Parenting discussion: Should children earn money for chores?

There is no right and wrong when it comes to giving a child cash for chores. Each family must evaluate their own situation and do what is best for them.
It is never too early to begin teaching a child a sense of responsibility. Even preschoolers can be taught personal responsibilities, such as learning to pick up toys when they are done with them. They can also begin learning family responsibilities, such as setting a table or sorting the laundry. Giving a child chores from an early age can help encourage them to become self-reliant individuals, and to work as part of a team. In this case, the team is the family, and learning early to pitch in promotes good citizenship. There is a debate, however, as to whether offering financial rewards for these chores will aid these lessons, or nullify them.

One school of thought feels that paying children for chores is a perfectly acceptable practice. Paying children for doing their household jobs reflects the adult world for which they are being prepared. Parents don’t get anything for free. Their home, automobile, and any necessities or luxuries they may have are the result of their own hard work. Children can learn from this example that they, too, will receive what they earn. If they learn to uphold their responsibilities, they receive compensation. If they fail to do their jobs or meet minimum standards, they will not receive anything in return.

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Parenting discussion: Should children earn money for chores?

Another benefit to this model, some parents feel, is that money, and the things that money can buy, is a strong motivator. Children are more likely to tow the line if they realize they will be rewarded for their efforts. Encouraging children to work for what they want instills the basic values that will set them on a proper path for life.
Another school of thought, however, could not disagree more with paying cash for chores. The concern is that problems can arise when responsibility is tied to monetary rewards. Children may do as little as they can get away with doing in order to get paid. They may even shirk responsibilities all together if they don’t need the money, or don’t feel the money is worth the job at hand. Another worry is that offering children cash for chores may, in their eyes, devalue any work that does not come with outright financial compensation. For example, being a stay at home parent is probably the most important and rewarding job an individual might do in their lives; but to a child who is taught that money is the sole goal for working, it might not be seen as important or respectable as working at an office because the parent does not get a paycheck every week. Also, charity work may be seen as unworthy because children may turn their backs on any work in which nothing is in it for them.

No one disputes that it is very important to give a child an allowance so that they will learn to manage money and be prepared to make wiser financial decisions. But by this way of thinking, money and chores should be separate issues. Chores are a necessary part of family life. If everyone pitches in and does their fair share, everyone benefits from a smoothly running household. Children should learn that hard work reaps its own rewards.

There are, of course, ways to marry these two extreme viewpoints. For example, giving a child a few regular chores and a base allowance that does not hinge on the completion of chores, while offering additional money incentives to do extra work when necessary, such as cleaning out the garage or additional babysitting duties for a younger sibling.

No matter which approach you take, the most important element to a successful life lesson is to be consistent with your choice. If a child’s allowance is based on the completion of chores, do not give them the money if they do not complete the chores. Also, do not purchase luxuries for them that they would be paying for themselves had they earned their allowance. On the other hand, if you choose to not offer money for chores, then do not deprive the child of allowance for not completing them; consider taking away other privileges as a form of punishment. For example, if your teenager’s job is to wash the car every week and they don’t do it, don’t let them take it out for recreational activities. Avoid sending mixed messages by sticking to your agreement. If you feel a change is in order, discuss your reasoning with the child and come to a new agreement together.

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