, we are also modeling financial responsibility. We talk to our children about how we choose to spend our money, about saving for the future, and about saving for larger purchases. While we don’t go into every detail about finances, we are open with them and answer questions they may have and explain why we choose to spend or save our money in specific ways.
This is how I want our family to approach money too. I don’t like the bribery aspect of chores – “if you don’t vacuum, you won’t get paid!”
How would you answer someone who counters this with “but that’s not teaching them how things work in the real world!”
I think I would ask them if by the real world they meant corporate America, because if that’s the case, they are totally right. This is nothing like corporate America; however, it isn’t my goal to raise my family in that manner. If by the real world they meant supporting one’s self, again, they would be correct. I just happen to think it’s the parents job to provide necessities. However, I would be quick to point out that the world my family lives in is quite real. The world where I live – the one where I take care of my children and our home, where I plan field trips and volunteer administrative duties for groups, where I help others, where I work on business ventures without a salary – and where I don’t currently get paid for anything I do, is quite real, too. Should my husband evaluate me when he gets home and assess whether or not I should be alloted an allowance based on how much housework I was able to accomplish in between nursing the baby, feeding the kids, planning field trips, and everything else? Or should we pitch together as a family, living and learning and working together out of love and respect for one another?
I am raising respectful individuals who choose to help out because it’s the right thing to do and because they care about others – not because they have a shiny quarter dangling in front of them.
You could also pull the, “We don’t pay our kids to help around the house. Everyone in our family is expected to help out.” It frames the concept in a different light that generally goes over beter with authoritarian individuals.