Part I of a SeriesSo I’m driving with my tween daughter to the store the other day when she announces, “Mom, we need to have a discussion,” in her most authoritative voice.
“Okay,” I reply, doing my best not to smile.
“You know Mom, $10.00 every two weeks is just not enough money.”
“Really now?” I ask as the smile slowly slips out of my voice. “Well, tell me more about this.”
“I need my money all at once – yep, $20.00!”
I quickly thought about the request and asked a few more questions before confirming that, as a middle-schooler, $10.00 every two weeks was the agreement and if there was something else she might need to please let us know.
“Gosh, it is a new day!” I thought to myself as I reflected on the lives of tweeners.
A tween is often defined as a boy or girl between the ages of 9 and 12 years of age – they are too old for toys but too young for teen entertainment. There are more than 20 million tweens in the U.S. and the annual spending power of their disposable income, apart from what their parents spend annually, is about $43 billion dollars. Social media is the air they breathe, and Facebook, Facetime, SnapChat, and Voxer are common tools for this age group. Many have a cell phone by the tender age of 11, and more autonomy and decision-making power than previous generations. This can equate to potential power challenges and struggles in the home over spending, the use of electronics, and social media, to name only a few areas of potential contention.
Why is an Allowance a Good Idea?
Generally, at around 7 or 8 years of age it is a good idea to provide an allowance, depending on the family’s financial situation. An allowance can incorporate both the amounts a tween can earn by doing chores and money provided for disposable spending, savings, and giving. Yes, let’s not forget that even with an allowance, focusing on the Biblical notion of giving is important. By providing an appropriate allowance, children and tweens are afforded the opportunity to learn how to manage their money – a skill many young people today know very little about. Earning, learning to save, and deferring gratification are almost lost arts. Helping tweens learn to earn and value money can assist them in making the real-world connection between life, work, finances, and reward. Unfortunately, in this consumer-driven society, many adults and tweens alike forget to implement boundaries around finances. This leaves tweens with the notion that their parents have an unlimited supply of money, or that all a parent has to do is to spend it or get additional money off their credit card.
Tips for Your Tween’s Pocket Money
So, if your tween is starting middle school and you want to explore this allowance issue, here are some general ideas and guidelines:
1.) Decide on the Amount and Frequency
As parents, it is incredibly important to be on the same team when it comes to such things as an allowance, the use of electronics, access to social media, and curfews. So before you wander into the den of lions by asking your tween about an allowance, sit with your spouse and have an open conversation about what your family can realistically afford, who will make the payment, and with what frequency. Consider that an allowance is both earned and automatically given – tie the allowance to your child’s obedience, attitudes, and family contribution (a nice way of saying chores). In the real world, if you don’t go to work, have a negative attitude, or perform poorly, there can be consequences. Remember that helping your tween to learn transferrable skills that will later become applicable in the real world is a hallmark of effective parenting. As a general rule and to mirror the real world of work, provide your tween’s allowance just like you earn your own salary, i.e., weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.
One guide suggests that eight to nine year olds earn $3 to $5 a week, ten to eleven year olds earn $5 to $7 a week, and twelve year olds and up about $10.00 a week. But remember that this is just a guide and that ultimately your family finances are the final criteria.
2.) Creating a Savings Plan
Helping your tween learn about money also involves creating a savings plan. One way to accomplish this is to require your tween to contribute a certain percentage of their allowance to a regular savings plan. A 50-50 or 60-40 split is a widely-accepted rule of thumb. Helping your tween to learn the dying art of deferred gratification can be challenging. But what joy there is when your tween has committed to saving for a special purchase and has accomplished this goal. Oftentimes parents agree to contribute extra money if the tween is able to save a certain amount for special purchases. An important key here is having clear boundaries, which creates clear expectations and results in fewer conflicts.
3.) Given or Earned
Decide early on how much of the allowance is to be automatically given and how much can be earned. Often parents will choose to provide half of the allowance automatically and tie the other portion to the tween’s attitudes and behavior, both in the home and at school, as well as their contribution to the family, or the other odd jobs they do to earn extra money. Here it is important to remember that the parents have to stay on top of this … a frequent complaint of tweens is that parents either don’t remember or else that they change the rules.
Christian Counseling for Effective Parenting
As parents, we have a wonderful opportunity to shape the way our children view and manage their financial resources … starting with something as simple as their allowance. As Believers it is important to help our children learn that money is a tool that God has given us to help provide change and to impact our lives. Money is mentioned in the Bible more than 140 times, which clearly indicates that God knew its importance. As a Christian counselor, I have learned that one’s attitude toward money and material things provides a window into the condition of the heart.
Dr. Matthew R. Sanders, Every Parent – A Positive Approach to Children’s BehaviourPhotos
“Tween Cell Phone Texting,” courtesy of Carissa Rogers, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Preteens, Tweens, buddies!” courtesy of wittco.gmbh, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0)