Should You Pay Your Teen an Allowance, a Commission, or Nothing at All?

Many opinions abound on this topic. Parents are often in a quandary about how to compensate their kids. When should I pay? How much should I pay? Why should I pay them at all? They live in my house.

All are valid questions and points. But for us, we’ve found that paying a commission is by far the best way to go. Our kids have always known that if they want to get paid, other than for birthdays and Christmas, they must complete some chores and useful tasks. Real world preparation 101.

When they were very young, like under 5, they were not terribly interested in money yet. The concept of accumulating cash had not become embedded in their little brains at that point. So we used other methods to give incentive for earning.

When our oldest child, Jacquelyn, was around the age of 4, we developed a “Gold Star” method which consisted of a paper posted on the fridge with magnets that listed her “jobs” she was to complete for each day. Since she was four, the jobs were simple, (picking up toys and putting them in the toy box, taking her dirty clothes to the hamper, helping make her bed in the morning,…) but the concept of earning was being solidly introduced, nonetheless. Whenever she completed her tasks for the day, she earned a star. She took great pride in affixing the star to her paper.

Stars could then be cashed in for items she wanted to get. The bigger the item, the more stars she had to accumulate on the posted fridge paper. Once, she even accumulated enough stars to earn a bicycle. It took a little time, but it was a good lesson, and well worth the effort.

As our kids grew older, they knew if they wanted to earn some cash, they needed to do something productive. Mowing the yard (including, trimming, weed-eating, and blowing the clippings off the paved surfaces), vacuuming the carpet, cleaning windows, washing cars, shoveling mulch, baby-sitting – all of these were viable options for cash-earning potential.

It isn’t just limited to home. The same principle applies to going out and finding jobs in the neighborhood or community. Graham and Jacquelyn had two yards in our neighborhood that they mowed once per week. They split the work and split the money. They got some good experience, and had good earnings, especially for a 12 year old and a 10 year old. The commission system provides incentive to do the job and to do it well.

We always felt that if we paid automatic, regular allowances instead of commissions, then it would set our kids up for bad expectations in the future. One should not expect to get regular pay without first doing something to earn it. A person must create value in some way – do something productive to add to the economy or community before being compensated.

Then if they did their jobs and did them well, we believed paying them was certainly fair and appropriate. Expecting them to do it for nothing, or “just because they live under my roof” would have possibly created resentment and an unwillingness to be as cooperative as they were when they knew payment was to come.

There is also a sense of satisfaction that comes to a teen when she is given the chance to earn money for herself. My daughter, Andrea, has a babysitting job at a neighbor’s house two afternoons per week. She enjoys that little steady stream of income, and it’s a pretty good gig for a 15 year old.

Andrea really enjoys having her own money, something to call her own. If she wants to save up for something, like her car, she can. If she wants to shop or give, she can make that decision. Giving, of course, should be a part of our kids’ regular habits. Teens need to understand how important it is to contribute to their church, to their community, and to others in need. It helps keep their blessings in focus.

I would encourage you, as parents of teens, to view every exchange of money for services rendered as a “teachable moment,” as Dave Ramsey phrases it. Getting cash for services is one of the healthiest, most educational experiences your teen can have. Doing the job, getting the money, and being able to take possession of it, hold it in her hand, make a bank deposit, and see that balance increase – it’s a great feeling of accomplishment.

Do you pay an allowance or a commission? Obviously, I would urge you to try the commission system. You will find that your teen develops a good work ethic and a “can-do” attitude when it comes to managing his finances, a skill every teen (and adult) should have.

Scroll down and leave a comment in the section below. I would love to hear your ideas and experiences on how to pay and reward your kids for their hard work, and as always,


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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One thought on “Should You Pay Your Teen an Allowance, a Commission, or Nothing at All?

  1. Anna, you continue to come up with excellent subjects to present to families with teenagers. I cannot say enough about your amazing skills to be timely as well as appropriate with your articles. You are succeeding in doing much more good than you can ever know.