The parenting plunge

More than 100 years ago, an American parenting expert named Sidonie Gruenberg popularized the idea of an allowance for children.

And, likely since her book hit the stores, the concept has been the direct cause of whining, pleading and debate.

When I was a youngster, I received an allowance each week. It wasn’t connected to a job or a chore. It just simply came my way, like dinner on the table at 6 p.m.

My parents gave me the opportunity to determine what to save, give and spend.

Most of my friends also had an allowance and, of course, we doggedly compared our rates and would use this information to lobby for increases.

I’d never really considered what I’d do when I had kids. Like most new parents, I knew that my children were never actually going to be old enough for such things. They were going to stay innocent preschoolers and I’d forever be able to meet their desires with garage sale fodder from down the street.

Alas, I was wrong.

Now my children are 10, 8, 6 and 3.

And they live to acquire money.

Last year, they spent hours crafting Christmas ornaments to sell to neighbors.

During the hot summer months, they invested in lemonade and sold it for a profit from our driveway.

And, most recently, they’ve started mowing and clipping neighborhood lawns.

Despite their keen desire, or perhaps partially because of it, we do not give our children an allowance.

We don’t pay them for chores.

In fact, outside of their own entrepreneurial endeavors, our children have no way to make money in our home.

Now, don’t think for a second that they don’t have chores. Though we don’t label them or assign specific tasks to each child, we expect each person in our household to contribute — to the fullest extent of their capabilities.

The littlest takes care of her own dishes and puts away her laundry.

The older children vacuum, sweep, fold laundry, put away dishes, mow the yard and so on. They do this because they are capable beings and we need their contributions to create a happy, healthy family.

My premise, in the allowance debate, is that when we pay our children to complete household tasks, we teach them that they are in no way obligated to contribute to family success.

We teach that they are entitled to everything being part of a family offers, without the responsibilities associated with membership.

For their efforts in our home, my children receive our gratitude and, of course, they have all their needs and some of their wants fulfilled.

Just like my husband and I.

They reap the benefits of being part of our collective, because they’re willing to put into it.

These are the conversations we have nearly daily.

And this isn’t because we’re trying to teach our kids a lesson or instill some larger meaning — though that is a nice ancillary benefit.

We do this because we need and rely on their contributions. Because the mental and physical well-being of our family depends upon it.

Each family member gives and does what they can; each family member has their unique needs met to the best of our ability.

It’s our way of handling the allowance issue.

What’s yours?