Saturday, February 10, 2007

Is it Wrong to Pay Kids for Chores?

To get our kids to do more around the house, my husband & I often link chores to allowances. But are we just bribing our kids to help clean up? In fact, a chores-for-allowance system is a bad move & I could be pushing my kids towards "financial illiteracy," according to The Financially Intelligent Parent, a book written by Eileen & Jon Gallo.

Here's their logic:

1. Household duties enable kids "to develop a work ethic."
2. Allowances help kids with money management skills.
3. Those two goals should not be mixed.

The money-for-chores allowance system is flawed because parents provide "external motivation," (money) to control children's behavior. It's best, the authors argue, to allow children to develop "an inner drive" to work harder.

"While you want your children to understand that a job well done receives rewards, you don't want them thinking that they should be paid for fulfilling family responsibilities."

I'm not sure if I agree with that argument. I think that household chores can serve as the first paid job for kids. I give my kids a small allowance of $5 a week per child, with a bonus for handling extra chores. But we don't give out allowances if chores have not been done.

My system may be flawed and I'm curious about the allowance system used by other parents.



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~Dawn said...

I think it is fine, just don't pay your kids to study- bad idea- I know.

Jenn said...

My folks looked at it a different way. The chores we did around the house we did because we were a part of the family. My mom always said that she thought it was good for our self esteem and value for us to realize that we could help and do things for the family. Dishes, cooking (when we were older) vaccuuming, laundry, keeping your room clean, taking the trash out, caring for my dad's hunting dogs, shoveling in winter etc. . . all of these were things we did because we were part of the family and we were expected to help make it run.

On the other hand, if we wanted to earn money she always had a list of jobs that we could do for money that were not included as part of our chores, like mowing the lawn, washing the windows (inside and out) scrubbing interior woodwork, cleaning the basement or garage etc. All of those were jobs we could do for money.

I think personally that it was a good balance, and will do something similar with my kids. 'course they are 3 and 5 so we've got some time :)

And my folks never paid us for grades-the 5 of us were all A students and they would have gone broke. . . .

mapgirl said...

I have to agree with Dawn, paying kids for good grades only encourages cheating. I was paid for good grades and I was ethical, but some public school kids I knew got away with the cheating and the money. Not good at all.

As far as chores go, I think kids need an allowance, but to pay them specifically for doing chores is a bad idea. Kids have to learn that their contribution to the home is to do their job around the house. That can't be driven by money, but by love. Or hunger, or the desire for clean clothes. Paying kids to do their job around the house takes away their incentive to do any chores when there's no allowance. I should know, my house is a mess because no one pays me to clean it. And I'm inclined to hire someone to clean it for me because I'm close to being able to afford that kind of luxury.

Frugal Duchess: Sharon Harvey Rosenberg said...

Thanks Dawn, Jenn and Mapgirl for your comments.

We agree about money-for-grades: not the best idea. I know parents that pay $25 per A on a report card.

I'm old school and I think that kids should learn for the sake of learning.

About chores: I agree with the need to develop a sense of family responsibility.
We've had mixed results with our chores-for-money allowance plan.

Maybe we'll try a basic allowance with a chart of extra chores for additional money.

Thanks for the feedback.

Jon Gallo said...

I've been reading the comments with interest.

When Eileen and I wrote The Financially Intelligent Parent, we treated family chores, school work and extra curricular activities as the building blocks for a work ethic. We didn't want to tie money to any of these.

We also didn't want to use taking away the allowance as the punishment for not doing family chores. We have three adult kids and know that kids won't always do their chores. When they don't, there should be consequences but we don't want to associate the consequences with money.

If we do, we're teaching our kids that money is either a reward or a punishment. Our goal in writing The Financially Intelligent Parent was to offer suggestions how we can raise kids with a healthy relationship with money. That means that our kids control the money in their lives, rather than letting the money control them.

If you go to our website,, you can join the community (no charge) and create an interactive chore chart with both family chores (no payment) and extra chores that you'll pay for.

Tim said...

i'm not a fan of allowances without conditions. giving free money to children doesn't teach them the value of the money. it is free money that they can freely spend. you've instilled the value of quick money and money without value. at least that is how i viewed it when my parents gave me an allowance for nothing.

i like the idea of having a core set of chores as being part of the family. anything additional list is a good way for them to learn that money doesn't come cheap and they have to work for it (doing that little extra).

Harvey Beck said...

It seems this kind of discussion is always argued as black or white when there are many shades of grey. I agree that we shouldn't be paying kids for each and every item (eg 22¢ for brushing your teeth) - but you can easily create a system that links chores and allowance in a broader way that's less likely to create mercenaries.

And if you don't link the two, aren't we creating socialists - from each according to his ability - to each according to his need? I'd rather teach there really IS a link between responsibility, effort, and benefits - the notion of "earning".

Jon commented there should be consequences for not doing chores. But what's sancrosanct about allowance? Why shouldn't this be one of the consequences, although not necessarily the only one? I don't want to dial allowance down to zero - after all, I want my kids to learn to become financially responsible and learn to make choices - they can't do that without money. But why not dial it down somewhat as one of the consequences?

The connection between effort and results is an important real world lesson - probably one of the biggest that we try to teach our children. Linking "sharing the family income" to "sharing the family effort" can be one great way to it.

At Active Allowance, we provide parents with online tools to create an allowance and responsibilities system that works for their family, regardless of their philosophy. They can choose to link or not link, but if they do link the two, it's done in shades of grey - not a price for each chore. And by far the majority of members have chosen to link and are finding great success with this approach.

Frugal Duchess: Sharon Harvey Rosenberg said...

Thanks for the replies.

Jon: I appreciate your feedback. I have several underlined passages in The Financially Intelligent Parent and I will check out the interactive chore chart.

Tim: Thanks for your suggestion about the core set of chores with extra financial rewards for additional chores. I think that's the system I will set up.

Harvey Beck: I also enjoyed reading your comment and I agree that the issue is not a Black & White snapshot. I will also check out your Active Allowance program.

To all: I really appreciate the comments. Made my day!

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Calder said...

I agree with Jenn's comments, so I won't repeat what has already been said. I must say that it never occurred to me that parents would pay their kids for good grades. I also liked Jon's comments about reward and punishment. This is where separating the two types of tasks come into effect and work well. You only pay for the over and above work. But let's throw into this equation another issue. What happens when the kids decide they will only do the over and above tasks, and not the everyday family stuff? You need to set rules and guidelines. Kids are smart, and test you all the time.

Rhett said...

No.... but it should be well managed & you can seek the help of tools from Payjr for that.

Barb said...

There is a need for teaching good work ethics and also for teaching the value and responsibility of money. We have the daily tasks required for keeping the house in order such as laundry and stuff put away, loading your own dishes, cleaning up after yourself. Then we have the weekly responsibilities such as scouring the bathroom, mopping and vacuuming floors, dusting, washing laundry. We pay a flat weekly commission based on whether the weekly chores are completed properly. Our three children are on a rotation schedule, taking on a different room in the house each week.
After giving them their commissions, we require them to give 10% to charity/tithing, 10% to their savings, and the rest for spending.
In real life, there's keeping house, working for money, and managing money. We're doing our best to emulate that system now.

Blaise said...

This is a very old-school reference, but in Cheaper by The Dozen absolutely everything was charted, logged, and if not done, detracted from the (12!) kids' allowances. They seemed to have a pretty good work ethic, too, since they pretty much took over the running of the house when their dad suddenly died and there were still kids from 2 to 18 in the house--and their mother, of course, had to work to support them.