In this second installment of the “Life Lessons Learned from Allowances” blog, I am taking some time to focus on the benefits of using an allowance to teach kids accountability. As I noted last week, some of the personal stories are from days gone by, as Bob and my adult children don’t have much use for allowances anymore. But the truths are timeless and we’re seeing some of the fruits of our labor as our kids make wise choices.
Using an Allowance to Teach Accountability
The second objective of implementing an allowance is to help our children learn financial accountability—a less that most adults still need to learn, as well. A crucial part of that accountability is letting our kids face the reality that choices have consequences.
Natural Consequences This is a great tool to teach our kids accountability. When our middle child, Bethany, first began getting an allowance, she often had it spent before the first day was out. She’d see something in the store and spontaneously blow her money on a cheap toy that would be broken by the next day.
Then we decided to begin emphasizing the consequences of her choices. When she saw a cool pencil she wanted at the store and asked us to buy it, here’s how our conversation went:
“Sure, you can buy that, Bunny! Just use your allowance.”
She’d reply mournfully, “But I don’t have any left…” trailing off in a sympathy-seeking whine.
I’d pat her blond curls. “Well, then, I guess we’ll see about it next Sunday, when you get your allowance again.”
This simple technique began to teach her the natural consequences of spending all her money the first day, and it made her accountable for her own spending habits.
Conditional Allowance While our kids get an allowance because they’re a responsible part of our family, it doesn’t mean that there are no conditions placed on that allowance. They do have a responsibility to do their chores (even though they’re not getting paid to do chores, as we’ve already stated). SO the big question is: “How do you get kids to do their chores, and what if they don’t?”
About eight years ago I went to a garage sale that radically changed the way we parent our children. I picked up a book (that I’ve already mentioned in this section) by Dr. Kevin Lehman called Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours. I bought it because it was by a Christian author, and I thought it would be a good resource to have on our bookshelves—and because it was a steal at fifty cents. The principles I learned from it, however, are priceless:
- Establish a healthy authority over your child.
- Hold your children accountable for their actions.
- Let reality be the teacher.
- Use actions more than words.
- Stick to your guns, but don’t shoot yourself in the foot.
- Relationships come before rules.
- Live by your values.
Let me give you an example of how to get kids to do their chores based on this reality-discipline approach:
Real-Life Example Just this week Bethany decided she would rather comb her hair a gazillion strokes and paint here nails than make her bed. So when it came time for the mad dash to leave the house for school, she left this chore undone. When the kids go home from school, she skipped over the a friend’s house—leaving her chore still undone.
Real Calm Response This presented the ideal opportunity for Mom to step in to calmly deal with the situation. I asked seven-year-old Jonathan (aka Sweetpea) to make his sister’s bed, and I paid him fifty cents for the three-minute chore. He was delighted to earn some more money (he was saving for an F-15 model airplane kit).
Real Allowance Money Gone When Bethany got home, I informed her of the reality of the situation: she hadn’t done her job; Jonathan did it for her. And I took fifty cents from her upcoming allowance to pay for his services.
No-Nag Zone This approach is not failure-proof, but it has been effective for us. It also keeps us from going over the edge and losing our cool over undone chores, a lack of responsibility, and sloppiness. It seems to affect kids all the more to see their money go to their siblings, and it has gone a long way in reducing the amount of forgetfulness, laziness, and rebelliousness that we sometimes see.
This blog is taken from my book Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees: Teaching Your Kids the Value of a Buck. For more on this subject, you can buy the book from the bookstore at www.elliekay.com.