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1659. Allowances and Bonuses for Children — Part II


If you can’t grasp or remember the role conditional and unconditional respect plays in raising a child, please read or re-read Part I at 1658.

Common sense may be common but it’s not always sensible. For reasons that may not become obvious until later, think and deal separately with home chores, discipline, and punishment. Find ways to make those subjects work without the influence of money, allowances, bonuses, or whatever. The following describes why.

Parents usually expect a child to earn respect by conforming to parental expectations, and it makes a child’s allowance dependent on good behavior. The allowance can be reduced or taken away in order to discipline or punish. A more effective and productive way exists.

Except for one’s love of God, mother-love, and self-esteem, everything else in this world seems to work on conditional respect. However, a child’s allowance should join those exceptions. Give it unconditionally because the child is a person and currently unable to earn enough money to enjoy life. Prioritize it as a regular gift earned solely by virtue of being a family member, never to be threatened or endangered, much less reduced or taken away.

It accomplishes three things. Parents display respect for who the child is rather than what the child does. The child bonds more tightly as a family member. The child returns respect shown him unconditionally as heart-felt trust parents sense as respect, which parents want most of all.

Giving unconditionally tempts parents much less to make a child pay for misbehavior with his allowance. If a kid buys drugs, punish other than by reducing his supply of money. I recognize how tough that is, but think of this. If he’s going to do drugs, he’ll find a way including the money until he makes a different choice. Punish some other way than cutting his allowance, and respect for who he is remains in place and his trust of parents isn’t disturbed. He’ll more quickly see that he’s not being driven to drugs by parental authority but by his own leanings. Guilt sets in and conscience boils over much easier when children see that they betray themselves by their choices.

You can imagine what a great impression it will make on your child to see peers having their allowances constantly under threat of cutbacks. Imagine how your child can stand out when his unique allowance stability outshines the larger but threatened amounts that peers may enjoy.

How big should an allowance be is a common worry. Modern children need some minimum amount of spending money to socialize but stay out of trouble, prevent leeching it from friends, and learn to recover from immature mistakes. Parents owe their children that much but no more. All else kids should earn, which brings up bonuses (later).

Make money a tool. If a child makes and lives with his mistakes, he quickly turns into a money manager. Once an allowance amount is determined, choose the frequency of awarding it. Generally, the longer the period between ‘injections’, the more mistakes a child makes, but the sooner he learns success. Ideally, parents plan ahead. Aim weekly for kids in elementary school, bi-weekly in middle-school, and monthly for high school. (A weekly allowance for high schoolers leaves money management in the hands of parents, does it not?)

I suggest scheduling routine increases and displaying them in a table. Share it with the child, and he perceives greater worth to the family now and in the future. Base increases on reliable events, such as every school semester with perhaps something extra for the summer and Christmas time. If a child knows what’s coming so he can dream of better days, it further amplifies the trust generated by an allowance dependable in both amount and delivery.

Require children to earn all money beyond their allowance with parents creating opportunities. I recommend that one or more bonuses be added to the financial world of children. Bonuses they earn or choose not to try; it’s their discretion. As with the allowance, bonuses should be neither reducible nor removed for misbehavior. Earning it is up to them, and parental respect for their free will generates both respect and trust in return. Three examples follow.

  • Easy-to-win home care bonus awarded for showing personal responsibility in the home and rendering unconditional respect for all family members. Harmony for parents arises with regular paying of the bonus for personal accomplishments. Look and give the bonus for the positives rather than denying it for the negatives. Mention minor discrepancies in behavior more in passing than at bonus time. One or two non-wins will have a dramatic effect on correcting poor behavior, if the parents have a good record of paying it. The child can more easily see that he didn’t try hard enough.
  • Easy-to-win car care bonus for capable children keeping the cars washed and vacuumed. Again, parents should pay it more freely than expertly earned. Let kids know they are doing well, which encourages them to do better and thus please the car driver more. The harmonizing effect described in the previous bullet also applies to this example and any other form of bonus.
  • Easy-to-win gift bonus designed to let a child earn special money to buy gifts for others. For example, but only if not among already assigned chores: do the laundry for a month, do the dishes for a week, cook dinner for a week, serve breakfast in bed for next four Saturdays, shine dad’s shoes every week for a year, straighten out the garage, put away Christmas decorations, empty waste baskets daily and take out the trash for a week/month/year.

The essence of this plan is that children deserve an allowance as a person and not as a child, boy, or girl. As a person respected enough that parents defend them against embarrassment or humiliation among peers that comes from empty pockets, that comes from the inability to spend on oneself. Parents can accompany an allowance with one or more bonuses designed to be earned in total or lost for non-performance (as opposed to partial awards or misbehavior). With bonus dollars awarded with unconditional respect of kids, parents earn more trust and respect in return. Well-respected children that trust and respect parents do not cause problems other than those generated by immaturity.

By showering children with unconditional respect and structured opportunities to win more pocket money, parents more easily turn them into self-respecting and personally responsible kids who learn the blessings of family involvement and even capitalism.

Time doesn’t permit me to fix my disappointment with the organization and clarity of this series. It takes a lot of time to generate easy reading, and I’ve run short. However, I leave this friendly reminder to help understand that boys and girls are different in how they care for their possessions. Girls care for things that inflate their importance—make them valuable—to themselves or their world. Being future oriented they are easily encouraged to both tithe and save money. Boys care for things they can use for play and competition, possessions that can be used to generate self-admiration. Focused on the present, boys are harder to convince about tithing and saving money.

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