Monday, September 29, 2014

Here's what I think: Chores and Allowances

I love when you find some kind of parenting meme concerning chores or allowances and in the comments (I know, I'm not supposed to read those) you find a bunch of 'people' saying, "Chores are cruel. Kids should be able to play". These 'people' are most likely under the age of 18 and attempting to avoid the sweatshop of chores their parents have heaped upon them (yeah right). Then you have the comments that eschew the allowance end of the concept because "Children should help the family without being paid! That is life!"

Here's what I think:

1. Chores are for teaching independence.

In this house we have two kinds of work. One is chores. Our kids have had chores since they were two. Of course at two, they didn't load a dishwasher or fold clothes. They carried their plates to the counter after meals. That was their chore. They were proud of that. It built a sense of confidence in them that they could do something on their own. For a child of that age, it felt extremely grown up. The other kind of work the kids do is the helping out the family kind and that is on the fly work. They understand they have scheduled chores that they are expected to take care of and they understand that when I or my husband ask them to do something not on their scheduled list of chores, they do it because they are contributing to family life.

Chores are based on age and ability. They teach children how to take care of themselves. As they get older they learn things they will need to know in order to maintain a house or apartment, to live independently and healthily.

For a long time I used something I had made which I called the bonhomme board. Bonhomme here in Quebec is used to describe a character, like from a cartoon show. On the bonhomme board, each kid had a magnet character and three strings of images representing the chores for morning, after school and after dinner. As they finished a chore they moved their character to the next image and worked on that, once all the images for a given time of day were finished they were free to play. Those worked great when they were younger but now they have more chores and it became too difficult to make a board big enough.


But guess what? There's an app for that. Yep. There's an app for tracking chores, it's called ChoreMonster. I discovered it this year and love it. It's extremely visual which is a must for my daughter who has a language disability and relates better to imagery. I was able to set up their chores, give each chore an image icon, a scheduled time and frequency and a point value. When they earn a specified amount of points, they earn rewards, one of which is their allowance.

*I am not affiliated with or paid by ChoreMonster, just really like them

That brings me to

2. Allowances are for teaching healthy relationships with money.

photo from www.SeniorLiving.Org 

Allowances are not payment for a job done. They are a reward, yes, but the real goal of an allowance is to teach the kids how to handle money. Here's how we do it. When the kids earn a certain number of points for the week, they earn their allowance. They are allowed to earn more than their allowance by offering to do extra jobs and negotiating the payment with us. When I say negotiate I mean I want them to analyse the value of their work and offer a price, then I counter with the actual price I will pay and give them my reasons why it is different, if it is different than what they have offered.
This particular idea we are using to encourage entrepreneurship - taking their money making into their own hands and being creative/proactive about their work.

Once a week I sit with them and let them know how much they've earned. Then we discuss how much they want to put in their wallet for immediate use, and how much they want to save. I require them to save at least 50% of their earnings each week. The wallet money is for little treats at the grocery store and so forth. Their savings go in their piggy bank and I keep a ledger so they know exactly how much they have at any given time. I have my ledger and money pouch in a 3 ring binder. Also in the binder is an image of something each kid wants to save their money for. A LEGO set, a camera, things that are more costly and require long term savings. We put the price plus tax on the printed page so they know exactly how much they need. As they save, they can see how close they are to their goal. When they have enough we discuss whether they want to go buy their item right away or save a little more so they don't completely deplete their savings.

Waiting to earn enough and waiting to save a little more teaches patience and not letting money burn holes in their pockets. This method has worked quite well for us so far. My daughter once saved $135 for a particularly large LEGO set she wanted. It took her nearly six months to save for it. At the age of 9, that's pretty diligent. I'm hoping this will help them as adults feel comfortable with money and confident in their ability to save and buy without credit. This system, by the way, also alleviates those frustrating trips to the store with kids asking for everything under the sun. They know that if they want something, they need to pay for it themselves with their wallet money. This has taught them the value of things as well. They now pay attention to what things actually cost and they have an idea of how long it takes to save for something. This way they can begin to question for themselves if it is worth the price and their hard earned money.

Those are my thoughts on kids, chores and allowances.

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