Monday, October 27, 2014

Part One of the Allowance Debate: NOT paying your kids for chores

One issue that seems to be hotly contested, is the idea behind paying kids for chores, versus just giving them an allowance.  Kids can start doing chores when they are really young.  And really they SHOULD be doing chores when they are little, because then it is just part of the family culture.  You don't have to suddenly ask them to do these horrible thing - work.  Chores are more than just help around the house.  Chores help kids develop self-worth through work.  Whether they are compensated for those chores influence how they relate to money and work as adults. 

Honestly, let me say I don't think there is a 'wrong' answer to whether or not you pay your kids for chores… but your family's approach to this issue should be intentional and well thought out before hand.

I am going to give you two families that I think did opposite things really well.   I had to break this post up into two parts because it was way too long.  I am going to present about one approach here and the other tomorrow.   

Her Family (Fetch and Tote)

Growing up, my siblings and I had chores that were expected.  My dad jokingly called my sister and me "Fetch" and "Tote".  We got a nickel for every chore we did.  It was cheep back then – I am not that old.  Actually, we could take the nickel or we could get a sticker (so basically we weren't paid for chores).  Every Saturday morning, we a started the day off doing a set routine of chores.  It was the same each week and fairly extensive I think.  Looking at it now it should have taken us about 30 minutes.   We did this as a family and there wasn’t an option of NOT doing it.

We also had to clean up our rooms regularly, take out the trash, clear dishes, unload dishwasher etc. on a daily basis and as I remember it, those were not things we got credit for doing.  I asked my mom about it once and she looked at me with surprise and said

"you are a part of this family are you not?"

Work was not something 'bad' or to be avoided, rather it was just something you did because it needed to be done.   Kind of like taking a bath.  My parents both had Masters Degrees and both chose to work in service related fields - my father for the federal government and my mother as a school nurse.  My family mowed their own lawn, swept the pool themselves, and rarely had a babysitter.  They didn't pay people to do things that they could do themselves.  

As kids, we received an allowance.  This was not tied to any work at all.  We were given an allowance because we were a part of the family and my parents knew we needed a little cash, not because we had 'earned' it.  The allowance was ours to do with as we pleased.  I remember walking to 7-11 with my sister before church and being envious that she still had money to buy smarties.  She would slowly eat those smarties all through Sunday school.  

I got a job at age 15+ and for a while in high school had two jobs.  It wasn't that I needed the money - I just wanted to dress nicely and my meager allowance wasn’t enough to buy nice clothes.  Most of my paychecks went right back to the clothing store where I worked, and I didn’t ever save anything. 

Raising kids with this mentality about work, produced three college educated kids – my little brother who enlisted and served his time for our country before taking a job that gives him lots of free time to do many of his at home work projects, my big sister who worked as a police officer and detective, and is now a full-time, homeschooling mamma of 3, and myself - a PhD trained Full-time mom of four.  

None of us shy away from work,
but we see paid employment as a means to live,
rather than a reflection of who we are.  

Our identity is not caught up in our careers and honestly if we could go back to the days of bartering rather than $$, I think all three of us would want too.  We all have lots of hobbies for which we receive no income, but many of those hobbies would be considered "work" to others - gardening, building, remodeling, cooking, baking, and writing all come to mind.  

Motivation Research 
Why is it that parenting decisions, like to give an allowance or to have them earn the money, can influence so much of you child's later outlook on life ? We can turn to motivation research for a clue.

When people are intrinsically (internally) motivated to do something, rewarding them externally (like with money) can actually take the pleasure out of the task.   If you only require children to do ‘paid’ work, you send the message that there is no reward in actually DOING the work.  Rewarding a child monetarily for a task actually leads them to think that it is more dreadful than they would otherwise think.  

“This is so bad mom had to PAY me to do it” 


“this isn’t so bad – I kind of like organizing 
and having a tidy space in which to play.”

If you are having a hard time motivating your child to do the chores, and you don't want to pay them for it than look for other ways to motivate them.  

For instance, I try (to varying levels of success) to make sure that the TV and video games don't ever go on until chores are completed.  That gives me the chance to say "sure you can watch TV - as soon as you finish your responsibilities".   During the week that is harder since they aren't supposed to have the TV on.  But that mentality helps to encourage the children to take care of responsibilities before they play/relax.  I have even said "gosh I would love to blow off my responsibilities and play with you, but then you wouldn't eat, so we better finish up our duties before we relax".  

In my conversations with my kids, I try not to badmouth work.  That was advice from my mom too.   Work is something that needs to be done, and it can be fun to do it together.  Having it done gives us a chance to relax completely.   

Now for the Work for Money approach (click here)...  

Thanks for stopping by!

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