Health Notes

Five Dollars and the Great Allowance Negotiation

by Dr. Elizabeth Walenz on February 25, 2014

2-25-14 AllowanceI call my five year old the “Great Negotiator.”

Me: “Please bring your backpack and coat into the house.”
The Great Negotiator: “I will if you give me five dollars.”
Me: “No.”
The Great Negotiator: “How about I help you set the table?”
Me: “Great!”
The Great Negotiator: “Then, will you give me five dollars?”

She was stuck on five dollars for quite some time… for bathing, for brushing her hair… anything. “Can I have five dollars?”

Needless to say, I believe there was an air of disappointment when I rewarded her with a quarter.

When is the best time to start an allowance for children? Should we reward them with money for good behavior, or is it best earned by doing chores?

I recently wrote a blog about chores and which are appropriate for children of different ages.  At some point, it is a good idea to start to teach our children about the value of money as well as our own family values.

Dr. Elizabeth Walenz

Elizabeth Walenz, MD

I would definitely recommend having your children involved in chores and jobs at an early age, as young as 2-to-3 years old, however, allowance should start later. In kindergarten and first grade, children begin to learn the value of different coins as well as “greater than” and “less than.”  A good rule of thumb is that children should be able to handle the concept of a coin’s value and be able to handle a purchase in a store (with some prompting) to earn an allowance.

If your child has earned one dollar and wants a toy at the store worth three dollars, discuss with them whether they have enough money to purchase it. Are they able to understand they do not have enough money to purchase that particular toy, but may be able to buy one that costs less?

Once a child starts to earn money, it is important to have discussions about savings, but also relinquish that small bit of power to purchase.  If a child earns a weekly allowance, discuss and set up a savings account at the bank where they can deposit a portion of their allowance and use the other portion for spending. Have discussions about what a child may be saving for and allow them to watch the savings account grow.

Money is always a sensitive topic in families. It is good to be role model for your children and as they reach an age of understanding, discuss the costs of different objects and saving.

How much should an allowance be? This depends upon family income level as well as age of the child. Younger children do not need five dollars per week (sorry Great Negotiator!) A quarter per week for regular chores, with the ability to earn more for going above and beyond routine duties is always an option.

As a child ages, independence increases as well. Older children and pre-teens may spend time going to the mall or sporting events with friends and want to purchase a snack or ticket to a movie. Increasing a child’s responsibilities can go along with any pay increase.

If you have questions about allowance, readiness of your child to start to earn money, don’t hesitate to discuss the issue with your pediatrician.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Maria Cecilia Armbrust March 4, 2014 at 7:53 am

Good day to you! :) My (rather with my husband) huge concern is for our son (almost 7 yrs. old) to really learn how to read & write.

I’m a busy mom trying to balance everything between work, household chores, and kids but noticed its quite impossible to meet ends and ending being frustrated and exhausted.

Please advice…

Dr. Elizabeth Walenz March 6, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Hi Maria,
I would recommend buying a wipe board from a store such as Target (they usually have some in the dollar bins or in the art section with wide lines on them), and also purchase a wipe board marker. I would have your child first practice writing the alphabet on the wipe board. Once he has his letters down, ask him what he would like to write.

I often do this with my child at the kitchen table while I get dinner ready. The conversation usually starts with, “How do you write ‘Star Wars,’” and then I proceed to say the letters of the word. I will then check to make sure the letters are written correctly. We continue to practice writing different words, or even spelling words. Once we have practiced quite a bit, our conversations progress to “How do you spell ‘Star Wars.’ I will then ask, “What do you think it starts with?” We work on sounding it out together.

Reading to your child before bed is so important. Reading for 10-to-15 minutes each night is incredibly valuable. Start to look at words together or even at board books. Having your child start to practice sounds can help with their literacy. I hope this helps!

If you need more help, please feel free to call our Methodist Physicians Clinic office at (402) 354-1325. You can also make an appointment online anytime at

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