Paying for chores – should we or shouldn’t we?

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Kidslox team


How do chores and pocket money work in your house? Are the two related? Begin looking for advice on this question, whether it be online or in person and you quickly start running into some very strong opinions, maybe you feel strongly about it yourself. And it’s an issue worth getting passionate about: the way we teach our children to handle responsibility and finances are two elements of their upbringing that are going to continue impacting their lives for many years to come.

There seem to be three main camps on the issue of whether or not chores should lead to pocket money. They break down like this:

  1. Paying kids to do chores helps them understand you don’t get money for nothing.
  2. Kids should help out around the house without getting paid.
  3. We don’t pay kids for their regular chores, but do offer them money if they go above and beyond.

Let’s take a quick look at all three approaches:

Paying kids to do chores is a good idea

In actual fact this camp also breaks down into a couple of major sub-groups:

In one group, parents who associate each chore with a given sum. Advocates of this system would say that it’s good for teaching the children the value of work and encourages an entrepreneurial view in which if their children want to buy something, they actively seek out opportunities to earn that money themselves. Detractors would argue that this system removes any sense of responsibility; children only do chores in the expectation that they’ll get something in return, but once they grow up no-one’s going to give them money for keeping their room tidy.

In the second group, parents who give their children a weekly or monthly allowance on the condition that all chores are done. In this approach the work is less directly associated with the money, and fans would say that it creates a healthier approach to doing housework as a result. On the other hand, not only does the monetary incentive remain, it becomes more of a punishment than a reward – children potentially feeling that they’re obliged to work in order to keep what’s theirs rather than to earn something.

You shouldn’t pay kids to do chores

I’ve already explained part of the reasoning behind this way of thinking. Parents with this approach might say that paying kids to do chores erodes their sense of duty towards their family and makes them more egotistical and focussed on what they can get out of a situation. In addition quite a few parents who’ve tried paying their kids note that prices have a tendency to rise fast and if you don’t keep up the chores wind up not getting done at all!

Not paying for chores doesn’t necessarily mean not giving any pocket money or allowance at all. Teaching the kids to manage their finances responsibly can still take place, it just becomes detached from whether or not they’ve done their chores. In this approach, chores are usually seen as an essential contribution to the household, which everyone is required to make. Weekly or monthly pocket money is seen as a separate issue altogether.

Shelling out for the big chores

This is very much a middle ground between the two extremes. Advocates of the approach would use arguments from both camps. They don’t want their kids to think that they only need to do work around the house if they’re going to get paid for it, but at the same time they want to encourage an entrepreneurial streak and teach that work has value. The way they do that is by offering to pay for bigger, less regular chores like washing the car.

More than one way

Perhaps it’s disingenuous of me to split the different approaches to chores and pocket money into three distinct groups in this way. In actual fact every household has their own system and in many cases a system will work for a period of time and at some point the boundaries of it’s effectiveness will be reached and it will be time to try something slightly different. Maybe rewarding chores with screen time instead of money. Maybe giving the kids an allowance but requiring them to pay you for chores that you did for them. There seem to be as many different approaches as there are families, so think about what message you want to send, what skills and values you want your child to learn, what you’ll actually be able to implement and try to find the best approach for your specific situation. What system do you have set up in your house at the moment? We’d love to hear how it works in the comments below.