Is your youngster ready to start having a little spending money, but not quite a full-blown allowance? The nickel jar combines a money-earning system that also encourages good behavior. (If you are interested in the optional Kids Activity, see previous episode #49B.)
Like a cool refreshing drink of water, here comes SSPT.
Hello Short and Sweet Parenting Family out there. Today, we’re gonna to share a pre-allowance system for your youngest tike. I hope you had a chance to listen to Parts 1-3 of the Allowance series. Actually, if you have an 8-year-old to early teenager age, those are the episodes you want to listen to. Much of that information is also an overview and it really is foundational for everything else we’re going to discuss here and next week.
If you harken waaay back to episode #4, we discussed using a Tone Jar for discouraging a bad attitude. Anyone remember that? Well, this is kinda the opposite. Your kids will actually start each week with money that is theirs. We used a dollar’s worth of nickels. Which is 20 coins, for those of us who’s brains are already on summer vacation. Big picture: the child will lose a coin every time they do a behavior that the parent is trying to correct or avoid. At the end of the week, whatever money is left, the kiddo gets to keep and spend! You refill the jar then, with however many coins you decide on, and start the week over.
The beauty of the nickel jar is that it isn’t just a way to start giving your kids some spending money. You may know by now that I like to get the most bang for my buck when it comes to parenting tactics. So combining a money-earning system that also encourages good behavior is the kind of thing that really gets me going.
Most experts do recommend 8 years old as the best age to start kids on an allowance, with 5 or 6 as the earliest suggested age. When we started the nickel jar, my daughter was in kindergarten.
The number 1 reason we started the nickel jar was not actually to provide our kiddo with spending money. It was to motivate her to do what we asked, when we asked. For you it might be a different issue. I would not suggest using the nickel jar for emotion-related behaviors like crying, tantrums, anger, and those kinds of things. Essentially, choose behavior that is emotionally neutral. Whatever it is, pick a single behavior. You also don’t want too many rules associated with the nickel jar. The simpler the better.
So, here’s how the nickel-jar system works. If we asked our daughter to do something and she refused, argued, or talked back instead of doing it, she needed to get a coin out of her nickel jar and give it to us. Or, if we had to remind her to do something we had already asked her to do, she was required to give us one of ‘her’ nickels.
You probably already foresee some potential gray area here, so you may want to anticipate and think through some things ahead of time. Using our behavior as an example: what if junior complained, but still did the task? Another decision might be how many times you request they do the behavior. Do you give them a free ask? Like two chances to do what you’re asking them to do. I’m just trying to get the juices flowing on what nuances you might encounter. Don’t kill yourself trouble shooting it, though. You may just want to begin using the nickel jar to see what variables come up related to your numero uno desired behavior. Make adjustments, give it some time…and above all, keep in mind your individual child’s personality.
Also, you need to decide which day of the week you want to pay out your kiddo and renew the nickels. You don’t have to give it much thought at all, if that’s your parenting style. I would try to stay as consistent as you can though – maybe chose a quieter day where you won’t be so busy that you forget.
When you’re ready to put this into action with your kiddo, show them the coins before you put them in the jar. Explain to them that this is their money, and they will get it at the end of the week. There’s a couple ways you can word how they will lose the money, and it might depend on if you’re trying to encourage a good behavior, or cut out a bad behavior. You can say that they have to earn it throughout the week by doing “fill in the blank”. Or you can say that all this money is theirs, but each time they do “fill in the blank” they will lose one of the coins.
When we started the nickel jar, our daughter was just beginning to understand money, and was interested in spending it. I know we’re supposed to be talking about allowances here, but if your kids aren’t there yet, that’s ok. You could use the nickel jar concept to regulate the behavior using something other than money – like colored puff balls, maybe lego pieces, little dinosaurs, or matchbox cars. The world’s your oyster!
There are a couple reasons this method may backfire. By that I’m talking about a child intentionally going through with a certain behavior, blatantly not caring if there’s a consequence. First reason could be that the nickel jar has turned into a power struggle. To prevent this, when a child loses a coin, make it as much of a natural consequence as possible – something between the kiddo and the nickel jar. If you must comment, give them sympathy instead of a lecture. If a parent comes against a kid with a win/lose mindset, the child may not concede so easily, and instead stand their ground regardless of what it costs them. In power struggles with your kiddo no one really wins, because, you as the parent must get the win at all cost…and it’s often is at the expense of your kid, usually involving their self-esteem.
Another reason the nickel jar might backfire is if there’s a control issue. This is similar to the power-struggle scenario, but it’s mainly a kid vying for control wherever they can get it. Control either over a situation (even if it works against the child’s best interest) or control over their parents (either undermining their parents’ authority, or manipulating their parents’ emotions by frustrating or angering them). Both power struggles and control issues are topics I will cover in Season 2.
Summing up: The nickel jar is one way to provide your youngest kiddo with their own money on a very small scale. Keep in mind that the general recommendation for starting an actual allowance is eight, with five being the youngest. The nickel jar doubles as a system that you can tie into a desired behavior – whether it’s keeping their toys picked up, putting away their shoes, or even brushing their teeth. Just throwing out some other examples to get the juices flowing. And, if you’d rather not use coins, you can always try other items.
I think we’re going to jump to older teenagers next week – right around high school age. I actually have a guest who will talk about a genius approach to help your teenager transition into their own adult-spending habits with all the responsibility and money management that comes with it! Everything we covered in Parts 1-3 really applies to that in between age – around 8-years-old up to, maybe … young teenagers. So if your kid is in that age range, I would point you back to those episodes.
So, next week will be our last official episode of Season 1! In Season 2: Diving Deeper, we’ll take on topics that are tricky to bring up with other playground parents, or during mommy-and-me dates. The focus of Season 2 will be to coach parents on how to navigate these tough issues. Expect plenty of expert interviews for these topics, so we can approach them from different angles, representing more than one viewpoint. If you would like a particular subject covered, please post it or PM me through the Short and Sweet Tips Facebook Page, or message me through shortandsweettips.com.
Short and Sweet Parenting Tips signing off for the week. Fresh ideas in bite-sized portions.