The cat’s out of the bag. My son has now heard about this amazing thing called “allowance”…and it’s my fault. I recently introduced my four year old to the classic series of Frances books by Russell and Lillian Hoban. In A Baby Sister For Frances, perhaps Nate’s favorite due to Frances’s annoyance with her baby sister Gloria, there is the following passage:
“How much allowance does Gloria get?” said Frances. “She is too little to have an allowance,” said Father. “Only big girls like you get allowances. Isn’t it nice to be a big sister?” “May I have a penny along with my nickel now that I am a big sister?” said Frances. “Yes,” said Father. “Now your allowance will be six cents a week because you are a big sister.” “Thank you,” said Frances. “I know a girl who gets seventeen cents a week. She gets three nickels and two pennies.” “Well,” said Father, “it’s time for bed now.”
It was here that Nate stopped me. “What? She gets PAID to be a big sister? I’m a big brother…don’t big brothers get money for having a little brother? Or is it just with sisters?”. Now, I will admit, as we have two boys and no plans for more children, it was very tempting to just say “Yup…it’s just a ‘sisters’ thing. Goodnight” and call it good. But instead I explained “an allowance” as Frances getting her own spending money from her parents to use for the things she wants. Now, not only did Nate realize Frances gets her very own money to spend, he realized this kid got a RAISE for getting a sibling. Outrage.
Back in July I wrote about the power of encouraging kids to use their own funds for things they “want” rather than need, such as treats and toys. Up until now, however, that money has been just a few dollars from birthday and holiday gifts. There hasn’t been a real sense of saving money and using it carefully, but more “What do you want to spend your $5 on?”. I’ve been toying with the idea of giving Nate a very small sum of “allowance money” each week, maybe $1, to use or save. I know many tie this to doing household chores, and even at the young age of four Nate has many chores already, but I personally disagree with this technique. In my mind, keeping the household running smoothly is not a choice and it isn’t something “extra” that needs financial incentive. It’s what we all do to keep our house clean(ish) and our family happy. Perhaps it is time to think about a very small allowance. Money management is a hard concept to learn, and I think it’s wise to start small and start early. Does anyone give their kids a weekly allowance? How has it worked so far?