I'm Not Giving My Kids An Allowance Or Paying Them To Clean Up After Themselves

by Joelle Wisler
Originally Published: 
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I’m very late to the allowance game, as my oldest is eleven and we don’t do any of that. I don’t pay either of my kids for cleaning their room, or putting their dishes in the dishwasher, or picking up their random stuff that litters every piece of floor space that we have. After years of threatening them with garbage bags, they just do these things when I ask now, because they know I can go from normal to rage cleaning in about five seconds.

Paying them for doing these things now would seem like a step in the wrong direction.

I realize that I need to teach my kids the value of a dollar, how to be responsible with money, and techniques for saving, but, honestly, I’m still learning how to do all of those things myself.

When I read what the experts say, the consensus is that I should be giving my kids a certain amount each week, let’s say, five dollars. The money isn’t for doing chores, because chores are just a part of being in a family. They say that giving kids an allowance is for learning about money and not about earning the money. So, I guess, the cash if just for existing? Being a kid these days is great.

The experts say that the kids learn to save their allowance for things like bikes and musical instruments and, if my daughter got to choose, huge vats of paint that she could swim in. I do understand this line of thinking. Kids learn what things are worth, that money is a tangible thing, and that they need to save their dollars and not spend them randomly on those cute boots that popped up on a Facebook ad.

Except this is usually how the exchange of money happens in my house because we are lazy AF:

Me: “I’ll give you a dollar if you bike over to the neighbors and get a couple of eggs.”

Kid: “Okay!”

And then both of us forget about the dollar until the next time we are at any kind of store where my kid miraculously remembers, and then I have to buy markers or index cards or some other random shit. Parenting experts are probably crapping their pants right now. I am most definitely doing this whole thing wrong.

I didn’t get an allowance growing up, but we lived in the middle of nowhere so I didn’t really have any place to spend money. You don’t need money to play on hay bales. The things that I did want — bikes, musical instruments, clothes etc. — were given to me for birthdays or Christmas. This is probably the reason for my lackadaisical approach to allowance, money, and maybe life in general. But I did work every summer since I was fourteen doing horrible, awful jobs like, once, washing dishes at a Mexican restaurant. I learned that I needed to go to college and earn more money if I didn’t ever want to do that again.

I understand that, by giving my kids an allowance, I will help them learn about money. But I’m just not organized or grown up enough to remember to give my kids a certain amount of money each week, or calculate dollar amounts for scrubbing the dog, or write out chore charts. I’m not. I’m sorry. I think my kids will probably have to get a job when they can and learn about money how I did. Values can be taught in many different ways, including scraping old cheese dinner plates in a restaurant kitchen while trying not to barf.

I do sometimes wish that I was a more responsible grown-up. That I had the ability to do all the grown-up things that the experts tell me I’m supposed to do, like, keep my car clean, organize my Tupperware drawer, pay every single bill on time and in full. Give my kids an allowance. I mean, I put a potato through the washing machine today. How does that even happen?

Yes, I probably need to up my game on teaching my kids about money. And yes, I need to learn about money myself. I’m a work in progress. Learning the value of a dollar is a gift that I could give my kids and maybe they would grow up without an Amazon shopping addiction or heart palpitations when they walk into Target.

But, for now, I won’t be giving my kids money for doing the stuff that they need to do anyway. Not because the experts told me that is how I should do things, but because I don’t want to.

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