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Parents Should Not Pay Children for Chores - My Opinionated Opinion

By Yvette Vignando - 8th September 2010

Please feel free to disagree or agree with me on this topic - a healthy debate on this won't change my mind but it might change yours?! And I think it's an important issue.

My husband and I grew up with different experiences of pocket money. I'm not sure when my parents started to give me pocket money - I think it was some time in late primary school. I can't remember how much I was given but it was enough for me to save some in my United Permanent Building Society account (remember them?) and admire the figures accumulating in my passbook (some people don't even know what a 'passbook' is any more.)

On the other hand, my husband said he was never given pocket money; his parents gave him some money when he needed it. We both come from fairly standard middle class backgrounds but we now have very different approaches to money. Who knows how the pocket money experience affected us?

But there is one childhood experience of money that we have in common: we were not paid by our parents to help out around the house or garden. My husband was not paid $5 to wash the car and I was not paid to wash the dishes. (Actually, on reflection, neither of us had to help out that much around the house - but that's for another blogpost.)

I have a strong view that children should not be paid or rewarded with money by their parents for helping out around the house. I don't think that pocket money should be linked to whether or not our children do their chores. And, knowing that many of my good friends  who are perfectly wonderful parents will disagree with me on this point - I am still ready to debate this one down to my last 5 cents.

Most parenting gurus agree that it's a good idea to have children start helping in the family from a young age. Asking children to do a small number of age-appropriate tasks gives them a sense of responsibility and contribution and also builds their independence.  Some parents also believe that giving children pocket money teaches them to save and budget and starts teaching them the value of financial prudence. I would not disagree with any of that. But I think it's a mistake to connect payment of money to helping out in a family.

I expect our three boys to contribute in small ways to making our household work. Like every other family, sometimes our children complain about chores and other times they just get on and do them. We've made sure that the chores are only a few and that they are fairly distributed, and we don't expect too much of the youngest one. We've also decided to give our children pocket money from when they are in Year 4 in primary school.

The last thing I ever want to hear when I ask one of our boys to do something (like wash the car or empty the dishwasher) is "How much will you give me for it?". I would hate the feeling that I need to bargain or negotiate the payment terms of a chore with one of our very persuasive teenagers. I refuse to do it.

Here's a bit of perjorative language for you to object to if you disagree with me - should we be paying our children like employees of the household? I say "No". Our children are members of our family where helping out is part of their loving (and complaining ) contribution. I would detest the feeling that I was being issued with verbal invoices from my children each time I asked them to help out in the house.

Some parents say they only pay their children for the bigger things or the one-off tasks - some examples I have been given are mowing the lawn, washing a car, babysitting siblings or helping with a major cleanout. I still disagree with this.

I feel that if it's reasonable to ask a child to help with a task then a parent should be able to request the help and expect (along with a normal amount of complaining) to be given the help. Perhaps sometimes we need to be asking ourselves if our requests for help are reasonable? Sometimes the amount of help or size of the chore may not be a reasonable expectation - for example, should you ask your teenager to wash 2 family cars in one day or spend his Sunday weeding an entire garden bed? Should you then offer money as an extra incentive for the additional burden? My response to that would be: either ask/pay someone else to do the task, or acknowledge to your child that this is a huge favour you are asking and use your persuasive skills to explain why all this extra help is needed on this occasion. But don't pay your child to participate in family life.

Think about this - would you invoice your parents to go over to their house and help them out with something? Would you invoice your best friend for a day of helping them move house? Would you be surprised if your parents invoiced you for a night of babysitting? These things don't happen because we help our family and friends out of love and affection, and out of a desire to make a contribution to them - not with a mercenary eye on our bank accounts.

My opinionated opinion on this is that I will never pay our kids to help out, do chores or give us an extra hand around the house - to me, this is part of their responsibility, part of joining in on family life and valuing the role that we all play in keeping the chaos at bay. I don't want our kids to develop a "what's in it for me?" attititude and I really think that pocket money for chores fuels this kind of thinking. Okay I am waiting for the debate to begin - what do you think?

image freedigitalphotos.net/Arvind Balaraman

Comments (16)

Creatine

thnks for sharing your exp...

If you dont pay alot of

If you dont pay alot of pocket money, the kids realise they have to get work when they are old enough to buy the prodcuts and brands they want.

ArunAbey's picture

Financial literacy for the whole family

Research shows families work best when everyone is motivated by a common set of goals and values. When you try to commercialise aspects of family life, you undermine the sense of pride and satisfaction your children get from contributing to these goals and values.

After all, family life is different from work life - there is unconditional love and no one can be made redundant. So instead of trying to emulate work life with work for reward, you should try and foster an environment where relationships have value in their own right.

That said, it is important to teach your children a sense of financial responsibility by making money visible, allowing them to be involved in the family finances and teaching them about investing. For more on this, please visit my post on reflections at
http://ipac5.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/financial-literacy-for-the-whole-f...

Thanks Yvette

Oh we are all learning and all fall on our faces all too often. Mine are far from perfect, but I'm happy as to how they are tracking in the chores stakes.

Love the site and once we are in to our new farm, will contact you and see if we can arrange a catch-up.

YvetteVignando's picture

Ideas for Teaching the Value of Money

Sarah, they sound like some great ideas for teaching the value of money - fuel for an article or guest blogpost maybe? Thanks for your thoughts.

YvetteVignando's picture

Great Reply Naomi - and Worth a Proper Read

Thanks so much for this fabulous and warm reply Naomi. There are so many great things you have pointed out in there. The phrase that really stood out for me was you writing "Isn't parenting about looking at the temperaments of our kids, their needs, the areas where they have strengths and weaknessness, the family's life circumstances and the impact those circumstances are having on our kids, the community around them and the values of their peers? Shouldn't we all then teach and nurture them accordingly, not according to some preconceived formula?"

I am right with you on that point - 100% percent.

One of the things I have in my mind all the time in publishing the happychild website is to not promote the impression of a one-size-fits-all style of parenting. I've also wanted to avoid fueling the mild anxiety that we all feel from time to time about whether we've made the right decision on a parenting issue. I think doubt in parenting just comes with the gig.

And as a declaration to any readers - Naomi and I were at high school together and have not seen each other since...but I do recall that Naomi was a gorgeous and lovely personality and friend so has no doubt been a similarly gorgeous parent. I am sure your and your partner's personal qualities have had a huge impact on your sons' characters too. You are also an excellent communicator so no doubt do a great job of explaining your decisions (like the great example you gave with the electronic gadget).

With your personal qualities and values it sounds like you have been raising good young men - and no doubt you have some good genes in there too!

I am almost (but not quite) tempted to be persuaded by the idea that if you still expect a core list chores to be done, kids should be paid to do extra work for heavier or extra chores. You pointed out that this kind of approach could teach the true value of work and possessions and also instill independence in children and a work ethic. My hunch is that the success of this approach depends on your child's temperament, the amount of payment being offered, your communication skills and the quality of the parent-child relationship etc - in this way I can absolutely see your point about taking a flexible approach.

But still, payment for family help doesn't feel right to me - there will be times around our house where we need extra help - say when we are digging up a garden bed for example. (We haven't done the sandstock bricks yet...) I want to be able to ask for that help without feeling the need to offer payment for this occasional extra help. I expect our kids to (grumble maybe but) contribute in reasonable ways if they can, and if we need it. If it's a huge job that would interfere with homework time or reasonable leisure time we would probably pay for outside help (or maybe ask for help from a friend?).

We have found ways of talking to, and acting on, teaching our kids about charity, the value of money, the need to save, working hard and valuing their possessions - I don't pretend we have it right - mistakes are being made here on a daily basis (just don't tell our kids please.)

I do think that if a parent runs a business from home or works on a home property - such as a farm - then offering children the opportunity for casual or part-time work is a different thing altogether. I think that is great - there are not always other opportunities for part-time work and sometimes working on the farm or in the home office is ideal - but that's something different isn't it? That's a part-time/ casual job and it's okay that payment is coming from Mum or Dad - that work is not family work, but "work" work.

I'm going to write a more considered article on this topic, including the research on intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. Really looking forward to everyone's views on this.

Thanks Naomi -loved your comment - wish I could meet you and your boys now - that would be fun. Please keep commenting - you clearly have lots of insight and wisdom to share - and I love being disagreed with - because Iike all of us, I'm still learning!

Chores

Oh dear. Now I've been drawn into your wonderful blog!!!

So can I ask -- why you say never, ever?

Isn't parenting about looking at the temperaments of our kids, their needs, the areas where they have strengths and weaknessness, the family's life circumstances and the impact those circumstances are having on our kids, the community around them and the values of their peers? Shouldn't we all then teach and nurture them accordingly, not according to some preconceived formula?

And I would also ask -- isn't it possible, in some circumstances that offering them some extra chores for pocket money, may be a wonderful way of preparing our kids for independence and instilling in them a good work ethic (and avoiding at all costs the sense of entitlement that too many of our kids develop when given too much without a cost/effort?)

We have two teens aged 15 and 17. In many ways they are typical teens. All too often drop and run -- and all too often use the kitchen and leave it in a shambles! But they generally do their chores with minimal grumbling.

They have chores that are non negotiable (and we find a written list helps enormously)-- feeding the animals, mowing lawns, dishes,some cooking and such. They will also wash cars when asked and also help us enormously on the farm and with our owner building without any money and few grumbles (I know...I thank God and am amazed every day!)

They are country kids and have really wanted some big purchases over the years -- such as motor cycles. So we discussed these things as a family and at initial purchase and each motor bike 'upgrade' have met them halfway including birthday, Christmas, gifts from grandparents and also assigning them extra tasks to earn their parts. It may be cleaning 1000 old sandstock bricks from our backyard, or extra whipper-snipping a 5 acre house yard!!etc. They have worked very long and very hard to achieve their goals and I think it has done them the world of good!!! They also have ongoing costs such as bike fuel, services, gear and at times we will negotiate extra chores.

We feel that if they are doing their chores, doing their homework (sometimes it takes a push), going to school, helping in the community, surely there is no harm if they want extras (and we are not high earners) in rewarding that diligence.

Both our boys have also held jobs since age 14 (one in a restaurant kitchen and one making pizzas in the local pizza restaurant). But sometimes they need extras (like school skiing -- another huge outlay, but huge opportunity) and so we talk and work that through again.

Not once have either of them asked what we were going to pay for them to do normal chores as you seem to fear :). If that happenned, we would smile and wink and say something like 'nice try bud -- but now go and do your blasted chores' and that would be the end of it. I can't imagine feeling any horror.

If they were to say it regularly and in a whining entitled way -- I would be worried -- but I think there are many, many factors that lead to that kind of behaviour (and indeed after a particularly hard time in our lives which in hindsight matured our kids enormously-- we thought we'd surprise our 15 y-o with a really special, expensive techno gadget and he then started acting really grumpy and spoiled because he couldn't get something on it working. We had to get him aside and explain that behaviour showed us that rather than helping him and showing him love, it was actually making him spoiled and damaging him -- and he behaved much better after that :)

We have made many mistakes in our parenting -- letting musical instruments fall by the wayside, letting boundaries slip, but we do have two gorgeous, healthy teens.

They work hard and we get constant compliments on the confident and engaging young men they are. We have very few sullen moments with them and really like their many, many friends.

Their employers tell us they have a great work ethic and when we recently changed bus routes, their old driver stopped me to compliment us on the spirited but obedient and polite, engaging kids they are.

When they get to nan and pops, they jump on the ride-on mower without being asked -- because they know it is getting too much for pop. At times when they know I am falling apart with the busyness of life, they will clean the whole house -- polish, vac, bathrooms as a surprise when we are out.

One son is now a very good budgeter and looks after his possessions well.

The other is more impulsive, and doesn't budget as well, but when we collect for The Salvos or pack Christmas hampers he has often often gone and bought extras to add to the present mix ( if there are categories they are low on). Recently, really worried about a homeless man in town, in the cold Alpine weather -- he spontaneously took $50 out of his bank account to offer him to help him find a meal or accommodation.

So as I said they are often just typical blokey annoying teens and drive us to distraction -- and maybe it is just God's grace, or two years of real struggle that shaped character, or maybe it is being part of a farming community where many of the kids are polite, from intact families and have to work hard on family farms --but you know what, I really think offering them extra chores for pay also helped that character building process.

Anyway, I know life can change in a flash especially in the teen years, but I would encourage everyone, from our experience so far, to consider a balance of chores -- some just for the love of family and the community -- but also some extra chores to learn the true value of work and possessions :)

SarahLiebetrau's picture

Paying for chores = slippery slope

My instinctive reaction to the idea of paying pocket money in exchange for chores is: No. I just feel that it is like making a bargain to do things that should be, if not necessarily done automatically, then at least negotiated in something other than monetary terms. I like the idea of role modeling behaviour that I hope my kids learn to replicate - sometimes this needs to be explained to them; ie, 'I helped you do X earlier therefore I would like you to help me now' but I do think choice should be involved and I think monetary encouragement muddies the waters a little, setting up a system of expectation/entitlement.

My logic about most of my parenting decisions needs to be watertight as the chances are that my son will at some point require concrete explanations for them. Trying to explain that I'm giving him pocket money in exchange for chores in order to teach him about money doesn't ring true for me. There are other ways to teach him about money: just giving pocket money (no strings attached) and having him save up for things that he wants; explaining about our weekly 'cash envelope' budget system (when he's old enough) and explaining how much things cost whilst at the supermarket (which I already do); going to garage sales in search of bargains. When he sees a toy that he wants, instead of saying outright 'no' or 'save your money' I get him to put it on his "Christmas list' or 'birthday list' (whichever's coming up next) so that closer to the time he can inspect the list and make a choice. All of these techniques teach him that money is something to be careful with; but I don't want him getting the idea that in order to do something that some one else wants him to do, he needs to be paid, or that for anything he wants, all he needs to do is pay for it.

Maybe the key is to only pay

Maybe the key is to only pay them for things you would pay someone else to do. So little ones not really anything. But tweens and teens - maybe. We wash our car at a carwash, which costs $12 or $14. I guess we could pay our kids $5 each to do the job. Saves us money, and they earn it.

An older teen babysitting younger siblings when normally you'd pay a sitter, could be paid, but a lesser rate.

But paying for taking out the garbage, feeding the cat, setting/clearing table - yeah, I can really see Yvette's point here.

We don't give our kids (10 & 12) set "pocket money", nor do they have set chores. We expect them to help out when they are asked, same as we would help them. Birthday money and change from canteen money does build up in their money boxes and wallets and they are pretty good at saving up for things they want. I will be encouraging them both to get casual jobs when they are old enough, as this is how I funded my own entertainment as a teen.

ZoeyMartin's picture

Money Messages

I think there are plenty of ways to teach reward for pay without it involving family and household chores. And actually, I think as long as the message about budgeting and saving for what you want are getting through then that whole work for reward thing.

But I think it's a dangerous message to send that children get paid for chores. Particularly if they are living in a home with a stay at home mother who does the vast bulk of chores and without being paid for it. Would paying children for their chores teach them to undervalue their mum? I think it might.

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