Last week, we discussed a question regarding children and money. Our two main topics were teaching children the value of money, as well as how to instill a sense of responsibility regarding work. This week, we will focus on the pros and cons of rewarding children and when/if to give an allowance. Thank you to all that shared their thoughts in the comments section.
A mother called me recently with an interesting issue. Whenever she asked her child to do anything, he would respond, “What will I get?” Her fear was that if she kept saying, “A Mitzvah”, he would think that a Mitzvah is associated with something negative – namely the task he was given.
It’s a problem that many of us face. Children expect a reward for almost anything. It’s a part of the broken mentality that we discussed last week. A mother told me the following story…you might want to sit for this. She wanted her son to stop using his iPod so much. Therefore, she offered him an iPhone 7 if he stopped for a week. You might think this woman is certifiably insane. I certainly do. As shocking as this might seem, she’s actually a great mother and an intelligent person.
Let’s face it, it’s not easy. Our society likes to reward with instant gratification. Imagine the following scenario. Your den is a mess and you want your 11-year-old and 9-year-old children to clean it. Do you...
I took a poll, and 100% of the people I asked, chose “2”. To be fair, I only asked one person, but I’m not a very good poll taker. (Then again, neither is the media). Choice “3” is not a good option. Threatening consequences is just not a great way to parent in most cases. Obviously, choice “1” is the best option. However, it’s just easier to go with “2”. Less arguing, and a seemingly happier environment. Everyone wins, right?
Unfortunately, no. All that’s happening is that we’re teaching our children that instant gratification is the norm, and that listening to parents is contingent upon rewards. Sure, it’s the easy way out, but long term it backfires. The next time you want the den cleaned, you’ll have to offer a reward once again! I know a father who rewards his son for getting out of bed. That’s insane!
At the end of this email, I will share a few ideas to help deal with this frustrating but common issue.
The last part of this topic was allowance. A close friend of mine shared with me an interesting story. His 10-year-old daughter asked for an allowance. He replied, “I allow you to sleep in my house, eat my food, and wear clothing that I paid for!”
That’s a bit extreme for me. However, I agree in principle. I did some research and found that, years ago, allowance was usually tied performing chores. Nowadays, I think that an allowance isn’t as important.
This doesn’t mean your children shouldn’t get spending money. On the contrary, it’s not a bad idea for your children to have a little spending money of their own. Not only does it help teach them the value of money, it gives them a sense of independence. If children are not allowed to have a little money, it can cause them to resent you, and Chas V’shalom take money without permission.
However, I don’t think an allowance is the way to go. Money as a birthday present? Great. Lost a tooth or two? A few dollars is fine. Is it Rosh Chodesh? Perhaps a dollar to spend in school is one way to show them what a special day it is! The goal should be that your children are responsible with money, but don’t obsess over it. You can reiterate that money doesn’t buy happiness, “Who is happy? – the one who is satisfied!”
What’s my main issue with an allowance? It strengthens the feeling of entitlement, which is a large reason that the world is having all these issues. Additionally, why do kids even need a constant stream of money coming in? What are they buying? If there is a snack machine in school, you can give them a dollar or two occasionally.
If your child really wants an allowance, tie it into his responsibilities around the house. I’m not talking about keeping his room clean. If he wants to earn extra money, let him oversee something special. Mowing the grass, shoveling the snow, polishing the silverware. Although he shouldn’t necessarily be compensated for basic jobs (making his bed, picking up toys, etc.), there’s nothing wrong with having him earn a little extra on the side.
Below you will find some tips regarding both topics we discussed today and last week. As always, please use your judgment when following any of these ideas. When in doubt, always ask your Rav.
Have a good Shabbos
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.