When is it time to give your child an allowance?

Ian Mendes wonders whether the time is right to start giving his daughters an allowance for completing their chores.

1Allowance-September2013-iStockphoto
Photo: iStockphoto

Follow along as Ottawa-based Sportsnet host/reporter Ian Mendes writes about the joys of raising daughters Elissa and Lily. And with all those away-games, his wife, Sonia, deserves her own version of the Stanley Cup. 

Last year, we started giving our kids a small allowance on a trial basis.

Elissa was eight years old and Lily had just turned five, so we figured this might be a good time to start teaching them about the value of money. I had a growing concern that they had no concept of money when they were blown away with the fact I made more than $100 per week at my job.

So, every week we would give them $2 each — provided they completed a series of basic tasks that we laid out for them.

Their list of responsibilities included:
• Brushing their teeth three times a day
• Making their beds every morning
• Not complaining when they walked home from school
• Doing their homework on time

If you notice, this list of “responsibilities” seems pretty lame. We should have also included:
• Chewing their food
• Putting on their shoes
• Breathing unassisted

In hindsight, I think our kids were too young to be receiving an allowance because we were rewarding them for doing basic tasks that should be completed by every child.

Read more: The debate: Should you pay your kids to do their chores? >

Our system became even more complicated when Sonia decided to add a penalty when the kids did not do their tasks properly. We deducted 25 cents from each child every time they neglected a chore. (And by the end of the week, both kids usually ended up being in the red.)

So right now, our allowance situation is in a holding pattern.

I’m starting to subscribe to the theory that kids should only get an allowance when they are doing things that are useful for the entire household: like clearing the dishes, cleaning the bathrooms or helping with the laundry.

The problem that we have right now is that our kids aren’t quite old enough to properly do many of these household chores. They can help empty the dishwasher, but they can’t actually put the plates away on the higher shelves. To their credit, they do help with the laundry every week — usually by adding to the pile of dirty clothes in the hamper.

Read more: Chore charts: 8 DIY ideas >

We do want to teach our kids about the value of money and there are some parenting experts that believe you should give your kids allowance no matter what. That way, they will learn how to save money and make smart financial decisions down the road — even though their money-related questions seem trivial:

“Should I buy a gumball today or wait a month and buy a poorly-made stuffed animal from the dollar store?”

“Is it fiscally responsible to squander 40 percent of my savings on a Chicken McNugget Happy Meal?”

“So wait — you’re telling me it will take three years to save up and buy an XBox?”

I certainly see both sides of the argument on this allowance debate. If you give your child an allowance that is directly tied to chores, you teach them about responsibility. And if you give your kids allowance regardless of what they do around the house, you are still teaching them how to manage money.

For now, I think we’ll hold off on giving them an allowance until they can take on some more responsibilities around the house. And to be honest with you, I’m looking forward to the day when I can start making my daughters mow the lawn and shovel the driveway in exchange for cash.

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