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It's best to wait until your child actually starts asking for the money to buy a toy, rather than begging for the item itself, usually around age 4 or 5. The concept of money and where it actually comes from (not trees) is difficult for young children to grasp. Many kids think Mommy and Daddy just go to the money machine and get what they want, and this misunderstanding will breed financial irresponsibility if you dole out allowance too soon. When the time comes, give your child a dollar or two each week to spend as he wishes (you can increase the allowance by a dollar each year if you like). Even an amount of money this small can teach your child a valuable lesson: He'll learn soon enough that he can't buy one thing and still have enough money to pay for another -- and you may be surprised how quickly your big spender turns into a miser when his own money is on the line. As for giving allowance in exchange for household chores, experts have mixed feelings. On the surface it may seem like a good way to teach kids about the sacrifice behind earning a regular paycheck, but experts say it can backfire when your child starts bargaining the cost of every task and only sees value in helping Mom with the dinner dishes if he's being paid to do it. --Deborah Skolnik
Copyright © 2005. Reprinted with permission from the April 2005 issue of Parents magazine. Updated 2009
The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.