Compensating Kids for Chores

Is it appropriate to pay our school-aged children for doing household tasks? When I was growing up I always received an allowance, but my spouse says that kids need to work without being paid because that's part of being a family. What do you think?

There’s no right or wrong answer here. Some parents believe in paying an allowance, others pay their kids for individual chores. Still others don’t pay anything at all, but give their children money for purchases based on their overall attitude and helpfulness.

Whatever system you decide to adopt, it’s important to remember that one of your major goals is to prepare your children to live in the “real world” – the world of work, taxes, tithing, and investments. In that world nobody is going to pay them for making their beds or taking out the trash. On the other hand, they will be paid for things like managing a group of employees, tuning up somebody’s car, or selling a pair of shoes to a very demanding customer.

With that in mind, here’s what we suggest. Kids ought to perform certain tasks around the house simply because they are part of the family. This could include jobs such as taking care of their own rooms, picking up their toys, helping to prepare meals, washing their own clothes, and yes, even taking out the trash.

On the other hand, it’s fine to pay children for chores that demand more time and energy – contributions to the life of the household that “go beyond the call of duty.” This list might include activities like mowing the lawn, washing the car, or, in the case of a responsible teenager, babysitting a younger brother or sister for an entire Saturday afternoon.

For younger kids, it can be helpful to write down the steps of a particular chore on an index card, including a realistic deadline for finishing the job and how much they can expect to earn if the work is done to your satisfaction.

Helping kids learn how to tithe, give, save, and spend their money is just as important as teaching them how to earn it. A great resource on this topic is the book Your Kids Can Master Their Money by Ron and Judy Blue and Jeremy White. If you’d like to discuss this topic at greater length with a member of our staff, feel free to contact our Counseling department.



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