The Truth About Paying Kids for Chores

The Truth About Paying Kids for Chores

Most parents and experts alike agree that children should be given chores. Whether children should be paid for completing chores is hotly debated, however.

Read: Want to Raise Successful Adults? Give Your Kids Chores

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

Don't pay kids to do choresLast 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.

Read: The Saving Nature of Family Work

don't pay kids to do chores

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.

 

 

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19 thoughts on “The Truth About Paying Kids for Chores”

  • My oldest is always saying she wants to start her own business, and she has great ideas. I don’t pay allowance or for chores. Yet, she seems afraid to actually get after it. What can I do to encourage her?

    • She needs to want something really bad! Next time she needs a pair of shoes or something, don’t buy them for her. Instead, when she requests something, have her research the item — learn the cost and read reviews so that she knows exactly what she wants and how much money she needs. Then offer to help her make a plan for obtaining it. Since she already has ideas for her own business, you could just offer suggestions for how to advertise and find customers. Or even better, sit back and just listen to her think up and organize the whole thing. She’ll learn a ton!

      The key ingredient, though, is that she must have an unmet need. She’ll never be motivated to go after it as long as all of her needs are met. And for kids who are naturally non-ambitious, pleasant and happy with very little you have to get really basic. Like don’t buy them shoes or a coat once they’re capable — which is far younger than society thinks!

  • Amy,
    I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s good for kids to pay for some of their belongings. Like you said they appreciate it more and therefore take better care of it. My husband and I don’t exactly see eye to eye on this topic (he would spoil our daughter if he could), but I hope these points will help my argument. Thanks for the awesome post!

    • Absolutely! One thing that has really benefitted my children is to NOT purchase them something they need and let them instead get creative and work hard to purchase it themselves. Thanks for your comment, Tawnya 🙂

  • I don’t have children yet and I’m not sure if I will be paying them to do chores (I’ll have to talk to my husband about it) but I can see both the pros and cons of it. I was never paid for doing chores when I was younger and I feel like it gave me a better work ethic. I never expected a reward for everything I did. You make some great points here. 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

  • I never recieved an allowance as a child. We were given responsibilities that were expectations (I had to clean the bathrooms in our house- I hated it!). But, we also knew that we had everything we needed. As soon as I was old enough, I started looking for ways to make my own money. As a teenager, I bought myself my own computer and a tv for my room. And they were two of the most exciting purchases I ever made!

    • That is pretty impressive! I will never forget my first big purchase — a pair of skis — made with my own hard-earned money. We all definitely appreciate those purchases a whole lot more than if they had been given to us.

  • I totally agree with you on this, kids expecting to get paid everytime they do what they are supposed to do, is not good for their upbringing. I mean, it’s their home they should take care of it without being told or paid

  • I love this and totally agree! I don’t think children should be paid to do chores either, they need to learn how to do things and help out as a contributing member of the family. Great post!

  • This is such a great truth! I never have given my children an allowance. They did their regular chores every day pay free, just like me! LOL.

  • Very interesting! When I was younger I was constantly outside having to do yard work on our 5 acres (that was in the middle of a woods) so we actually had lots of work to do… cutting trees, mowing lawn (which took forever), picking up sticks, gardening, and lots of other things! Me and my sister weren’t ever paid in cash but my parents always provided everything that we needed throughout school and if reasonable, most things that we wanted , which honestly wasn’t a lot. There was a great appreciation between kids and parents in our household because we all knew that we needed each other.

  • I do think it’s easy for kids to not value money, so it’s great that your kids are able to find creative ways to get what they want. I imagine they appreciate it more!

    -Lauren

    • Yep, it’s good to think about while they’re young, because it’s hard to change directions with older kids.

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