Amish Parents' Rules

No one is dumb who is curious. The people who don't ask questions remain clueless throughout their lives. ~Neil deGrasse Tyson

When I was speaking about my experiences with the Swartzentruber Amish - and their runaways - an audience member asked about the family financial practices.

"Do Amish parents keep their children's income," she inquired.

Interesting curiosity. I can't answer for other orders but, within the strict Swartzentruber Amish - the answer is . . .

Yes! The general rule is children give all earned income to parents - namely the dad - until a child turns 21-years-old. That rule or practice may vary slightly with different families. For example, one family may say the children get to keep earned income from Saturday work.

Wow, with a family of 12 employed kids, that could be a pretty hefty income.

Mosie is the middle child of 12 and told me that when his siblings earned any money from jobs, they had to turn over the income to his dad. "The only thing I could keep was when I got a tip," he explained.

Mosie left his upstate New York Swartzentruber settlement when he was 18-years-old. We met shortly after he left, he lived with us for a year, and celebrated a couple birthdays with us before moving away to North Carolina.

One reason he resisted the urge to return Amish was because he said his dad would make him return any money he'd earned on the outside.

"You mean your dad would insist you financially make up for leaving the Amish?" I asked. Retroactive payment.

"Ya," Mosie said, "I'd have to catch up for the years I'd been away until I turn 21 years ole!"

Another former Amish man told of the time he'd left and joined our military. He was overseas fighting the Vietnam war. There, he received a letter from his dad. His dad wrote that he should be sending home his military pay to make up for leaving the Amish. Nice way to support your son facing death every day.

Within the Swartzentruber order, I sense that children are often seen as an asset rather than a love relationship.

If you like the stories on my blog, you'll love my new book Beyond Buggies and Bonnets: Seven true stories of former Amish available on Amazon and my blog www.BrendaNixonOnAmish.blogspot.com. In the appendix I share parents' letters to their "wayward" children who left that life.

What do you think? Leave comments on my blog

(c)Copyright, 2015, Brenda Nixon.


  1. True in many branches of plain Amish living,I only have 2 check points ,one just because it is expected does not mean there is not Love-reasonable service ,we were proud to help in the family,the rebellious seed of covetousness came from or feed from people outside group, @nd a BIG one was the,the comment of support your son "facing death" again more "seeds"of worldly ways,propaganda ,My father sent his service pay to his mother,This is a paid JOB with risks ,nothing more,He [my dad] put away these notions,did not agree of the idol making of soldiering ,that continues today,It was a job with benefits[He was shot in Korea] in a non combative unit that was attached, He also thought it a right to send his money Home.Sometimes the Rebellious rights we want to Help others are our own discontent.Helping those with bible, mercy, grace,and eternal life will encourage Family not separate it. Yes, my dad paid a price of separation during those war years ,but was restored the same of my foster brothers dad who worked state side in a Pa mental hospital both were conscience objectors who served there fellow man.I feel a bitter thread of hurt in this articular.Pray for peace blessing on the information gather linda gerhardt

    1. Thanks for your comments Linda. It's good to help the family - the community - and to learn to think of others. I wonder, though, if sometimes this tradition is a way to keep people in the Amish by making them financially ill-equipped to leave and succeed on the "outside," should they want to.
      Also, I gently remind you that there are many ways to show love and grace to a child other than wanting money. Good parents adapt to their child's needs, and a child who is serving far away in an ugly war where his life is at risk, needs parents who show concern for safety and support. Parenting is a delicate balance of rules and relationship!
      My father also sent all his soldier money home when he protected our country in WWII.
      Peace and blessings on you.

    2. Excellent article, Brenda!

      There's no specific rule, spoken or unspoken, about Jehovah's Witnesses keeping their children's income. Although, in my own experience, all my income went to my parents until I moved out. I also kept most of my tips, which paid for fuel & necessities. My parents were not stingy, they were in fact, carrying a heavy load financially. I learned to budget very carefully. However, not being able to save up & not being allowed higher education made for a very difficult time in transitioning into financial independence. None of my JW friends were allowed to keep their income, either.

  2. This is really a wonderful post.

  3. I guess the other way to look at it would be "combined finances" or "household budget." Rather than each person budgeting separately, there's a household budget based on the total household income. Except that breaks down on wanting the money for time not spent living with the family.

    Though I imagine marrying at 19 would jump you out of it.