Teaching our children how to use money is one of the most important jobs we have as parents and the issue of paying for chores or not will play an important role in the way your child will view money as an adult.
So, do you pay your children to do chores around the house (or did your parents do it with you)? I’m not referring to chores as part of an allowance (though that could be part of it) but rather direct pay for certain jobs.
I hear arguments all the time from both sides, so let’s take a look at the pros and cons:
Paying them connects money and work. Since most kids will grow up to be working adults, the sooner the money/work connection is established the quicker and stronger it will take root. In a real way, you’re preparing kids for the adult economy when they get paid for the work they do. Once they make that connection, they can take it as far as they like.
They have their own money to manage. This isn’t to imply that a child can’t develop the ability to manage their money if it comes in the form of gifts or allowances, only that they may have a stronger desire to properly manage money that they have to earned through effort and time invested. Earned money has a way of feeling more real, and as such the desire to manage it well is stronger.
It gives them an opportunity to make money to pay for what they want. If a child can earn money, they can earn money to pay for what they want. They can connect X amount of money being earned through Y amount of effort. If they can do that, they may even decide that what it is they want to buy isn’t worth the effort. At that point, a child is beginning to make adult-type money decisions, otherwise known as compromises! You can’t have all the candy in the store, so you need to begin making choices. Sometimes the choice will be to NOT buy something. If they have to earn the money they spend, the choices will be more acute.
It might even make them eager to do chores. Since chores will carry a reward, you probably won’t have to argue to get your children to do them. You may not even have to tell them what needs to be done, and eventually they’ll start looking for work to do.
As members of the family they have to contribute. There’s a line between getting paid to do chores and making necessary contributions to the family in the form of shared responsibility. If a child is paid for everything, they could come to a point of refusing to do anything unless they’re paid to do it.
Paying them discourages just plain helping out. This is an even more extreme version of the last point. Sometimes they just need to help out like helping to unload groceries, straightening up a room before company arrives or stepping up to pitch in when a family member is ill. All of those are part of the normal function in any household and not anything that should automatically require some form of payment.
They’ll start attaching a monetary value to everything they do. In life there are jobs that need to be done that no one will be paid for. Anyone who runs a household can come up with a long list of such jobs. Some, like cleaning the house or mowing the lawn, might be paid chores. But routine family work (setting and clearing the dinner table, cleaning their own rooms and taking care of family pets) are more like living requirements than paid jobs. A monetary value can’t be assigned to every type of chore a child might do, and they have to understand the difference.
It can prepare them for lean times. A child who is expected to do certain jobs around the home without being paid to do them might be better prepared for an adult life when money is tight. For example, if a child later faces unemployment in adult life he may be more prepared to do what needs to be done simply because that’s what he’s always done without expectation of monetary reward.
The Best Course
A balanced approach is the best course of action. A child should be expected to do certain chores without compensation, such as emptying the trash, cleaning their own rooms or helping out with dinner. Other chores (those you might pay an outsider to do) are the ones where payment enters the picture.
If you asked a stranger to cut your lawn, trim your hedges or clean your garage, you’d have to pay them to do it. The same is true of shampooing your carpets or cleaning the bathrooms. If a child performs these tasks, they’re either a) saving you money you’d have to pay an outsider, or b) preventing you from having to do the job yourself.
Where you draw the line is up to you, but don’t take it lightly and be consistant. Your child’s financial development depends on it.
How do you handle this with your own children or how did your parents handle it with you?