Paying Kids For Doing Chores

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For many households, detailed schedules and reward systems are not only necessary to keep the family on track but also kids pitching in from a young age. However, growing up, my house was missing the elaborate chore charts — and the weekly payout that came with them.

While my friends received weekly “allowances” for completing their chores, my siblings and I had to do the work without the pay. If we wanted to save up for something, we could earn money by helping out with “extra” projects or chores, but we were never paid for daily responsibilities like emptying the dishwasher, setting the table, or sweeping the floor. My parents had very clear beliefs that, just like the adults, children should contribute to the household without being rewarded for something that they are expected to do.

Although my mom’s antichore payment stance felt brutal at the time, it ended up having a lasting impact on how I now view work, finances, and responsibilities. Monetary incentives can be an effective way to motivate kids to help out, but it just fixes a short-term problem instead of necessarily setting them up for success later in life. This is why parents should separate chores from allowance instead of paying kids each week for doing what they already should be.

  1. It sends the wrong message. By paying kids to do daily tasks, like brushing their teeth, making their bed, or helping with dinner, you’re teaching your child that everything they do in life should come with a reward. Instead of learning how to be a team player or helping out from a sense of obligation, responsibility, or altruism, their efforts are now incentive-based and always with an ulterior (ahem, monetary) motive.
  2. It makes chores an option. When you set up this system with kids, you’re agreeing to pay them if they complete certain tasks. This is great when kids want money, but it gives them the power to opt out of those necessary responsibilities (like walking the dog) if they aren’t eager for cash that week. Essentially, getting paid is a weekly or monthly bribe and a repeatedly missed opportunity to teach kids responsibility.
  3. It warps expectations. When you start consistently paying kids for chores and not just when they take on additional responsibilities, it teaches them to always do something with the expectation of getting something in return. This can set kids up to enter adulthood with a sense of entitlement and belief that they should always get that promotion or raise just for meeting the minimum requirements.
  4. It can promote micromanaging and dependence. Oftentimes, paying kids for chores requires some version of a weekly checklist as well as oversight that they completed each task. This means that instead of kids taking initiative to do what needs to be done independently, they are managed by mom or dad and start to rely on their praise (or compensation) for each task they complete.
  5. It muddles allowance and chores. An allowance can be a useful tool to teach kids how to use money and budget responsibly. However, when the payouts are attached to chores, it confuses the lesson and becomes something that they deserve. The focus can morph from learning to save and establish a bank account to this is money they are now “entitled to” and they can do whatever they want with it instead. Even if it is a tight month and parents don’t have extra cash, that shouldn’t excuse kids from contributing to the household.