Most parents and experts alike agree that children should be given chores. Whether children should be paid for completing chores is hotly debated, however.
As a child, I never once received an allowance, nor was I ever paid for doing my regular chores. I did get paid $10 one winter to keep the woodbox next to the fireplace full, which meant I had to carry two full loads before school every morning, and at least one after school. ALL winter (which in Utah is like 11 months of the year — uphill both ways)! My dad offered the ‘job’ to all of the kids and I was the only kid dumb enough to take it, ha, ha!
Lots of my friends had allowances and would buy junk food from the vending machines at school and play arcade games on the weekend. Not me! I was all too aware of the value of a penny to waste one on pixels or empty calories.
I took every opportunity to work and earn money, just as early as I possibly could, because that was the only way to get what I wanted. Because I bought my own clothes, I appreciated them. I never whined about not having designer jeans — I thought the price tag was ridiculous and didn’t want to spend my hard-earned money on them. A pair of UGG’s would have eaten an entire paycheck — not worth it!
I realize that not everyone is as frugally minded as I am. Actually, probably very few people are as frugally minded as me. Regardless of our varied opinions regarding finances, however, you probably at least want your children to learn fiscal responsibility. And the best way to teach them that is by not giving them money. As they work unpaid, alongside the family, our children will develop a higher financial IQ, along with numerous attributes critical to financial well-being.
Don’t pay your children for chores or give them an allowance if you want them to learn these money-smart attributes
Lack of money will motivate them to become ambitious and industrious
This is really simple. If you meet all of your kids’ needs (food, shelter and clothing) and also give them money, whether you’re paying them for chores or giving them an allowance, they’ll have no incentive to work.
I started my first business at age 9 because I wanted money, nobody ever gave me any, and I was too young to work legally. I made hair bows, my extroverted little sister sold them around our neighborhood, and we split the profits. There has almost never been a time in my life since then that I have not had my own business.
Had my parents provided an allowance or payment for chores, like my friends’ parents did, I would never have spent my time or energy dreaming up or creating businesses.
We recently drove across several Indian reservations to visit the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon. Living conditions there were astounding. My kids wanted to know why poverty was so visible and rampant. As a very frugally minded, politically conservative, homeschool mom who loves to teach, I couldn’t help but climb up on my soapbox and give them an earful about how welfare creates feelings of entitlement, dependency and complacency, all of which are the opposite of ambition.
Your child will learn innovation and creativity
Necessity is the mother of invention. This principle is so true that I often like to NOT give my kids something they need, just so they can figure out a way to get it themselves.
My daughter needs a pair of athletic shoes for summer camp. I do provide them shoes, but she never wears sneakers so she doesn’t own any. She told me she needed some, so I told her to think of a way to get some. She’s too young for a regular job, so she talked to a few ladies in our neighborhood and ended up finding two great summer babysitting jobs and worked the schedules out with both moms so she can work them both simultaneously. She did the math and figured out that, in addition to the sneakers she’ll be able to buy herself the new violin bow she’s desperately wanted.
Your kids will learn entrepreneurial skills
Last summer two of my kids wanted to attend a summer music camp. It’s pretty expensive, and I knew they’d never be able to earn the entire amount on their own, so we offered to pay half if they could each come up with the other half.
Both kids were too young to get paying jobs, so they started a window-washing company. They advertised their services on a couple of local facebook pages. They then researched the best glass-cleaning-recipes and tools for the job, and offered to wash all of the windows in our house (yay!) in exchange for me loaning them the money to buy supplies and driving them to jobs.
I’m sure people were surprised when a couple of young kids showed up to do the job, but I received lots of compliments on their fantastic work. A large reception center hired them to wash windows and they had to figure out ladders and scaffolding. That took innovation!
Their business paid for music camp last summer and has helped them to pursue other opportunities, too. Not only have they learned to innovate and be creative, but I’m sure they were far more grateful to attend the camp than the kids whose parents paid the entire amount.
Your child will learn gratitude
Do you want your children to be grateful? Give them less. Don’t pay them for chores, give them less stuff, and don’t give them an allowance. It’s ridiculous, really. The very word “allowance” implies that a child is entitled to money just for living and breathing.
It’s natural to take the good things in life for granted when they materialize without effort. Most modern parents are so focused on what their kids want that they lose perspective about what they really need. When kids are given everything they want on demand it’s natural for them to feel entitled instead of grateful.
Helping with household chores and family work projects will help kids understand the monumental effort that goes into these things. Hard work is the antidote to entitlement.
Kids will learn to be motivated intrinsically
Intrinsic motivation (being motivated internally) is much more powerful than extrinsic motivation (doing something for a reward). I took oil painting lessons from an intelligent man who always used to warn us about the dangers of ‘painting for bread’. What he meant was that painting was much more enjoyable when we chose our own subject and painted according to our own preferences and desires (intrinsic motivation) than when we accepted a job or commission from someone and were merely painting for money (extrinsic motivation).
Last week we planted our garden. The beds needed lots of attention before we could even plant. We had to remove all of the weeds (big job!) and install the irrigation system, and then we planted. My kids have been checking daily for signs of growth. This morning the onions popped their little green spears above the soil, and you’d have thought it was Christmas!
Two summers ago, my oldest son helped me install a flagstone pathway. He lives away at college now, but when he visits, he frequently stands at the pathway and basks in the fruits of his labor.
Work is naturally a perfect intrinsic motivator, because there are always the fruits of the labors to enjoy.
Your kids will get a taste of real life
It won’t be long before your child leaves your home. At least, we hope they won’t live in our basements for all eternity, right? Who will pay them to do laundry and wash dishes then? Nobody, and that’s real life. The reward for cleaning a house is that you get to live in a clean house.
Chores that benefit the entire family should be shared by the entire family.
I always tell my kids that I am not planning to eat the entire dinner, I should not have to prepare the entire thing, nor clean up the entire thing. We all benefit, so we all contribute.
It’s imperative that kids understand the effort that goes into meal preparation and cleanup as well as keeping the house tidy and in good repair. Today I repaired my lawnmower. The carburetor was gummed up, so it kept dying. I hate smelling like gas and oil, and I hate grimy fingernails. But my choice was to fork over a hundred dollars to a repairman or do it myself. Or I guess I could have let my lawn become a jungle. (I have to add that my kids helped me and now understand the function of a carburetor and how a ratcheting socket wrench works.)
That’s life. We do tough things that we don’t love (washing dishes) or else we live with the consequences (no clean dishes and a messy kitchen). Kids need to understand that.
Kids do need to learn the relationship between work and pay
Now let me clarify something. I’m not opposed to paying my kids for EXTRA work. Just because paying kids for everyday chores is detrimental to their financial IQ doesn’t mean parents can’t still provide their kids with other opportunities to earn money. After all, it is our responsibility to teach them financial literacy.
When my 8-year-old wanted a new bike, he knew better than to ask me to buy him one. So instead, he asked for extra chores to earn the money to buy one. You’d better believe he earned it, though! And he takes great care of it.
One of the best lessons you can teach your kids is by making sure they actually earn the money. Easy come, easy go. 70% of lottery winners end up bankrupt.
If you decide to pay your kids for extra chores, make sure the chores are in a addition to, and well above and beyond the normal. In other words, really hard. Because they need to learn grit and determination along with the satisfaction and confidence that accompany a difficult job well done.
Using hard-earned cash to learn to save, invest and spend wisely will be much more meaningful to your children than using gifts or allowance.
Your kids are growing up in a crazy world where child labor laws have turned centuries of wisdom upside-down. Children used to be valuable assets, kept home from school during the harvest to help the family. They are now, unfortunately, pampered consumers whose ‘needs’ eclipse the rest of the families and who often have the final say in how things run. Parents sacrifice their own lives and well-being trying to guarantee Junior’s perfection.
We parents have to conscientiously combat the deceptive and destructive ideas society tries to foist upon our children, or they will be incapable of providing for themselves, let alone their future families.
Pin me for later!