You’re A ‘Cruel’ Parent For Giving Your Child An Allowance And Not Telling Them Why

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kids allowance

To me, the word “allowance” conjures up images of The Brady Bunch or some other outdated television show where the child is asking their parents for a raise to be able to buy a new comic book. I’m not sure how much kids allowance are still used today but I think the tactic can be a good way for kids to learn about saving money and being financially responsible. However according to a financial expert, just giving your child an allowance is not enough.

Lewis Mandell, financial expert and professor of finance at SUNY Buffalo, says parents who blindly give their children an allowance and don’t discuss the how’s and why’s are being “cruel.”

Mandell says in most cases allowance, as a tool for learning, just doesn’t work.  He notes findings from a series of financial-literacy assessments by the  Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy. These surveys show that  high school students who receive a regular allowance test the poorest and  exhibit the weakest behavior in personal money management. They are also more  likely to be “slackers” as adults. Hence the cruelty assertion.

Mandell doesn’t believe that just the act of giving allowance is so bad. But if the parents don’t take the time to sit down with their children and have discussions about finance, they are doing them a disservice. Almost like giving a child a bike and not teaching them how to ride it. He also thinks that some parents use an allowance as a cop out so they don’t have to deal with their children asking for money all the time.

 In most households, Mandell says, the top reason for giving kids a weekly  allowance is to minimize the time they must take dealing with kids and money  issues. On top of that, the parents generally aren’t qualified. “Most parents  are themselves financially illiterate and pass down an oral tradition of  misinformation,” he adds

Growing up, I was never given an allowance and I don’t remember my parents having a sit down with me telling me how to be financially responsible. But I don’t see my parents being cruel. However, the haircut my Mom gave me when I was eight which led people to think I was a boy for six months — that’s another story.

(photo: Zurijeta / Shutterstock)


  1. Iwill Findu

    March 27, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    I was never given an allowance as a child, I had to earn my own money by delivering news papers and then babysitting until I was old enough to get a real legal job. I once asked my mother about an allowance in exchange for the chores I did around the house when I was about 10 she laughed in my face and told me she already paid for my food clothing activity’s and entertainment the chores were my payback to her for providing those things. I learned a simple lesson nothing in life is free.

  2. Jazzmine_Stylez

    March 27, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    I think an allowance is a good idea because it gives the child a little independence. I don’t think it should just be given to them without any responsibilities. They should be expected to complete their chores, homework etc. whatever fits their age group. Children need to learn responsibilities and if we just hand everything to them they will not appreciate things as they get older. IJS

    • lea

      March 28, 2013 at 4:22 am

      See I disagree that an allowance should be linked to chores and homework. Chores should be done because that is part of being a member of a household, not for a reward.
      That’s just my opinion…

    • Ann

      March 28, 2013 at 11:03 am

      I agree that chores should be required, allowance or not. But on that same vein, I am not going to pay my child if they are not doing their “job” of family member and student. I am not paying them to complete those things, they should be done regardless. But I will NOT pay them if they don’t. (And if that winds up not being enough consequence for not holding up their end of the bargain, there will be further consequences.)

      I also believe in offering extra duties that they may pick up beyond their ordinary chores (let’s be honest, there’s always something more that needs done) as a form of “overtime” if their allowance isn’t enough.

      One more thing (wasn’t mentioned in post or comments, but I don’t feel like posting 2 comments) is I don’t feel like parents teach children how to save properly. I want to encourage my children to have x-amount go into Savings (whether in a bank or a separate piggy bank or whatever), to teach them the importance of saving. I was a hoarder with my money as a kid, but my brother spent it like it was on fire. And to this day, he lives paycheck to paycheck with a 75k a year job.

  3. Erica

    March 27, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    I plan on giving my children an allowance as well as making it clear what the parents pay for and what my kids will have to pay for themselves. They can learn to save for important things and get a job.

  4. Kelly Williams

    March 28, 2013 at 2:48 am

    I guess, before giving them the allowance parents should educate or tell their child whats the money for and why we give them some.

  5. pinkpanda

    March 29, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    I think I got pocket money from around five to fourteen (when we moved to a town and I was able to get a job). Around the age of ten we had a chore list, and the more chores we did the more money we got, but we were sneaky buggers and one of us would get up early and do everything so the other one didn’t get any money. In the end we just had to tidy and hoover our rooms in order to get the money on Saturday mornings and if we misbehaved our money would be docked.

    When I have kids I’m going to give them money each week, because I think kids need to be taught about money from a young age. Otherwise they’ll be thirteen before they have money that they control and have a say in


    April 6, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    Allowance is just a tool (among many) that can be used wisely or thoughtlessly by parents. When an allowance is really a structured budget for things that a parent is already purchasing on behalf of their semi or fully dependent child, it becomes less “cruel” and less about entitlement and more about the child learning to make their own spending decisions in order to live within reasonable constraints and to delay gratification through medium to long-term saving. I think personal finance is like any other skill or habit – it requires practice. If a parent of a youngster is always making the spending decisions on the child’s behalf, the child isn’t getting any hands-on practice. That’s like your kid watching you drive from the back seat, never getting behind the wheel in driver’s ed, and then you suddenly tossing the keys to them at 16 saying “all yours!” It’s bound to end badly.

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