Allowances, Earn Their Way--Kids Money and the Single Parent

Single parenting and spending time

I am a single parent, of three boys, who are no longer boys but full grown men now. Looking back, sometimes I wonder if I did all the right things, made all the right decisions, and did I teach them to be good citizens? Even more than citizens, did I teach them what they need to know in a world that is changing so fast, it is hard to keep up.

I did not have much cash, as you can imagine, for I think most of my money went to our local supermarket. I think that boys, especially right around puberty, never get full. There were times when we had not finished eating more than a half an hour and I was still hearing someone complain, "Mom, I'm hungry. What is there to eat?" One night, I made a favorite dinner. Tacos with rice and beans on the side, and my oldest boy who was 10 at the time ate twelve tacos, and his younger brother who was eight yrs. old was right behind him having consumed nine tacos. I was full after having eaten only two.

Looking at situations like this, what is one to do when you have rent, bills, food, and then you hear one of them ask, "Mom, can I have this toy?" It was so difficult to have to say no to those questions, and it hardly seemed fair. After all, their friends had similar toys, and they got to go to Disneyland, or Six Flags. I hated not being able to keep up with what their friends had, or got to do.

I needed solutions, answers to these difficulties, and I needed them quickly for they grow up so fast.

First, I had to decide what was important to their education and their health, both mental and physical. I had to make some choices between whether it was important for them to have the same toys as their friends, or if it was better for me to spend that cash on something like Little League.

Here is what I did. When the kids were small, I realized that it wasn't having things, little plastic toys, and so on that made them happy. It was time spent with me, and I also realized that there were plenty of things that could be done together as a family group that was not only as good as, but better than buying them toys. For example, one of our favorite family adventures(and that is what I called them, for it was more exciting to them) was to get up early and go to the beach, at around 7 or 8 o'clock. I would bring my big black cast iron frying pan and a dozen eggs. We would find a good place, dig a hole, and they would go look for firewood. Our breakfasts at the beach were times spent together that still bring up stories to this day when we get together. I had to feed them breakfast anyway, so why not do something different and have it at the beach.

I was very fortunate for I lived in a city that was a tourist town, but also was very concerned for the locals and their families. It is good to research out any community organizations that might be available to you at little to no charge. I was able to take advantage to the Boys Club, and during the summer, many different kinds of daily summer camps. Our town had summer camps made available through our zoo, another one that was organized and held at our museum of natural history. We also had camps every summer through our local harbormaster's office, that emphasized swimming skills, and law enforcement. We had summer activities sponsored by our public swimming pool, and also from our local salt water aquarium, that held classes for younger kids, taught by the older ones, complete with a baby shark display that was similar to a ocean petting zoo.

Always Encourage Kids to Participate in Good Activities

These are the memories gotten from hard work and hard play
These are the memories gotten from hard work and hard play

When to Say Yes and When to say No

There are many different opinions about allowances, how much should they be, and at what age is appropriate to begin. Personally, I do not believe that giving a child an allowance is a good thing. What we teach our kids, should at some level parallel those things that they will face as an adult. Having thought about that for a while, I could not come up with any instance in which anybody for any reason gave me an allowance. I could only compare an allowance to getting a paycheck, the big difference there being that the paycheck was earned.

Well, some argue further, that doing chores is the equivalent to earning their allowance. Again, I must disagree, for there isn't anybody that pays me for doing my household chores. I feel that anybody that lives in any given household, owes it to the house to keep his or her things neat, to help in the kitchen, to help with the laundry, and so on.

So here is how we did it at our house. Everyone helped me with the daily chores as they came along. Age appropriate chores gives a child the feeling of helping, of doing their part, and of being a part of the family. Of course, we still have the problem of how to give the child the money he needs for those special things you and he both want him to have, like a bicycle for example. It might sound a bit harsh, but if you want something bad enough, you will be willing to work for it. They had to get a job, or find a way to make money, by collecting cans after school, or on Saturdays. My boys even helped each other out when it came to the things that they wanted. They learned cooperation, and how much faster and easier it is to work together for a common cause.; Then, if I could, I would throw in a bonus if it looked like they were really putting forth a huge effort.

I also found it was very helpful; for my pocketbook to be padded a bit, by not having to buy snacks or even lunches, for my during school hours job for about twelve or so years was with a caterer.; I was given at work several dozen assorted sandwiches and salads every day, and that really came in handy. I also found ways to make money while doing other things, for example, I would take the little red wagon on our weekend beach outings, and spend $12. on our local generic sodas. Add ice, pull it on down to the tourist areas, and bam, in a matter of one or two hours I would turn that $12 into $75 by selling them for $1 each. It was a good teaching tool for my boys to see that with a little creative thinking, and some effort, they could too come up with ideas to earn their own money.

It didn't take very long at all. By following my example, and then coaching one another, believe me kids pick it up quickly.

I knew that I had done the right thing, when my fifth grader asked me if he could join 4H this year instead of boy scouts. Why, I asked, only to find out that for a small investment of fifty dollars, the boys all got a sheep to raise. After caring for it for several months, every one's sheep was auctioned off at the county fair. At this time my fifth grader paid me back my fifty dollars, and had a whooping $750 profit left which he promptly put into his bank account.

It caught on like wildfire. My kids figured out that they had many different skills that they could turn into money. They tutored younger kids, worked in the school cafeteria, had paper routes, (which was one of their least favorites). They used their computer skills to their advantage, for one of them even went so far as to give adults lessons on computer use. They taught dog training and obedience classes. We were able to have a couple of horses, and they rented out them to their friends at so much an hour. The list goes on and on..... leave it up to a kid to come up with some ideas.

What is boils down to is this....the more you hand a child for free, the less he or she appreciates it. If it is something that they really wanted, that is, wanted enough to put the effort into it to earn it themselves, the more they will guard it and take good care of it, knowing that there won't be anything to replace it.

Now, my boys are ages 25 through 33 yrs of age. They all knew what interests they had, and they all knew what it was to earn those things that they wanted. All three of them worked their way through college, (I helped with buying of books whenever I could), and they all have BA degrees in their areas of interest. One in computers and electronics, one in photography and the other in journalism.

I wouldn't change anything if I could, and I am proud to say that they all grew up knowing what it is to earn their way in this world, for we all know that nothing is handed to anyone for free when we grow up.

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ddsurfsca profile image

ddsurfsca 6 years ago from ventura., california Author

Your daughter will only be as strong as you make her be. Don't give up now, if you make her earn her way now she will go far. Help occasionally is ok, but don't pave her way, or she wont know how to do it for herself. Thanks for the comment, my 33 yr old son still tries to lean on me too much, it never ends, it just gets more expensive...ha


AnywhereGardener profile image

AnywhereGardener 6 years ago

You are a great mom. I wish I could have been so strong. I know now and in my next life if I get that chance I will do as you did. My husband of 17 years left when our daughter was 6 months old. I wasn't strong enough and gave in too much as she was all I had. She is a good teenager, none of the troubles you hear about these days, and a good student just used to getting what she wanted as I sacrificed to make her life the best I could. She is smart enough to earn a good degree and make a good life for herself, I'm just not sure if she is strong enough. To all those who read your post, pass this advice along, it is obvious you did a great job for your boys, you should be proud! Hope you are enjoying your life with your horses to the fullest now. Wish I was there, I'm 53 and in dreary, rainy Seattle, dreaming of moving someday to Florida or Hawaii. I hope my positive attitude will pull me through and someday can act on my dream.

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