Kids and Chores

I remember as a kid being ordered by my dad to “cut the grass.” I naively responded, “how much will I get paid?” My dad proceeded to laugh and then delivered a line that I heard many times growing up, “you get three hots and a cot.” For those who don’t speak Savage-ese, this was my dad’s way of saying, “because you eat and sleep here you WILL cut the grass.”

It is vitally important for you to train your children to be contributing members of the family. This means taking on tasks, or chores if you will, that help maintain the well-being of the home and family.

I often see parents who feel obligated to “pay” their kids for routine chores around the house disguised by the name “allowance.” This is a terrible mistake! This could cause your children to grow up with one of the worst possible conditions, a feeling of entitlement. Making their bed, cleaning their room, mowing the grass, carrying in the groceries, doing laundry, clearing the table, washing dishes, windows, toilets, and more are all part of family life. Assign these duties to your kids with no promise to pay. When they fuss, remind them that you would gladly trade cleaning a toilet if they will pay the mortgage! Remind them that they are a part of a family and therefore MUST contribute. If you follow this, your children will become mature adults that understand the importance of contributing in life and relationships.  If you happen to be in a situation with a teenager or young adult (20-something) in your home, this is even more important. The longer they do not take on adult responsibilities, the further they will be from actually becoming adults – no matter how old they are!

So, when do I give allowance? Great question. Ultimately you are the parent and you have to decide how you will approach this. My objective is to offer a little advice that will help you think through the training component of this issue.

1.   Allowance can teach kids discipline. We must teach kids how to handle money. It is important to learn this lesson when the dollars are small and the risk is low. An income gives kids/teens a chance to learn valuable lessons on giving, saving, and spending. I recommend a simple approach of teaching your kids to direct 10% toward giving (this is the biblical principle of the tithe), 10% saving, 10% investing & 70% spending.

2.   Allowance can teach kids diligence.
There is a relationship between work and income. It is a good idea to attach some earning potential to certain tasks. I was privileged to have a dad who owned his own construction company and could hire me to do clean up to earn extra money. For the average family, I recommend you determine a set of “above and beyond” tasks (things outside of “because you live here” tasks) that you are willing to pay for and offer your kids the job. If they choose to do it, they learn that their work produces income. If they choose not to do it, they learn that no work equals no pay. You can be creative and allow your kids to come up with these tasks. I like this because they begin to develop a vision for applying their effort, creativity, and strengths to improve things in the home, neighborhood or side job.

3.   Allowance can teach kids the reward system
. This one may make some of you squeamish. I think there are ways to reward kids for things that are special accomplishments or things they would not readily do. These could be reading an important biography, making a good grade at school, or eating healthier foods. Please proceed with great caution here. Many parents take this to one of two extremes. The first extreme is creating an overwhelming performance based home where kids constantly feel like failures. The other extreme is to avoid reward altogether and not challenge their children appropriately for their age and stage of life.  

Kids may find an extra measure of motivation to do something if they understand the reward. Be sure it’s attainable or the reward system can crush under-performers and leave them terribly discouraged.

I have a friend that awarded his children $1 for every A on their report card multiplied by their current grade in school. So, a third grader with five A’s would receive $15. This is not so different than the adult market place that might reward a salesman for reaching his monthly quota of sales and a bonus for going beyond the quota. Use common sense; not all children are as strong in the same areas. If your child is not an A-student, choose another avenue to establish and teach a healthy reward system.

I remember cleaning out houses for my dad and getting a bonus if I cleaned up the entire job site within a certain time frame. The boss (dad) created a reward. If I worked hard and produced something of value, I received the reward. Other ideas might include: Reading certain books, memorizing a set of Bible verses, staying off of junk food, or saving a certain amount of money. Kids need to learn that extra effort is rewarded.  

Final caution: Never associate love or acceptance with the monetary reward. This is a good way to ensure you stay out of the ditches on this issue.   There is no doubt this is something every parent will face in his or her 7000 Day journey of parenting.

I recently ran across a wonderful online resource to help you keep up with the tasks, allowances, and rewards you are giving your kids. This is especially important if you have multiple kids and need some way to keep up with this important process. Please take some time to check out I set up my account just last week and love the parental controls and the kid friendly interface to keep my kids involved as well.  

Please post your comments here!

Posted by Andy Savage at 10:08 AM
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