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When Giving an Allowance Doesn’t Really Pay, and How To Fix It.

OK, I admit it. I thought offering my kids an allowance was just a cheap way to get the beds made and the trash put out.

I was giddy, writing up the *chore chart*.

Basically I made a list of every single chore I hated, not requiring power tools, and passed it off to the boys.

I even contemplated having another kid, this one just for sorting laundry.

Also, I may have let slip that I would pay extra for window-washing and pillow-fluffing. Basically, the only thing I left off the list of pay-ables were random kisses and hugs.  Not that I hadn’t considered it (but then I pictured my boys eagerly explaining how much they make per kiss, to their teachers. And their subsequent removal from our house as a result, so I stopped just short.

Because really, who would sort the socks then?

So, there were my lists, on big, yellow cardboard, color-coded according to what each task would be worth.

And then there were the boys lists: dozens of pictures cut out from the weekly fliers, of all the toys/sports equipment now just a few short tasks away.

And then nothing. No floors were washed, no beds made. And because I had attached a dollar amount to each of these chores, I couldn’t just ask them politely for help. I had turned regular *we are all one happy family so suck it up and help me with the recycling* into a (rapidly failing) business.

I knew I was doing everything wrong, I just didn’t know how to fix it. Well, Gail Vaz-Oxlade does. Here recent two-part series on  3 Allowance Mistakes To Avoid tackles this head on.To read the full post (and you should!) click here According to Gail, here are the three most common mistakes we can make. I am guilty of all three.

Mistake #1: If you don’t smarten up, I’ll cut off your allowance! Money doesn’t work as a reward for good behaviour. Just ask any of the management theorists who have proven that money is not a motivator for adults. So why should it be for children? Good behaviour is based on an understanding of right and wrong, thoughtfulness, caring and consideration, along with myriad other positive attributes, all of which have to be internalized. When you tie money to behaviour you’re sending the message that compliance is the way to get money. All well and good if you want your little ant to know her place in the corporate hierarchy later on. But if you want a child who grows to be a confident and creative adult, compliance isn’t the lesson you want to teach at home. And money shouldn’t be your two-by-four.

Mistake #2: I’ll give you $20 for every A you get on your report card. Good grades are your child’s responsibility. School is his primary job, and good grades are an indication that he is doing his job well. If you provide financial reward for good grades, you are externalizing the reward. Instead, the reward should be internalized: the self-esteem and pride that accompanies having done well.

Mistake #3: If you don’t make your bed you won’t get your allowance this week. Who pays you to do the chores in your home? Chores are a part of each individual’s responsibility to the family. Payment for regular chores negates a child’s individual responsibility as a member of the family unit. Payment for extra household tasks -— those above and beyond a child’s normal chores —- is fine when they are specifically doing the task to earn some money.

The biggest problem in tying your child’s allowance to the completion of her chores comes on the day when you must withdraw the allowance. Now you’re teaching your child, “I have the money and you’ll have to do as I say to get some of it!” That’s a straight-out power play. “I have the money, so I have the power.” Ouch, not a lesson you should want your kids to learn.

So back to the big question: Why are you giving your kids an allowance? According to Ms. Vaz-Oxlade:

To learn how to manage money responsibly, children need an income they can rely on -one given at regular intervals and in denominations they can manage. The experience of handling a steady flow of cash will teach many fundamental skills, including how to manage a cash flow, how to plan ahead, setting goals and how to save to satisfy a goal. With your guidance, an allowance can also be used to teach important lessons in borrowing and lending, the pleasure derived from generosity, and how to be a good consumer.”

Do you give your kids an allowance? What works for your family?

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