Ask BBB: Parenting Advice from Betsy Brown Braun

We have two children, ages 8 and 12, and we would like to start giving them a weekly allowance to help them learn about saving and spending money. Should we require they do chores to earn their allowance? We are also wondering if they should receive the same amount, even though they are different ages.

BBB: Absolutely, both your 8 and 10-year-old should have an allowance.

Betsy Brown Braun
Betsy Brown Braun

And frankly, I am shocked when I hear about kids who are in their teens and do not have one. When I ask the parent how the child gets spending money, I am told that he asks and the parent reaches into his pocket. I wonder how this child will learn to manage his money when he gets to college and beyond. And I wonder if the child is learning how we share (and that we must share) some of what we earn with others (the charity of a specific kind on which so many non-profits depend.)

Just know that it is usually around the age of 7 that the allowance system is effective. At that age, the child understands quantity. He knows the quantitative meaning of numbers and coins. In other words, a dime is more valuable than a nickel. You will also know it’s getting to be time when your child starts asking how much a variety of things cost. You might think it is rude, but your child is just demonstrating real interest. Seven years is typically the age of collections – baseball cards, rocks, stamps, shells – and money, of which the child wants a lot!

There are a few different schools of thought about how to implement an allowance system. The four most common are:

I give you a set amount of money because we each contribute to the family (hence the name allowance). I make money, which I share with you. Mom (or Dad) takes care of the household, which is for all of us. And you do chores, which helps all of us.

You have certain jobs you are expected to do. In return I will pay you a set amount, an allowance, for doing them all.

There are specific jobs that you can do around the house. For each job, you will earn a certain amount of money. No job done, no money earned.

A combo of one and three. That is, I give you a base (and very small) allowance. If you want more, you can do jobs to supplement the pittance I give you.

I am a fan of #3 or #4.  I find #2 difficult because deciding how much of his allowance, if any, the child earns if a chore is not completed gets tricky.

I also believe that regardless of what system you use, there are certain jobs called “personal responsibilities,” which all children must complete before any privileges are allowed. Those jobs include bed making, putting dirty clothes in the hamper, hanging up the wet towel, cleaning up toys and clearing your place from the table.

For much greater detail about allowances, you can see chapter 9 in my book You’re Not the Boss of Me.

Betsy Brown Braun, M.A. is a Child Development and Behavior Specialist (infants to teens), a Parent Educator, and Multiple Birth Parenting Specialist. Betsy consults with parents privately, runs parenting groups, seminars and workshops for parents, teachers, and other professionals.  She is the award-winning author of the bestselling, “Just Tell Me What to Say” and “You’re Not the Boss of Me.” Betsy has been featured on the Today Show, The Early Show and Good Morning America and has been cited in Parents Magazine, Twins Magazine, Family Circle and many more.  Betsy and Ray Braun, Palisades residents for 38 years, are the parents of adult triplets and have three grandchildren, so far.