Comment Rescue: ‘Why Didn’t Your Parents Love You?’ Edition


One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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37 Responses

  1. Saul Degraw says:

    I don’t know if I ever really thought about it too heavily beyond “I got an allowance and it would probably be hypocritical if I did not give my kids one.” I suspect people whose parents grew up in the Great Depression had tougher stances. A lot of this stuff is probably dependent on family history.

    I wrote today about why I think the teenage job is going the way of the dodo.

    The more interesting thing for me is what I would do if I my kids expressed an interest in an arts career because I know how tough it is to achieve an arts career.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      For what it is worth, I am very disinclined to say that someone is hypocritical because they do something differently with their kids than was done by their parents. There are too many variables between the situations and too many other factors to really call it that. If you were to be a father who demanded an adult allowance from your own parents while denying your children one… okay, we’re into the hypocrisy zone. But to say that you have any obligation to offer an allowance because of a decision your parents made with you when you were a kid seems ridiculous. Ultimately, should you opt to have kids, make the decisions that are in accordance with your philosophy as a parent; don’t feel bound by your parents’ own decisions.

      (For some reason, this is reading harsher than I intend it to and I can’t figure out why. I want it to read as, “Hey, man, go easy on yourself!” but can’t shake that it seems to read, “You dummy!” Anyway, please read it as the former and accept my apologies in advance for having a partially fried brain at the moment.)Report

  2. Saul Degraw says:

    I am also decidedly neutral on whether I want kids or not.Report

  3. Patrick says:

    I think paying children to complete basic household chores (e.g., making their bed, tidying up their room) communicates that these are not inherent expectations.

    This is absolutely objectively correct.

    There is nothing wrong with giving kids an allowance, for the record. There are plenty of legit reasons for kids to learn how to manage an income stream, and an allowance is good for that purpose. Jack and Hannah get allowances, but they are small ones.

    But they don’t get allowance “for doing chores”. They do chores because chores need to be done. The household needs to be maintained and as you get older you’re expected to chip in for the drudgery tasks like doing your own laundry, cleaning your own room, dishes, taking out the trash, vacuuming, etc. As you get older-older, you’re expected to do more.

    You don’t get paid for that. You do it because living not in a rat’s nest is how human beings live.

    I noticed, in the past, a very high correlation between “folks who got an allowance for doing their chores” and “terrible roommates that I routinely wanted to hit with a hammer for not doing basic maintenance”.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Patrick says:


      Please get out of my head. But if you are going to remain there, please continue to articulate my own thoughts as effectively, efficiently, and succinctly as you do.

      Did we just become best friends?Report

      • Patrick in reply to Kazzy says:

        Whlep, obvs anybody who can see the truth of households is aiight in my book.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        Along these same lines, I remember getting some pushback here when I said I tend not to say please to my students when instructing them to perform an expected task. I don’t say, “Please clean up your lunch spot,” because that indicates it is a request and/or that the politeness of my framing is a determinant in whether or not they respond. No. You clean up your lunch spot because that is an inherent expectation of your membership in this community.

        But I have weird issues with the word “please” and certain other formalities. Some teachers at my school will temporarily withhold food if a child says, “Can I have some more pizza?” in a pleasant tone. “What’s the magic word?” Ugh. How would you feel if you went into a restaurant and placed your order without saying “please” and the waitress said, “Well, I’ll get back to you when you are ready to ask nicely.” You’d probably want to break out that hammer, right? Yet we do this to children all the time. It boggles my mind the frequency with which we expect children to act better than adults and/or we treat them in such a way that would make an adult start hammer-wielding. This isn’t to say that there aren’t times where treating children differently than adults one way or the other isn’t wholly justified. Just that we sometimes forget that children are people too and deserving of respect. But now I’ve fully digressed. The fact remains that there are ways to be polite that don’t require “magic words” and ways to teach children politeness and manners without belittling them.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy says:

        “say please” is part the pleasant fiction–which is vitally important for a functioning society–that we’re all nice people who naturally get along with each other and accomodate each other’s requests because we want to be friendly members of a community. The word doesn’t give special power, it’s just a shorthand for “I’m reminding you of our shared obligation to meet each others’ needs to at least a minimal extent, which is how we solve the Prisoner’s Dilemma and create a workable society without falling back to the individual-optimal but socially-devastating always-defect strategy”.

        It’s sort of like privacy. There is no such thing as privacy, but if we actually thought about how much everyone else knows about us we’d go mad and become survivalists, and there wouldn’t be any social organization more complicated than warring tribes. So we invent the ideas of “privacy” and “politeness”, consensual hallucinations that make higher forms of human organization possible.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

        I’ve got a feeling ’21s gonna be a good year.

        Especially if you and me see it in together!Report

    • greginak in reply to Patrick says:

      Yeah kids should be contributing to maintaining the home before from the time they are toddlers. They need to be putting their dirty dish away or putting clothes in a hamper. Very minor tasks that slowly increase just are part of living together. The allowance is sepearate and extra. For some kids it may be best they don’t work in HS so an allowance is a way for them have some jingle in their jeans without the negative parts of work.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

        I’ve been working with my wife on getting Mayo more involved in chores. I employ the hand-over-hand and modeling techniques with great success.

        But he’s an odd bird. He insists on turning out lights when we leave a room and will get mad if we fail to close the cabinet locks (they’re external so he can tell). He’s a rule follower, despite my best efforts to coddle him into ne’er-do-well-ness.Report

  4. Kevin says:

    Growing up, I had two “allowances”: one was spending money, and one was “savings”. We were expected to set it aside to use to buy Christmas presents for everyone at the end of the year. My allowance was never explicitly tied to chores, although we did plenty around the house, including helping to build the one my parents currently live in. I’m sure, however, if my siblings or I had ever rebelled and refused to do our chores, our wallets would have felt the effects.Report

  5. Morat20 says:

    My kid never had an allowance, however we cheerfully funded all reasonable expenses. He often got money for his birthday or Christmas from relatives, and that formed a fairly solid basis for basic money skills.

    As he got older, he started getting chores.

    Now, when he did chores for relatives — babysitting, yard work and the like — they paid him. Just as I have paid my cousins for similar work they’ve done for me when they were younger. That was work above and beyond ‘chipping in’ to household maintenance.

    We’ve always been pretty firm with the fact that his chore list is part of his contribution to the household, above and beyond policing his own mess.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Morat20 says:

      My parents never landed on a consistent system. Being divorced and alternating weekends probably didn’t help. If I asked one or the other for $20 to go get dinner and catch a movie with friends, they’d usually oblige. If I asked too often, they might say no. Sometimes they just put money in my pocket (usually dad) and I could do what I will — spend or save (I tended toward the latter). If I had a bigger purchase, they’d take care of it. Mom usually handled clothes shopping with/for us and balanced funding it with oversight. I was not super fashion-forward/I was oblivious to what I wore and how I looked so this wasn’t really an issue for me.Report

  6. KatherineMW says:

    When I was a kid, my parents had us do basic chores (dishes, vacuuming, etc.) and gave us a small allowance (~$2/wk, I think). I got additional payment for mowing the lawn for a while as a teen (~$10-20/mow), but I didn’t do it for very long as I got sick of it.

    Also, both my brother and I worked as our church’s janitor for a while in our teens – we did half the job and got half the pay, my mom did the other half of the job and got the other half of the pay.

    I didn’t really have much desire for money as a kid and teenager, because there weren’t many things I felt I needed to buy; most of what I got (particularly gifts at Christmas and birthdays), I put in the bank as savings for university.Report

  7. dhex says:

    i had a timesheet for duties outside of the required ones (general maintenance of bedroom, dishes and laundry, etc). i think i was seven or eight when that started.Report

  8. North says:

    I didn’t get an allowance. Then again I was in the howling wilderness so there really wasn’t anything to spend any regular income on. I’m sure I’d have been delighted to collect it of course.
    The work, though, oh the work. Gardening, weeding, compost heap turning, hay raking, leaf raking, shoveling, ditch digging (one summer our house looked like something out of Prince of Egypt; we dug so many ditches), stone hauling, animal feeding, wood splitting, wood stacking. That was all unpaid work of course.

    Then in fall there was Christmas tree dragging, bush bailing and the like. That work had the distinction of resulting an an actual cash payment at the end of it. It was how us kids got Xmas shopping money.

    The primary take away was that manual labor guaranteed that I ran screaming to the city as soon as I could and that I learned early on how much I hate manual labor. White collar work is bunnies compared to that.Report

  9. DavidTC says:

    Not being a parent, I’ve never given this much thought, but I think Patrick and Kazzy are right.

    Basically, there are certain household things that kids should just be required to do, and if they don’t, they get punished. (And punishment, I’ve always felt, can be done just as well with removing privileges as anything else, and with chores it’s trivial to have ‘You cannot watch TV until you have cleaned your room’, but that’s getting off topic.)

    Likewise, in addition to parents paying for stuff the kid need (obviously) and wants (to some extent), children should also get some additional money, free entirely from restrictions. (1) They need to have ‘their money’. This allows them to grasp the idea of saving and spending.

    And here’s an idea that I’ve never seen before, but might help them learn how to save and whatnot: Subside certain purchases: ‘You want that game? It does look cool. If you’ll save $25 from your allowance, and I’ll also chip in $25, and we can buy it together.’.

    This lets you subtle direct their spending without demanding things. (Suggestions, as Kazzy says, are somewhat hard to distinguish from ‘orders’ when coming from parents.) You have no requirements on how they spend their money, it’s just that, if the next time you’re in the store, and they have $25, and you have $25, you’ll get that game.

    This idea might be useful to use this to encourage kids to purchase higher-quality things.

    1) Well, there are restrictions on what they’re allowed to have, obviously…if they use that to buy, for example, cigarettes, that’s bad. But the badness is smoking cigarettes, not that they used their money for that. It’s just as bad if they got them free from a friend. But that’s a different topic.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to DavidTC says:

      Interesting comments, @davidtc . The idea of saying, “I will contribute to this purchase but not that purchase, though you are free to pursue the latter with your own money,” is a good one. It allows you to influence without directly deciding on their behalf.

      I have also heard of an approach wherein you encourage saving by saying, “I’ll give you $50 in a savings account you can’t touch or $25 cash you can spend right now.” I don’t love that approach as I think there are probably better ways to encourage saving that don’t so heavily put a finger on the scale. Yes, saving is important, but there is nothing wrong with spending money that you have available to spend. I’d probably wait until they wanted to purchase something they didn’t have sufficient funds for and map our some different paths to acquiring it. “Okay, you want that $100 game. But you only have $50. You can save $5 of your allowance a week and buy it in 2.5 months. You can save $10 of your allowance and buy it next month. Or you can save all $20 of your allowance and buy it this month. But that means you can’t spend on anything else until probably next month.” This more closely mirrors real life and is more concrete and tangible.Report

  10. Lion Song says:

    I took the approach that are household chores are just what you have to do.

    Once my daughter was about 7, she got a small allowance that got a bit bigger as she got older. I think she got $10 /week by the time she was 13. The intention of it was she could by small items she wanted (stickers, a candy bar, a book). We also gave her a chat about saving, and opened a savings account for her. It was also a place where she could put gifts of money from her grand parents.

    For us the allowance was about teaching how to use money. You can spend only what you have. You may have to put off getting something you want til you have enough money.

    She got a job when she was 16. We got her one of those prepaid credit cards, which work like a debit card, so that she got experience using credit. She gave me the money to go on her credit card, and then she could use it. She learned how credit cards purchases don’t “register” in your mind, and got better about tracking them.

    When she was in her mid-teens, I started giving her a budget for back to school clothes. It gave her some freedom around clothing choices, and she learned to shop smart. She had the option of spending her own money on clothes, of course. I remember she bought her (beautiful) prom gown at a local thrift shop for $15. As she pointed out – I’m only going to wear it one night. I was proud.

    All this suited my kid – definitely not a prescription for all. We revised it as we saw what her strengths and weaknesses were.Report

  11. dragonfrog says:

    An allowance has the benefit of allowing a kid to run out of money – and requiring restraint and planning to avoid it. If my parents gave me money for each specific thing I wanted, going to a movie today wouldn’t affect my ability to afford cheesecake later in the week. The two would be independent requests. The only thing I can think of that I could get money for even if I had spent my allowance already, was a cab ride home if I was stuck somewhere without a safe ride.

    Another factor was having more independence in what I did as I got older, and more expectation of privacy – being out with friends and deciding spontaneously to go to a movie requires having cash on hand, rather than having to run home and ask for the specific amount for the specific action.Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to dragonfrog says:

      Somewhat connected – my parents did at least once increase my allowance in relation to chores I was taking on. The one I remember was my making my own lunches for school. If I neglected to make a lunch, I could opt to spend the money on lunches (not that I got enough to buy five lunches a week), but it took a task off my parents either way.Report

  12. Tod Kelly says:

    We have a very anti-DeGraw approach to money and work for our boys.

    They get a small allowance, and they are required to complete regular chores as well as special request chores. I don’t know how tightly we have tied those things together, to be honest. They always get allowance (even if we’re on vacation), and they don’t have a choice about the chores.

    The allowance that they do get, however, is very purposefully low enough to prevent them from getting fat and happy. In addition, they know that they need to raise a percentage of money for tuition if they want to go to college and a percentage of room and board if they want to go away to school.

    They are pushed very hard to find ways to make money outside the house. That can be non-formal jobs babysitting, yard work, dog walking, etc., but once they reach 16 we push hard for a formal job with an actual paycheck. They also know that if there is a need for extra money for something like an X-Box game or whatever, that at any time they can ask for a special work project here (e.g.: organize the garage, power wash the house, etc) and they can earn extra $ from us. But we won’t do enough of that to make getting work unnecessary.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:


      Your emphasis on the “formal job with an actual paycheck” is an interesting one. I can think of many lessons that are learned from such an experience that informal jobs lack, including chief among them an understanding of how taxes and take-home pay work. That can be a harsh lesson to learn, especially if you only learn it AFTER signing a lease agreement your first year out of college that you assumed your $35K salary would cover only to realize you’re really only bringing home $27K.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Kazzy says:

        Ulp. How did that get taken care of?Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

        Yeah, I agree. I think mostly, though, I want them to get to know what it’s like to work for a boss as part of a larger team; plus I want them to have references someone will actually care about when they’re in a new town going to college looking for someone to take a chance on them.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        It didn’t happen to me because I had learned this lesson long before that. I’m pretty sure the person in question just borrowed/got money from their parents.

        I also think going through the interview process — even the generally low-stakes one a teenage job may require — is highly beneficial. Again, I know people who didn’t have their first job interview until after college.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Kazzy says:

        ah, I was hoping for more singing. And dogsuits!Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

        Another great point, @kazzy

        As I’ve been thinking about it sitting here, I think me reasons might be best summed up like this:

        I want my kids to go into the world being the kinds of men who take care of others, not need to be taken care of by others.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        That is a great way to think about it, @tod-kelly , but as someone who has internalized a similar mindset, I will say that it is almost important to know how to be taken care of if/when the situation calls for it. I am terrible at allowing others to take care of or help me and I can cause real problems… for me and others. It is something I am actively working on. Knowing how to ask for and receive help is an important skill.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        Your boys are very lucky, good sir.Report

  13. gingergene says:

    My dad used to take us to dinner at the local diner and give us a set amount (I seem to remember $5, which tells you how old I am / how cheap the diner was) that was ours to spend or keep as we saw fit. He always insisted that we budget for a tip for the server.

    My sister was a saver- she would often order the grilled cheese and water, and pocket half of the money she was given. I was a spender who would sometimes supplement with my own money in order to have french fries and pop.Report

    • dhex in reply to gingergene says:

      fantastic! i’m totally stealing this.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to gingergene says:

      Interesting approach, @gingergene . My mom did something similar. When we first started going to public school and taking advantage of a paid cafeteria, my mom would give us just enough to cover the cost of a basic lunch each day. So on Monday I got $2 and on Tuesday I got $2, etc. The meal cost $1.75 but there was a snack table. I could buy a quarter’s worth of snack each day or save up my surplus.

      Once I hit high school — where on-campus dining options were more a la carte and we had access to off-campus eateries — she’d give me weekly food money… generally $20 a week. I could hit the cafeteria and eat the same thing each day and break even. I could go off campus and get a burger (more expensive) one day and bagels (less expensive) the next. Or I could eat bagels every day for a week and have extra change in my pocket. Or I could dig into my own stash and eat a burger everyday. She didn’t really care so long as A) we ate and B) we didn’t come begging her for more cash.

      I don’t love the idea of tying this approach to food for a few different reasons, but it is a ready example and so long as you ensure the kids are eating (and not starving themselves to buy a toy or feeling as if they are wholly on their own to stay nourished), I like it.Report

      • gingergene in reply to Kazzy says:

        @kazzy Yeah, we didn’t eat out enough for anyone to have suffered malnutrition even if they had decided to fast altogether. I also suspect that if that had occurred more than once that further ground rules would have been established.Report