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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)

Hop off the Fence

Hop off the fence, it's more fun in the garden. I still reckon that's paying them for chores isn't it... kids are pretty quick to work out the connection. 'If I do these things for the family then I get paid my pocket money.' I would love to think children (often reluctantly) learn that they are supposed to help the family as part of just being in a family. Pocket money has its own benefits that can still be maximised without connecting its payment to helping out... I think.

At the heart of what I am saying is that children hopefully eventually find the intrinsic rewards in being helpful and part of the family unit.

CathyCorcoran's picture

Finally able to comment

Finally able to comment =)
Great post as am currently deciding whether to introduce some money concepts with my preppie and have no idea what to do!
I was brought up that we got pocket money but didnt really do much for it. For my son I was thinking the same as you that i dont think he should be paid for responsibilities that are his anyway but didnt know what to introduce to be able to warrant the pocket money so got stuck and havent really had the need to review again at this point in time.
Am interested to hear what other people use as options/chores and whether they sit well with me.
Im all about pitching in and helping out too. On the other hand Ive got poor money management so obviously its something that wasnt implicit in our household and wasnt explicitly spoken about too much - my mum is a great money manager though! So Ive got no idea!
Help me! Suggestions would be great

pipbern's picture

Total fence sitter. Haven't

Total fence sitter. Haven't started pocket money yet and am a bit hopeless at making them do chores religiously. 8yo did get homework the other night which required him to do a chore. Thanks Mrs Nicholls:)

Think though I will pay a set amount per week, yet for that they will have a list of things that must be done or they won't get the money. Is that just paying them for doing chores? I am such a bloody fence sitter. :)

No, no - I must disagree.

Yvette, I love your blogs, but must disagree with this one. As a finance expert and a Mum of 3, there is huge benefit in paying pocket money for chores. It is a fantastic way to teach kids the concept of work for reward. To avoid the development of a WIFM mindset though, you simply arrange a set amount of pocket money each week for a set chore each week. It doesn't (shouldn't) take the place of the general helping out with other chores because, as you said, kids should be expected to help out as a matter of course.

Read this blog that I write for Mattel a few months ago - it sums up my reasoning better than i can do it here: http://toylab.com.au/financialexpert/toys-and-tuckshop-the-two-best-ways...

(PS Really love your website and blog though!) :)

ruddygood's picture

No argument from me..

...I'm totally with you on this one. Great article, Yvette, and it'll be interesting to see what others think.

There is a prevailing 'what's in it for me' attitude, perhaps a lingering hold-over from the Greed-is-Good 80s, which I would like to see disappear entirely. To that end, I'm trying to foster a sense of teamwork, and 'we're all in this together', and personal responsibility in my house. It's sometimes tough, as I'm the only adult here and am seen to do most things, but I encourage the boyo to take on small age-appropriate regular tasks, and will increase his share as he ages.

I give him a small amount of regular pocket money, but it's utterly unrelated to the work of running the household. My only expectation with that is that he splits it, with half being available for immediate spending (or pooling for a few weeks), and the rest for long-term savings. We set a savings target for him at the beginning of the year, which was worked out to be perfectly achievable if he did just that.

Of course, his father HAD to hand him the extra money he needed to reach the goal a few weeks ago, because he (father) doesn't get it (and yes, he's bloody hopeless with money!). Yes, I could have made a point, but I think there will be plenty of opportunities to repeat the lesson. At 6, I decided it wasn't worth the tears if I made him give it back. Co-parenting joys. *sigh*

PS. Sorry for the novella! ;)

Great article, Yvette. I'm

Great article, Yvette.
I'm persuaded.
The "What's in it for me?" attitude is a big problem I've seen in schools with young people, and it's possibly the biggest problem for humanity.
I want my children to value their place in the family, and feel that contributing to the family is part of that. It's a step that must be taken before learning to help others in the community.