Under the photo above is the title of a WikiHow site called “How to reward your child for good behaviour”. I wanted to use the picture, but that phrase says just about the opposite of everything I believe about allowance!
If you have read any of my other posts about parenting and discipline, you probably know that I disagree with the concept of using reward and punishment as anything more than an emergency tool for raising children. There are wonderful techniques for setting (and holding) firm limits, which I believe are absolutely necessary. I also believe that limits can be presented in a way that assures your kids know that you love them, even while you are saying ‘no’.
Allowance, in my opinion, should not be associated with being rewarded for anything. I think that the real purpose of giving a regular allowance is a great way to teach kids about money. At various ages and stages of their development, kids need to learn what stuff costs. They need to practice the skills of counting money and making change. They need to practice the art of delayed gratification, which is such an important antidote to the world of instant gratification we live in. The applications of delayed gratification will be applied in many areas of their livesThere might even be opportunities to try out the concept of loans and debts.
Kids will learn about money in the same way they learn about everything else in life – by trying it out themselves. It is very important that the amount of the allowance should leave room for them to experience some frustration about what they can afford to buy with it. Anything else is nothing but a lesson in entitlement!
As they practice autonomy with what must be thought of as their own money, they will fail – maybe more than once. They will buy things on impulse that they didn’t really want. They will pay too much for something because they didn’t compare items, sizes or shops. They will use up all their money and regret that they have none left. But hopefully, they will slowly integrate these lessons so that as older teenagers and young adults they will have gotten some important (but not too costly) mistakes out of the way.
Getting an allowance should not be confused with a separate lesson about earning money. I think that kids should earn money doing things that people really get paid to do and not for things that are part of the fabric of everyday life.
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