The other day we went to the grocery store and my 6-year-old daughter Alison brought her purse with her. As I’m loading up the vehicle to go home, she pulled out a $1 bill and offered it to me, to help pay for the groceries.
While the offer was extremely sweet and kind, I didn’t take my daughter’s money.
As the parent, I don’t think it’s my child’s obligation or responsibility to help me pay for food for her and the rest of our family. That’s my and my husband’s job to provide.
This same daughter has also been known to leave pennies or other small amounts of money on neighbor’s porches because she thought they might need the money, because for some reason she thinks they are poor, and she wanted to be kind and share.
It’s sweet. And it’s good, but I realize that my husband and I have not been great about explaining money and finances to our now 6-year-old twin daughters. They have no real understanding of what money is used for and what they should use their own money on.
At Christmas and for their birthdays they’ve received cash from relatives over the years. For a few weeks (I think it was the start of 2016) my husband and I thought we’d be awesome and give our children a weekly allowance, paid out on Sundays, to our children for completing their weekly chores, something like $2/week.
We did it for several weeks, but then we forgot to get cash (since we never carry cash) and it stopped happening, partially because we weren’t sure it was really the best or wisest way to give money to our children.
I mean, should kids get paid for doing chores?
Add in the couple extra dollars they’ve received for losing teeth ($1/tooth), their piggy banks now hold over $40, but they don’t really understand for what purpose.
And honestly, neither do I.
What does a six-year-old need $40 for when her parents provide for all of her needs and many of her wants?
Honestly, I don’t know the answer for sure.
It’s clear to me that chores are extremely valuable in a home. I am fully onboard with kids doing chores, especially after reading articles and books about how doing chores is good for children because they teach:
- The importance of helping others
- Hard work
- How to be productive and manage their time
- Confidence in their own abilities
- A sense of pride in their work
- Awareness of others’ needs
- Delayed gratification
These skills help them do better in school, have better self-esteem, and find more success in their early 20’s as they are able to function independently in the world. Children who participated in household chores when they were small are also more likely to achieve important milestones like getting a degree and starting a career.
Plus, when everyone chips in to help around the house, it also allows room for more family time. Doing chores is a part of family life in our home.
Starting with some regular chores at 3-years old and adding to their responsibilities and expectations every year, our now 6-year old twin daughters have a much longer and harder current list of chores.
Chores for a six-year-old include:
- Clearing their plates from the table and loading them in the dishwasher.
- Unloading the dishwasher.
- Collecting their dirty clothes and bringing their laundry baskets downstairs.
- Folding and sorting their and their younger siblings’ clothes.
- Putting away the folded clothes into drawers and hanging up their shirts.
- Picking up after themselves, including their bedrooms.
- Making their beds.
- Brushing their hair every day.
- Helping to clean their bathroom.
- Bathing themselves.
- Brushing their teeth morning and night.
Other chores and duties they help with but aren’t as “required” are:
- Wiping off the table
- Setting the table for dinner
- Taking out the trash (my 3-year old actually loves doing this one)
- Vacuuming the stairs
- Wiping down the stair railing
Over the years we’ve implemented various chore charts. Some we’ve designed ourselves (like this basic chore chart) or we found a cheap chore pad that we could customize, or we found others online (I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to chores and chore charts if you’re looking for more inspiration).
We’ve offered various incentives and punishments for doing or not doing their chores.
We’ve done rewards charts where they worked toward an experience, like going out with just mom or dad, or going to the park, or getting to go out to the movies, or something extra special. For a few weeks we offered a weekly allowance in association with them completing their chores.
For punishments, it’s more often a “you don’t get to play or watch that thing you really wanted to on the TV of tablet until it’s done.” Sometimes there have been time-outs or other punishments tried. Most punishments are very short-term.
While I agree chores are extremely important in a family unit and for our children long-term, we haven’t exactly known the best motivators for our kids to complete them willingly and quickly, nor have we known if we should be incentivizing their completion or not?
Do they need rewards for doing their part in our home?
Our gut says “No” but our heart often wants to reward.
As I searched for answers, I read this great new book called Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even if You’re Not) by Beth Kobliner. The book is amazing for so many reasons, but especially because it answered my questions of “Should kids get paid to do chores?”, “Should kids receive an allowance?” and “How much should kids receive for an allowance?”, “What should parents pay their kids for?” and “What should kids do with the money they receive?”
Should Kids Get Paid to Do Chores?
According to Kobliner,
It’s a mistake to link chores to money. Unless you’re willing to negotiate each time you want your kid to empty the dishwasher or put his clothes in the hamper, steer clear of systems that pay per chore. Chores should simply be a part of everyday family life. You can pay your kids for jobs above and beyond his usual responsibilties–but that’s work, not allowance.”
I think it’s important to note that she sees chores not as “work” but as an obligation of familial duty, which no one in the family gets paid to do (don’t we all wish as moms that we could?!). But, she really does not believe that chores should be incentivized with cash, and I would assume, other extrinsic rewards either.
Can I say, that I’m relieved to hear that my gut was right on this one? Beth Kobliner is one of the nation’s leading authorities on personal finance for young people, so I’ll take her educated and researched answer on it, and run with it.
Should Kids Receive an Allowance?
Now that I know that my kids should not get paid to do chores, I am left wondering if I should be paying them some money otherwise. I mean, how will they ever learn money management as kids if they never have money to spend or save or give away? How will they learn what is a worthwhile purchase and what is not if they never have to make those decisions themselves?
But, am I as the parent responsible for paying them a regular allowance? And just because they are my kid? Or should money only be given for true “work” that they perform for me?
Thankfully, for a lot of parents, Kobliner says that “It doesn’t really matter whether you give your kids allowance or not” and that as parents we should “do what feels right to you personally when it comes to allowance.”
She goes on to say that it’s fine to give money to your kids if you follow her suggested rules, which are to:
- Be clear, simple, and realistic. Let your child know what the money you give them is to be used for. Have those Save, Spend, and Give jars ready, along with how much of their money goes where (don’t worry, there’s more on this in Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even If You’re Not too).
- Be consistent. Pay on the same day of the week. If you get off a week or two, just get back on track, pay what’s owed, and start again.
- Give control to your kid: let them buy what they what, with a few stipulations of your choosing. But, you, as the parent, control how much they receive.
- Use cash. She doesn’t recommend non-cash payments or debit cards before college. Her reasonings for this are elsewhere in the book.
- Don’t pay them for chores.
She drives home her rule number 5 by further stating:
Linking allowance to chores or other desired behaviors can backfire…. What if your kid thinks it’s worth it to, say, leave his bed unmade or miss curfew and lose $10? You see the problem. Discipline your kid in some other way, and keep the allowance issue separate.”
What Amount of Allowance for Kids is Acceptable?
If you decide to give your child a weekly or monthly allowance, knowing how much to give is the next big hurdle!
Kobliner suggests that when it comes to allowance for kids that you:
- Ask other parents what the “going rate” for allowance is in your area and for various ages.
- Use the rule of thumb of $1 per kid’s age per week, meaning $6 a week for a 6-year old. Adjust as you want from there.
While $520 a year allowance for a 10-year old might seem crazy to some parents, it may depend on how much you make them use their own allowance money, and for what. Chances are you splurge on little things for them all through the year anyway. If they are given this money, they should be responsible and required to purchase all those extras during the year.
If you don’t really want to pay your child a weekly or monthly allowance, for your own personal reasons, there are still some great ways to give them money (outside of holidays and birthdays) that you may find agreeable.
In Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even If You’re Not) Kobliner says:
So you hear me loud and clear that paying for regular chores is out. But you can pay for jobs that fall outside of everyday tasks, particularly if they’re tasks that you might hire someone else to do if your kid didn’t do them.”
She goes on to tell the story of a young girl who was given the job of keeping the yard spick-and-span and took great pride in it. Since landscaping is something people normally hire out, you may consider paying your child to do the job instead because it’s saving you money and time.
Other ideas of ways kids can earn money from their parents are:
- Babysitting younger siblings
- Cleaning out the garage
- Organizing online photos
- Saving energy around the house (give her the savings)
- Painting a room
- Sorting through items in the attic
- Shampooing the carpets
- Mowing the lawn
- Cleaning the pool
- Raking and bagging up leaves
- Shoveling the snow
- Washing the car
How much you give will vary on your finances, your child’s age, the quality of the work, the time spent, how hard it was, and so on. But, when you do pay your kid for work, pay with cash.
What should kids do with the money they receive?
One of my big hurdles with giving my children money, whether via allowance or for work, is creating expectations on how it will be spent.
In her book, Kobliner says that as a parent, you cannot expect your child to develop money management skills if all you’ve given them is money. You have to teach them what to do with it and slowly develop expectations and plans as they age. Thankfully, that’s what her entire book is about – teaching parents how to teach their kids about money.
The book Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even If You’re Not) addresses all sorts of important money issues like investing, savings, paying for college, working in high school, insurance, paying off debt, spending, and more.
I super loved how each chapter has specific instructions on how to start implementing good money practices at whatever age your child is at, whether preschool, elementary, middle school, high school, college, or young adult. Too many books I’ve read are only geared (really) toward a certain age group, or it seems some advice only fits for certain times. But, she really breaks down great practices and implementation for even the youngest budding money users and consumers!
With four young kids, this is very helpful to me. The preschool and elementary sections, especially, are full of “teachable moments” that help me, as the parent, teach my children certain character traits and perspectives that will translate into smart money management later, like strong work ethics, developing self-control, weighing choices carefully, perseverance to work toward distant goals, and having a giving spirit.
Also, all of her information in the investing chapters makes me want to run out and open a Roth IRA or other investment right now!
So, for more great information on making your kid a financial whizz, grab a copy from Barnes and Noble or Amazon. It’s a totally worthwhile investment, no matter what age your child is!
Maybe with the help of this book, your kids will better understand that they don’t have to pay for their own groceries as six-year-olds, or leave pennies for their neighbor friends because they think such an action is being charitable to the “poor.”
Regardless, at least I now know for sure the answer to the question “Should kids get paid for doing chores?” And you do too!
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Make Your Kid A Money Genius (Even If You’re Not).