Parents make decisions about their children every day, some more important than others. One decision facing a parent is, should the child receive an allowance? As I reviewed this subject in the medical literature, I noted that there were many views but few scientific data to support them.
Many questions are raised about allowances. Should a child have an allowance in the first place? If so, when should it be started and how much should it be? Should the allowance be associated with the youngster doing chores? And the questions go on and on.
About 60 percent of American children receive an allowance. This percentage varies from community to community.
When should a child start getting an allowance? There is some agreement on this question. The child should have an understanding about the value of money and an idea of its purpose. He or she should have some basic math skills and be able to add and subtract.
To determine how much the child receives, some articles suggest 50 cents or $1 for each year of life. So, a 12-year-old would receive between $6 or $12 a week. However, in more affluent families some adolescents receive $50 to $100 a week or more.
To many parents, even $15 or $20 a week is a lot more than they received. But, when they were children, an ice cream cone cost 10 or 15 cents, much less than it costs today.
There are various views whether or not the child’s allowance should be associated with the usual household chores. Chores, such as mowing the grass or washing dishes, are considered family responsibilities and the child should not be rewarded for doing them. An allowance is something extra.
Many experts believe that having an allowance is a good childhood learning experience, such as how to manage money. And, children should learn that the clothes or sneakers they wear just didn’t mysteriously appear. Mom and/or Dad had to work to get the money to buy them.
But, then there are some people, particularly those whose parents couldn’t afford to give them an allowance, believe that the best way to learn the value of money is for children (mainly adolescents) to earn it themselves. They equate an allowance as a “handout.”
Whether or not to give a child an allowance is just one more decision, in a long list of decisions parents must make.
Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of The Feingold Center for Children, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio and president of the Genesis Fund. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.