By Vicki Little
Some things never change, and one of those things is the age-old debate about chores and money. Children beg for a toy, and parents tell them to save their money. Parents ask their kids to do something, then kids ask parents how much they get for doing it. We are supposed to be teaching our children the value of hard work and being a responsible family member, but we also need to teach them the value of the dollar and how to earn money and save. The trick is to come up with the perfect combination of paid versus unpaid chores while keeping in mind that most kids are not old enough to get a job, and if we expect them to excel in school, that basically IS their job.
Every family is different, and it is impossible to find a “one-size-fits-all” plan for what chores we should and should not pay children for doing. Here are a few guidelines to help you create the perfect plan for your family.
Children should NOT get paid for:
Chores that benefit the entire family. Your children live in the house, they do more than their fair share of making the house messy, and they benefit from an organized and tidy living area, so they should contribute to making it that way as well. Putting dishes away, vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, putting laundry in the dryer, and dusting are examples of things your child will benefit from doing, so they should not receive compensation.
Caring for themselves appropriately. Sorting their laundry, putting their dishes in the sink or dishwasher, making their bed, cleaning their room, making their lunch, throwing away their trash, and personal grooming are things that everyone has to do on a daily basis for their entire lives. Your child will not get paid to take a shower while they are in college, so why should they get paid now?
Taking care of pets. Pets offer a great opportunity to teach children responsibility. Remembering to feed them, take them for walks, give them a bath or trim their nails are not really fun, but they are things that need to get done. If your children want the fun and love that come with having a pet, then they need to pitch in.
Doing homework. As tempting as it is to avoid the homework struggle and offer your child a reward to finish homework, this could send the wrong message. Doing homework is required to be successful in school, just as completing a big project on time is required to be successful at work. Further, your child may initially grow complacent about the reward, or they may rush through their work just to get it done. Homework is something kids should work hard on so they can experience the pleasure of earning good grades (or the disappointment of grades that reflect their lack of effort).
What they SHOULD get paid for:
Anything above and beyond their mandatory chores. As a family, establish what are considered “regular” chores that must get done each week. These are things that help the household run smoothly, so everyone should be responsible for them. Once these chores are done, if your child notices something that needs to be cleaned (or you do and they agree to help out), then they should get paid for going the extra mile. If they are looking to make extra money for something they want, you can agree on what extra chores could be done for payment.
Making life easier for someone else. Teen drivers that take younger siblings to birthday parties so Mom and Dad don’t have to should get some money for gas, then a little extra. If Mom is swamped and doesn’t have time to do chores, she can “hire” the kids to do it for her. Just as we pay house cleaners, tip servers, and delivery fees, we should pay our children for doing something for us that we don’t do for ourselves.
Going to school as expected. Before you groan or stop reading, let me explain. School to them is as our job is to us. They are expected to be there on time, do their work, and follow the rules. And since they can’t make money from this, and since they are expected to pitch in as a part of the family, it is reasonable to give a modest allowance to teach them how to handle their money. Just as our paychecks can get docked for tardiness, your child’s allowance can get docked as well if there is not an approved excuse.
A few additional notes:
- Children should put aside some money they earn for savings. This is important both for teaching necessary life skills, as well as to save money for those big-ticket items they want.
- Help them when they are saving for something particular. If you know your child is saving up for something big, offer extra chores to help reach their goal. This encouragement will keep them motivated to reach their goal — which leads to a sense of pride in buying what they wanted with their own money.
- When kids get money as a gift, it is theirs to save or spend. When people give money as a gift, they don’t generally do so with the intent of hoping your child will save it for a rainy day. Rather, they are hoping that it will be spent on something your child really wants. It is the same as any other gift — something your child should be allowed to enjoy.
Do you pay your children for doing chores? What chores do they get paid for?
Vicki Little is a work-at-home mom with two young kids. A Colorado native, she is the Publisher and Editor of Macaroni Kid Aurora and Downtown Denver. When she isn’t writing or trying to keep up with her kids she can be found volunteering, reading, or enjoying a bottle of wine with friends.
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