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?
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