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Should Kids Get Allowances?

Should Kids Get Allowances?


Hello and good day!

My ten-year-old son Isaiah worked a five-hour shift in our chocolate shop yesterday. He did an excellent job and managed to earn 5 dollars in tips in addition to the meagre wage we pay him.

He loves working in the shop so much that we offer going to the shop as a reward for doing his other work well. If he does his schoolwork and household chores diligently and with sound effort during the week, he may go to the shop on Friday to earn some money. If he doesn't work well during the week, he may not go, and his pockets shall remain empty.

My seven-year-old son Levi is already an adept merchant. He is a shrewd buyer and seller. A week ago, he noticed that my headset was broken. I like to listen to music while I do yard work or wash dishes and I suffer without a headset. But sometimes I get so caught up with the busyness of life, that I forgo small to do list items like replacing minor electronic apparatus.

Levi seized on this opportunity. He worked with his mother to buy a headset, using his own savings, and then when he saw that I was washing dishes with no music, he approached me.

"Poppy, would you like a headset?" he asked. "Yes Levi, I'd love one. I hate doing this work without music," I said. He held up the brand new headset and let me drink it in for a few moments. "Want to buy mine?" he asked.

"How much?" I asked. He told me the price, "How much did you buy them for?" I asked.

A good merchant would never tell you his cost of goods sold, but Levi is still learning. He told me the truth and in doing so he revealed his $4 mark up. "I can get this same headset for $4 cheaper if I go and buy it myself," I said.

He pondered that and then a look of supreme confidence came upon his face. "Yes, but you can have these right now, and you won't have to keep washing those dishes without music," he said.

I forked over the money and Levi's capital grew.

I had a conversation with a good friend not long ago about paying allowances to children. He is for it and pays both of his children a seven dollar a week allowance. His kids are good kids and he and his wife are good people.

We're all trying our best to raise our kids right.

His theory is that kids have jobs, going to school and doing chores, and that they should be paid for their work the same way anybody else is paid for their job. Further, since they are busy with these activities, they don't have time to make money.

Finally, he believes that it is good for children to practice managing money from a young age. I agree with that final point.

But I disagree with the rest of it because there appears to me to be a fundamental flaw in it. You don't get paid for doing things that benefit yourself. You only get paid for doing things that benefit others.

School is to develop your own mind and skillset. Chores are to maintain your own living environment. If you go clean somebody else's house, they'll pay you. You clean your own house because it gives you peace of mind to live in a nice and orderly place. Nobody is ever going to pay you for cleaning your own house.

I'd like my kids to correlate earning money with serving others. There is another reason why the idea of paying an allowance rubs me the wrong way.

A kid on a cacao farm doesn't get an allowance and they work much, much harder than any American kids. There is an expectation that they will do a substantial number of chores on the farm every single day. It is hot out there and the farms are big and muddy and there are mosquitos that bite the daylights out of you.

Most kids out in campo walk several miles to and from school. School is a privilege as not all families can afford school supplies. One of the big benefits of our project has been better education for cacao farm children.

It is completely unthinkable that doing chores on the farm and going to school would be compensated. And don't like the idea that one kid gets money, and another doesn't, just because the former was born in a different place and to different parents.

You don't choose where you are born or who your parents are. It is luck of the draw. To my mind, luck is a very weak basis for determining income.

I recall a handful of campo kids I met who had their own businesses. One was a nine-year-old who washed taxis to make money. Another was an eleven-year-old with a painting business. I especially remember the eleven-year-old because he was in the congregation we attended out in campo.

When my wife and I lived in the jungle for a while, my wife did volunteer work giving Bible studies while I was working in the cacao processing factory.

Two nights a week, we attended Bible lessons. The chapel was in a small room on top of the town's local pharmacy. The gentleman who came to lead the sessions lived in another city and drove in two times a week. I used to fall asleep in those gatherings every single time. I'd be tired from the day's work.

Out of the window I could see a dirt road running up hill and across the road was a yard with chickens and cows. The cows were always out there grazing and mooing and it was hot in that little room. The mooing of the cows was like a lullaby that lulled me to sleep. I always felt guilty about that.

Not so much that I was missing the lesson. I've studied the Bible quite a bit over the years. Mostly, I thought it must be awkward for the folks in attendance to have a big, sleeping gringo, slouched over on a wooden bench with a low back, possibly snoring and drooling in the middle of their study. It must have been a distraction.  

But once the mooing starts soothing your soul and the nods grab you, things are out of your hands. I'd always be awakened by the singing of a hymn to conclude the session. When I heard the singing, I shook out of my deep slumber and popped up instinctively.

We usually sat right underneath this thick beam that went down the center of the ceiling and since the ceiling was short, I hit my head on that beam between ten and fifteen times. Everybody got a good chuckle when it happened.

Anyhow, after one of these studies everybody got to talking about how the chapel needed a fresh coat of paint. The question of who wanted to volunteer to do the painting came up.

Immediately a young man, the eleven-year-old kid, said that he would do it. I thought it was special that a young man would offer himself in that way.

The rest of the group found it totally normal. Why wouldn't the kid do it? After all, he did own a painting business and was considered one of the better painters in town.

Who else?

We all chipped in to buy the paint and the young fellow used his own tools to handle the rest. He did an excellent job and the whole thing was on a volunteer basis.

I can't unknow that there are kids like that in the world. And that is why my own kids will be hard pressed to ever get an allowance out of me.

Thank you so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!