Saturday, March 7, 2015

Should You Pay Your Kids for Doing Chores?

When my daughter was 6, she came home from school one day and announced that she wanted to start getting an allowance like her friend Molly.

Then she wanted to know what an allowance was.

A quick Google search confirmed that there are a hundred different approaches to handling allowance. I read a dozen or so articles, and the readers' comments confirmed that whichever way you choose, it's wrong and you're teaching your kids to become spoiled brats.

So I can't tell you The Right Way to do allowance, but I can tell you what I've observed through trial and error in our home and what ultimately worked for us.

Should kids get paid a weekly allowance, or should they have to do kid chores for money to earn it? We’ve tried a variety of things in our household, and here’s what works for us. We’ve finally found an allowance system that balances chores and allowance to teach our children about money by paying them for the RIGHT kinds of household jobs, instead of the wrong kind. #allowance #allowancechore #kidchores #chores #kids #parenting #money #unremarkablefiles

Our kids do lots of chores, both paid and unpaid. But mostly unpaid. In our house, you'll never earn a dime for:
  • Basic self-maintenance like getting dressed, brushing your teeth, packing your school lunch, practicing the instrument you chose to play, or (when you reach the age of 8 or so) doing your laundry. That's just something you need to do because you're a person that's alive, not a job for which you deserve compensation.
  • Cleaning up after yourself. Messes in, around, or outside your room that you participated in making will be cleaned up for free. Because that's just part of not being a slob.
  • Family work. The kitchen and dining room are disasters because of the dinner that was made for you, so it goes without saying that you're going to help clean it up. You'll also take your turn unloading the dishwasher, dusting, cleaning bathrooms, taking out the recycling, emptying the trash, and everyday tidying up of common areas in the house. During the summer we also have a mandatory daily 30 minutes of "outside work" in the yard, just for fun. Or because we have a lot of weeds. One of the two.

That said, I want the kids to learn about earning money, so we have paid allowance chores, too.

But I think the kind of chores they get paid for are really crucial, and here's why:

Years ago, an acquaintance who did a lot of hiring for his tree removal business told me that a lot of his younger interviewees arrived feeling entitled to a job with him just because they wanted it. One day, he shocked a particular 18-year-old by leaning across the table and interrupting him. "I really don't care about how much you need this job," he said. "What can you do for me?" It was clear that the kid had never really considered it from that angle before. I don't think he got the job.

Fast forward several years later, and I was surprised to find that my own kids apparently had the same idea.

Around the time we first started batting around the idea of giving an allowance, I asked my daughter to pick up the avalanche of stuff that had exploded out of her backpack all over the hallway. Hopefully and immediately, she asked "Can that be my allowance chore for the day?"

It was clear that she thought I would (or should?) throw cash at her for any little task she found unpleasant. The idea of providing a valuable service in exchange for other people's money wasn't yet part of her thought process. It hadn't been learned yet.

That's why at our house, allowance chores are strictly personal "favors" for me, like folding my laundry, making my bed, or doing other household chores that I'd normally do myself without expecting the kids to lift a finger.

Some may call it cruel and unusual to farm my personal work off to the kids in the form of allowance chores, but I really think it's teaching them that earning money is different than being given money. The kids are learning that if you want someone to pay you, you need to provide them with a service worth paying for. That's what I like about our allowance chore system.

That, and I also get out of folding my laundry and making my bed on a regular basis.
Should kids get paid a weekly allowance, or should they have to do kid chores for money to earn it? We’ve tried a variety of things in our household, and here’s what works for us. We’ve finally found an allowance system that balances chores and allowance to teach our children about money by paying them for the RIGHT kinds of household jobs, instead of the wrong kind. #allowance #chores

Should kids get paid a weekly allowance, or should they have to do kid chores for money to earn it? We’ve tried a variety of things in our household, and here’s what works for us. We’ve finally found an allowance system that balances chores and allowance to teach our children about money by paying them for the RIGHT kinds of household jobs, instead of the wrong kind. #allowance #chores
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Anonymous said...

I agree with you all the way. We have also reiterated to our children that any job worth doing is worth doing well.

Do your kids get affected by the time change? I bet you could write a hilarious blog about that.

I saw some other "anonymous" replies on your blog and some of them were somewhat critical so I am signing off from now on as XXX so you don't think I am writing those.

Jenny Evans said...

So you're not the meanie that's been making me cry myself to sleep every night? Just kidding.

I don't know if the time change really affects the kids, but it certainly affects how late we are to church when we spring forward every year.

alison said...

Chores/Allowance is definitely a mine-field, there are so many philosophies and options. Plus what works for one child doesn't necessarily work for another. We have tried all sorts of things over the years. Our oldest has his first job now and all the chores he has done at home have definitely paid off for him at work. :)

Rachel said...

The way my parents did it when we were growing up was to have occasional "money jobs" that were for chores generally considered above and beyond the call of duty for kids--things like washing the car (my dad is incredibly picky and cautious about the cleanliness of his car, so he usually did it himself, but it was a great honor to be trusted to do a good job at this and earn a couple dollars, too). Mom liked to send out handmade Christmas cards, but she didn't like to make them, so that was usually a paid task delegated to me. On our last visit home, my husband mad great use of my littlest sister's desire for money jobs and had her do horrible things like use tweezers to pull out the hairs growing on his ears for money. She was pretty thrilled about all the cash she was making...

Debbie-Dabble Blog and A Debbie-Dabble Christmas said...

Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment on my post, 57 Shades of Gray.....

Unknown said...

Allowance is tricky with any kids at any age. But I agree with what you're saying here: you have to earn the money that's given to you; you just don't go palms up and it appears--that's how entitlement starts. I was with paid and unpaid chores as well, and it not only taught me the value of money and hard-work, but how to manage it too. Thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

Good points. I do give my kids an allowance for specific chores, but not for basic self and room maintenance. Basically, if it was my job and they took it over, they can get something for it.


Stopping by from Mommy Moments linky party.

Unknown said...

I think your right when children earn money they learn to have more respect for it. We have been making our children work for a lot more things lately. Thanks for sharing!

Julie S said...

I had chores but didn't have an allowance exactly, just was able to get certain things if my parents approved. I can see both sides of it - giving kids a reward for good behavior, good grades, doing chores, etc.while teaching them how to manage money sounds like a win-win, but then are we teaching them to want things for the wrong reasons? I don't know yet what we'll do with the baby when he gets to chore age heh.

Jenny Evans said...

Two thoughts: (1) ouch, and (2) gross. :) Hope your sister is enjoying her new spending money.

Jenny Evans said...

I was so frustrated that the comprehensive instruction manual that came home with my babies from the hospital didn't address allowance!

Jessy @ The Life Jolie said...

Thanks for sharing- we're nowhere near this stage yet, but I'll definitely keep this in mind when the time comes.

I stopped by from Monday Madness.

mothers shadow said...

Jenny, great post. I also wrote a post on allowance because, as you said very well, that it is individual to the family. I agree totally with you that kids do need to have chores they do for free because they live there; basically it's rent and paying their way. But we had extra chores as a way to earn money to learn to budget from. I had a system that when they wanted to earn money they could choose from a list and I paid a very nominal fee. However, when they were being disciplined, I choose from the same list, and they did the chore(s) for free to make up for their inconvenience and time cost to me - instead of grounding to their room. Keep up the awesome work girl! Carrie, A Mother's Shadow

Amy @ Swag On, Momma! said...

I love your approach! In my family growing up, we rotated our daily jobs every week, and we were expected to clean our room every saturday. These jobs were unpaid, and we couldn't play with friends or go to any activity in the evenings (for the older kids) till our job was done. But, I am grateful we had lots of opportunity to earn money! My parents had a paid job chart and we could chose which jobs we wanted to do. So, if we chose to work more, we earned more. Simple life lesson there. :) These jobs were were often outside jobs like weeding, mowing the lawn, moving pipe, or hauling hay. (my dad farmed on the side.) Or deep cleaning jobs during the winter, like washing walls and scrubbing stuff...or any other job my mom needed done. (sometimes we didn't get to chose if we wanted to participate in these extra jobs, but we still got paid.) Not every family has a farm to give their kids the chance to do hard labor, but I think it is invaluable, if possible, to give them opportunity to chose to work hard and enjoy the fruits of their labors. :) My kids are young, but my three-year-old is already great at putting the clean silverware away, clearing his plate, and putting his clean clothes in the right drawers, and we all help pick up the toys in the living room every night before bedtime. I want to start young with my kids so they realise that momma doesn't just pick up their crap for this home, we all help so it can be a clean and happy place to live!

Crystal Green from Sharing Life's Moments said...

I have the same belief. My kids can't stand the fact that they don't get paid for their daily chores. However, my husband and I have installed in them that they live here just as much as we do. My kids also know if they want something special they have to earn it.

Jenny Evans said...

Yes! Once one of my kids complained about doing some sort of housework and when I opened my mouth, this child said with a sigh "I know, I know. We all help the family." Took the words right out of my mouth!