Allowance stresses out most parents. Should kids be paid for chores?
I stared at the complicated chore chart that my dad placed on our refrigerator.
42 cents for washing dishes. 20 cents for picking up my room.
When he first pitched this idea to my 10-year-old self, I wanted to do all the chores immediately.
This was my chance to earn $5 a week. Yes, I could do this!
So, I did the dishes. It took me 20 minutes and I didn’t even get enough money to buy a can of soda. Wouldn’t it be simpler to pull that red can of Coke out of our fridge?
That week, I completed a few boxes of chores from that monster list, collected my $1.15 and then ignored the list the next week.
Soon, the chore chart disappeared.
Where parents get chores and allowance for kids wrong…
Now that I’m a parent, I can guess my dad’s intentions.
He was desperate for his pre-teen daughter to do SOMETHING… ANYTHING to contribute to housework.
Oh… I’ve been there.
And he thought money would be an appropriate motivator.
In my case, cash motivated me to wash the dishes…for a solid day. Until I realized how many boxes I needed to check to collect a worthwhile sum.
As far as spending money goes, I didn’t need it. My parents bought me whatever I wanted – and I didn’t really want much at 10.
Watching TV and reading seemed an excellent way to spend free time – which didn’t cost anything at all.
Money doesn’t motivate our kids…
Nor does it motivate most adults.
According to researchers, people (kids included) have three major psychological needs:
- to feel autonomous,
- to feel competent and
- feel related to others
We can argue that earning your own money can make you feel a little more autonomous. However, not the amount we’re giving our kids.
If we want our kids to do chores, we can use the two other human needs: competence and feeling connected to the family.
Should kids be paid for chores?
We don’t pay our kids for household tasks.
If we did, doing the dishes and feeding the dog would become just a transaction.
They might do it to get paid.
But, wouldn’t do it well and we would miss teaching them the value of doing chores to help the family.
Plus, all that tracking would drive me insane.
Paying for individual chores is a huge responsibility for the parent. Because not only do you need to create an updated tracking sheet, but you need to:
- Check after every single chore is completed
- Keep cash on hand to pay the specific amount for each chore
- Tally up the chores completed at the end of the week
And then, of course, the fairness issue.
What happens if I tie a child’s allowance to doing a set amount of chores and they miss one or two chores that week?
Do they not get their allowance?
YES! You’re probably screaming.
But that’s not how the real world works…
In most corporate jobs, you’re hired and paid a salary every week.
Then, you do what your boss tells you to do for that salary. You teach in a classroom, keep track of the budget, pitch clients.
You don’t get paid for each individual task – unless you work for commission.
If you bomb a client presentation or miss a deadline, your salary usually isn’t docked. Any company who wants to improve employee performance puts the struggling staff member on an improvement plan.
The ultimate goal is to get the work done. That’s why we don’t withhold money from our kids’ allowance for missed chores. Instead, we find other ways to encourage them to get the job done.
If you pay your kids for chores…
You’re not alone.
A recent study completed by Country Financial revealed that 68% of Americans believe that kids should receive an allowance for completing chores. Other studies have pushed that number closer to 80%.
I get the reasoning.
We want to show our kids that money should be earned. Completely reasonable.
However, when we tie chores to allowance we’re missing other teaching opportunities that may serve our kids better in the future.
As parents, we can’t do everything. We need to choose where we want to focus our attention.
For most adults struggling with money, working is not the issue. They hold a 40-hour-per-week (or more) job, work tirelessly every day and bring home a paycheck.
No, what most people struggle with is managing the money. THAT is how we can spend our little time the most productively with our kids.
How to teach money beyond chores
The allowance system we have been using with our daughter is far from perfect. But so far, she’s learned:
- The value of saving for her American Girl doll vs. spending her money on toys from the Target value bins
- How much it almost physically hurts to make a big purchase and see the money drained from her account.
- Why buying a souvenir from every place she goes is completely unreasonable if she wants any money to spend in the future.
These aren’t issues we’ve lectured her about.
Rather, since she’s earned a small amount of money each week, she’s practiced making decisions and making mistakes.
Sometimes, really costly mistakes.
Like when she clogged the drain to her bathroom sink with glitter and orbeez and had to pay for the plumber.
Or when we drove out to Disneyland for HER dance performance and she forgot her nude leotard, nude tights, black leotard and black booty shorts that she needed to perform.
I found a dance store 5 miles away from Disneyland and that morning, I took her away from the park for an hour and she paid for half. Lucky for her, it was a discount dance store and one-third the price of our dance store back home.
She cried for a solid hour that morning when we told her she would need to pay.
Next time, she’ll double-check her packing with zero nagging from me.
Break up with the chore chart
Instead of having to keep track of chores like my dad did, giving my daughter a set allowance allows us to teach her how to manage money instead of how to work for more of it.
There will be plenty of opportunities for our kids to learn about work ethic from future employers.
But those employers will never teach them how to manage their money.
That’s something we can do right now by making sure an allowance is always available and not tied to chores.