Is it appropriate to pay school-aged children for doing household chores?

Question:
We’re wondering if it’s appropriate to pay our school-aged children for doing household chores. When I was growing up I always received an allowance, but my spouse says that kids need to work without being paid because that’s part of being a family. What do you think?

Answer:
There’s no right or wrong answer. Some parents give an allowance, others reward for individual chores, and others don’t pay anything but give their children money for purchases based on their overall attitude and helpfulness.

Whatever the chosen system, one of the major goals is to prepare your children to live in the “real world” – the world of work, taxes and investments. In that world nobody is going to pay them for making their beds or taking out the trash. On the other hand, they will be paid for things like managing a group of employees, repairing someone’s car, or selling a pair of shoes to a very demanding customer.

With that in mind, here’s what we suggest. Kids ought to perform certain tasks around the house simply because they are part of the family. This could include jobs such as cleaning their room, picking up their toys, helping to prepare meals, washing their own clothes, and taking out the trash.

On the other hand, it’s fine to pay children for chores that demand more time and energy – contributions to the life of the household that “go beyond the call of duty.” This comprises activities like mowing the lawn, washing the car, or, in the case of a responsible teenager, babysitting a younger sibling.

For younger kids, it can be helpful to write down the steps of a particular chore, including a realistic deadline for finishing the job and how much they can expect to earn if the work is done well. With teenagers, parents might draw up a more adult-oriented contract, allowing the choice to work for certain privileges instead of money. Whether it’s a regular responsibility or a chore that earns a paycheck, it’s important to clearly communicate the time-frame and quality expected.

Helping children learn how to give, save, and spend their money wisely is just as important as teaching them how to earn it. If you need more resources and further support, please contact Focus on the Family Singapore.

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Copyright © 2010, Focus on the Family. Used with permission from Focus on the Family Singapore (www.family.org.sg), a local charity dedicated to helping families thrive through differentiated programmes, trusted resources and family counselling.

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