I know we live in a society that celebrates capitalism, but since when did it become a rite of passage in kindergarten to demand an allowance?
I think an allowance is a good idea, since it allows children to make their own responsible choices about what is important to spend their money on.
The idea is that, if they have to pay for a movie or iTunes, they’ll only pay for the ones they really want, instead of begging you for everything.
Golf champion Tiger Woods said, “I'm tight. I mean, because I never had a whole lot growing up as a kid. I always had to save. Then I'd buy like one big thing, like a pair of basketball shoes or something like that. But I had to save up my allowance.”
Tiger obviously turned out fine. It won’t ruin our kids either. The next question is whether an allowance is something to be given or earned for performing chores.
Most children, of course, think the former is most appropriate, but that’s not my experience.
When I was growing up, I did weekly chores in exchange for my allowance. Every Saturday my sister and I cleaned our rooms. We vacuumed and dusted the whole house. Every evening, from the time we were eight years old, we took turns washing and drying the dishes.
None of these chores were punishment, they were expected. Usually dish washing wasn’t my favorite activity, but there was a period every summer in which I would love washing dishes.
Why? Because I’d just returned from Girl Scout Camp. I attended Camp Chippewa Bay in Chippewa Falls, Wis. Each girl was given a different job every few days.
The worst job, of course, was latrine duty, which meant you had to clean the toilets by scrubbing them until they were sparkling.
Another job was raising and lowering the flag, but I was always so worried the flag would touch the ground on my watch that I dreaded that job.
There was also setting the table, serving the food, clearing the food, washing the dishes, and drying the dishes. It always amazed me that washing the dishes at camp went so quickly. One girl would clear the plate and hand it to me. I would then wash the plate and hand it to the person who had drying duty. The whole stack of dishes seemed to be done in just minutes. Why couldn't it just be that way at home? I hit upon the answer: my parents simply didn't have the right system set up.
Each year when I came home from camp I was determined to change it. To start with, I have a bit of a take-charge personality, which was in full evidence at times like these. I would assign my brother to clear the table and scrape the plates. I would wash the plates and hand them to my sister. It wouldn't take too long for me to become frustrated. They simply didn't work quickly enough! I was certain their inadequacies were due to their lack of the exceptional training I had been privileged to receive at Camp Chippewa Bay! I would admonish them to work more diligently and remind them how quickly the job would go if they would only follow my system. Sometimes it took two weeks, and sometimes it took four weeks, but my newfound love of dish washing diminished nonetheless. Love or not, I still had to do it.
To this day I believe nothing builds character better than regular chores. Chores vary by age and skill, but each of my children has his or her own set.
Here are my basic guidelines:
Age 15 – 17
— Help with younger children
— Keep bedroom and bathroom clean
Ages 13 – 14
— Clean pet cages weekly
— Take out trash
Ages 11 – 12
— Feed pets in the morning and at night
— Sweep kitchen floor after every meal
— Clean bathrooms weekly
— Help fold and sort laundry
Ages 9 – 10
— Vacuum bedrooms and stairs weekly
— Set tables for meals
— Help unload dishwasher
Ages 7 – 8
— Help sweep
— Help unload dishwasher
— Help fold and sort clothes
Ages 5 – 6
— Take dirty clothes to laundry
— Sort laundry into dark and light colors
— Get dressed – two changes of clothes maximum per day, not 10
— Keep toys and movies picked up
— Make bed
— Carry dirty dishes to sink, rinse in sink
— Tidy bedroom
One of our business correspondents at FOX News Channel, who doesn’t have children, mentioned an interesting allowance concept based on debit cards and Web sites. It’s basically a debit card for teens. It lets you set up an allowance chart just like the one normally up on the refrigerator. You select the amount paid for each chore. Here are three of the Web sites that offer these types of services. I’m sure you can find more, and I don’t recommend one over another.
As Horace said, “Life grants nothing to us mortals without hard work.”
E.D. Hill is a FOX News Channel host and author of "I'm Not Your Friend, I'm Your Parent." She has eight children. Click here to read more about E.D.'s new book.