CANDY ALLAN: Allowance: To give or not to give?

Whether or not to give our kids an allowance may be one of the most overturned parenting decisions in our house.

When my son was first born, we were giddy first-time parents and decided his “job” would be to be entertaining. As long as he did something we found adorable, we gave him an allowance of 10 cents per week. We dropped a dime into his little train bank faithfully for the first two weeks, sporadically for the next few and then it disappeared entirely.

For a time, we adhered to a policy of not paying for regular, every-day chores but instead paying for larger jobs outside the typical scope of what was expected. For example, you pick up the living room when you’re told because you live in the house too and everybody has to help. If you want money to buy something, you could pick from a list of “extra” chores.

That worked for a while, and my windows were never cleaner (but only about three-quarters of the way up because that’s as long as the kids’ arms were). It stopped working when my son argued my pay scale was too low and began to negotiate. I am successfully raising corporate lawyers, it seems, because the pay negotiations began to be exhausting.

As a result, we changed our system. Currently, the kids are expected to perform particular chores every day and they get paid at the end of the week — it’s a whopping $3 per child per week. So far, that’s been working out OK — nobody’s figured out how to negotiate for a raise yet.

Giving allowances or not is a question often circulated among the parents I know. It’s a discussion I’ve had at various points, and I’ve freely shared what my family does and why … and what we did before, and why and why we don’t do it that way anymore.

Clearly, I should not be giving advice on allowance! Instead, I see my role in these conversations as sort of a testing lab. When we did A, the result was B, which we didn’t like, so now we’re trying X, and so far, it’s resulting in Y. I also get the benefit of hearing what others have done and getting ideas for how it might work in my house. Gotta love the village.

I think it’s important that my kids recognize a couple things about work and money. First, if you don’t work, you won’t get any money. That’s pretty self-explanatory, I’d think — I don’t know of any job that pays people just for being there. (If you know of one, please tell me about it!) Second, there’s some work you do because you’re part of a family or community and it just needs to be done. And yes, if the work doesn’t get done, the money doesn’t get paid.

In other words, you get paid for work — but not ALL work. I like living in a clean house, but nobody actually pays me to clean my house. In contrast, I get paid for the work I do here at the Herald Review every day. This theory is the basis of both systems — I just changed which kind of work I’m willing to pay to have done.

How does (or did) allowance work in your house? Clearly, I’m not opposed to changing the system if I get a better idea and I’m open to suggestions.

Let’s be honest, I’ve been making up this parenting thing as I go along ever since my son was born. I know there’s more experienced parents out there and folks with different ideas. Respond to my column by emailing me at, and you might see your thoughts in print in an upcoming issue of the Herald Review.