The allowance and the responsibility should be increased as fast as is advisable with each child until in late adolescence the money is enough to cover all the clothing expenditure and minor personal expenses like stamps and stationery, as well as gifts. One girl of twelve may be able to handle this whole allowance, while another of seventeen may be trusted with it only under rather strict conditions. Of course Mother or Father makes it a condition that the clothing shall protect health, and equally of course shops with the young buyer to give him or her the benefit of greater experience in judging materials and values. Equally of course Father and Mother are constantly tempted to influence decision when the young shopper makes mistakes in judgment, and often they may be justified, but they should count ten before they speak and be sure that they are not interfering with the right course of the child's education. No one can learn good judgment without the experience of making mistakes and suffering by them. This generation has forgotten dear old Miss Edgeworth and her Moral Tales, but they were wonderfully good tales at that. Rosamond and the Purple Jar is a story of wise parents, who let their little girl waste her money by buying the glass jar of dull looking paste that had shone so alluringly purple in the chemist's window, with the strong light behind it. They explained to her that she might have it instead of the new boots she needed, but that she could not have both, and tried to make her see the consequences of her decision. But when she made the foolish one they did not save her from the humiliation of wearing boots with holes, or allow her to injure her health by going out in bad weather with such poor protection.
Their wisdom must be the rule for the parents of today if the children are not to be cheated. Many a so-called indulgent father or mother grants an "allowance" to son or daughter either without making clear what must be bought out of it or with the secret intention of buying themselves for the child what the allowance does not cover. Where then is the education as to the limit of expenditure? If teasing Father or weeping for Mother or pouting and refusing an invitation can get a new dress when daughter has spent all her allowance, why should she plan carefully how she is to spend that all too limited sum? If complaining because all the other boys have new fishing rods, or being glum and disagreeable with Mother because he hasn't had a new necktie this season, or confiding to Father that women don't understand a boy, or know what he wants - if all these bring the needed rod or necktie or additional money for fun, why need son think twice before he spends? All this does not mean that Christmas or birthday may not bring a gift of some needed luxury, but it is a gift instead of some other gift, not a surreptitious addition to the allowance, and even such gifts should be made with care.
Sometimes there is a devoted uncle or aunt or grand-mother or friend who is entirely unsympathetic with this training, who holds that young people should be free of responsibility and should have what they want so far as they can secure it, and who adds to the allowance by gifts of money or clothing. There is no relief in such a case but to talk the whole matter over with the recipient and decide together on the right way to deal with this addition.
When children are sent away to school, the allowance is of as great if not greater importance than it is at home. It is literally demoralizing for the schoolboy or schoolgirl thrown with many others who are spending money in many ways to be uncertain as to the amount he or she can have to spend during the year. To ask for money, to coax, to wheedle - it is all unfair. Many schools limit the spending money of all students to one sum, but it is hardly possible to do that for an allowance that covers clothing. And many a head of such a school has been rebuffed decidedly when he or she has asked that a definite allowance be made to cover all expenses. "My son - my daughter- is too young to handle so large a sum of money. I am astonished that you suggest it." Yet not too young to spend it, or to try to get more from the bottomless well - in their conception of it if not in cash - of Father's wealth.
There is a possible compromise on the clothing side where the parents are unwilling to give over the money to the child. The latter can be told the amount that is available for the year, keep strict account of all that is spent and make the choices, while Father or Mother pays the bills. Or if not all the choices, some of them. The parent reluctant to begin this is often converted to greater generosity in allowing choice by the seriousness with which the child takes the matter and the good judgment he or she shows in fitting the thing bought to needs or desires.
It is not at all unreasonable to require approval of the child's budget by father or mother or both before the budget can be put into effect, and to require explanation when the yearly expenditure shows a serious deviation from the budget. This can be done without any real interference, and is often a great help to the novice, since experience has taught the parents what he or she has yet to learn.
Every child who has a large enough allowance to warrant it, as will be the case when the clothing account is of several hundred dollars, should have a checking bank account, into which the allowance is paid and on which he or she draws. It is only just that if the bank requires a minimum deposit of $100 or $200, this amount should be supplied from the family income (and counted each year in the cash on hand); otherwise the child could not use the allowance to the full, which should be possible.
As the children grow to young manhood and womanhood and begin full-time work as wage or salary earners while still living in their own home, the allowance lessens or ceases. The amount earned at first is usually not enough to enable the young worker to pay into the common treasury what from a commercial point of view is his share of the cost of the household. But he or she contributes according to his ability. To continue the allowance and accept part of the earned income of the young worker is perhaps absurd from a business point of view, but from that of the family as a cooperative group is a sensible one. When the young man or woman is at last in a financial position to bear a full share in the family expenditure, the thrill of satisfaction is not confined to any one member of the family.
Back of any such method of dealing with the problem as is suggested here lies the expectation that the child when grown to manhood or womanhood will be self-supporting. In many families the plan of father and mother is to "leave the children well provided for," which means to leave them money enough to produce an income on which they can live. Most parents, however, as a matter of necessity bring their children up to earn their own living. And thousands who might make money provision for their children for the sake of the children themselves and for the sake of society at large bring them up to become self-supporting just as definitely as if a small family income made this necessary. This has always been true in America as regards the boys, and is increasingly becoming true for the girls also. There are still, however, thousands of girls who are handicapped by the social attitude that makes the parents - and often the girls themselves - fear that they will destroy something fine in the girl if they make her useful enough in any occupation (other than homemaking) so that she can be worth a money wage large enough to support her. Training for self-support is unquestionably a heritage of greater value than any amount of money. It not only gives something that cannot be taken away or lost without the fault of the owner, as money may be, but in giving this makes the member of the younger generation a full sharer in his social heritage.