Friday, February 01, 2019

Why I Never Gave My Child An Allowance

I don't claim to be a parenting expert, although my wife and I have managed to raise a child into adulthood who is self-motivated, who collaborates happily with others, who works hard, and who knows how to be a good friend. 

Someone recently asked me about my own parenting. Among her questions was, "When did you start giving Josephine an allowance?" My answer was, "Never." Or rather, we may have tried giving her an allowance for a week or two, but generally speaking, when she needed money we gave it to her. 

That flies in the face of the conventional idea that an allowance gives a child the opportunity to practice budgeting and saving and whatnot, skills she's going to need in adulthood. It's a perfectly valid notion, but being a paymaster didn't sit well with me. Our family's money has never been my money, but rather our money. Josephine never asked to be born, that was a choice my wife and I made, and part of the obligation I felt as a parent was if we were going to bring a new life into this world, we owed her, without reservation, an equal claim to all we own, as a family. I could never buy into the "I worked for this money so it's mine" approach.

This isn't to say that we handed over a third of our discretionary income to her, but rather that purchases beyond the day-to-day necessities required discussion. This is how my wife and I already did it, consulting with one another before spending, considering together if this was how we wanted to use our money, so it only made sense to include Josephine. In the same spirit, we didn't make a secret of our wider financial situation. When things were tight, she knew about it. When we were feeling flush, she knew about that too. So when she wanted a new toy, for instance, it was against this background of full knowledge that we had our discussion. Sometimes we decided that it was a good way to use our money, but more often than not we wound up coming to an agreement that it wasn't, at least not today. She may have still felt disappointment, but at least there was understanding there as well.

As a young adult, I would say that she manages her money at least as well as I do, and certainly better than I did at her age, and I was a product of allowances. Indeed, she is proving to be something of a "hustler," willing and able to get out there an cobble together the money she needs.

As I said, I'm not a parenting expert. Mine is the story of one family trying to sift through all the advice and find our way as best we can. It's an approach that suited our personalities, our lifestyle, and our values. There are no cookie cutter ways to parent any more than there are cookie cutter kids. That's both the challenge and beauty of it all: we get to make it our own.

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