Should you pay your kids to do chores?

Sean LaPointe explores whether parents should pay kids for household chores.

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When it comes to household chores, there is no doubt that paying kids can be a powerful incentive that motivates them to get things done. But should you do it?

The pros and cons of paying kids to do chores

Paying kids to do chores teaches them how the process of earning money works in the real world. It can also help them achieve a long-term savings goal in addition to fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in them.

At the same time, it can be argued that kids should not be paid and should instead complete their chores for nothing as a way of contributing to the family. When you make a habit of paying your kids to do chores, you might end up raising a bunch of little mercenaries who demand payment for every little task asked of them. Imagine asking your 7-year-old to help you unload groceries from the shopping bag or carry dirty dishes to the sink, only for him to ask you to pay him first!

So, what is the ultimate solution to this conundrum? Should you just say no to paying your kids for household chores?

Personally, I am of the opinion that you can create a workable system comprised of specific rules that ensures that while kids are paid to complete chores, the action does not send the wrong message or result in a situation where kids demand wages for even the most basic of chores around the house.

These are a few key rules I believe can make this system work.

Don’t pay kids for chores until they are old enough to manage the money

At what age should you start paying your child for doing chores? There are no hard and fast rules here, but there are several signs you can look out for to determine whether your kid is responsible enough to manage their own money.

If your kid is beginning to recognise that money is needed to buy things, it shows they are making connections between the things they would like and the money they will need to get them. They will then show a greater understanding of the link between the chores they do and the value of the money they receive in return.

You may notice them comparing the amount of money they have to the cost of things they’d like. Young kids are notoriously poor at planning ahead and often spend all of the money they receive without any thought of how best to use it. Once your child starts showing a little restraint and greater understanding of the fact that saving their money helps them buy more expensive things, they’re showing signs that they’re ready to manage their own money. At this point, you might seriously consider paying them for the chores they do.

This then raises the question of just how much you should pay your kid to do chores. Here, you might need to be a little creative. I suggest you use a system comprised of figures related to your kid’s age. For example, you could pay them an amount that is equal to half their age. If your kid is 6 years old, you might pay £3 for every selected chore or task that is completed. You can increase the wages as the kid advances in age. Such a system will be quite easy to manage because of its simplicity.

Attach payments to specific spending responsibilities or expenses

Paying kids to complete their chores can be an excellent opportunity for you to teach them how to manage money. One way of doing this is tying your kids’ payments to specific expenses. This can include paying for their own cinema tickets, for outdoor activities with friends or for video games.

So, how do you decide the specific spending responsibilities for your kids? For very young children, you can start small by picking the things they like spending their money on most. Young kids love items such as crayons and toy cars. You can start with these by requiring them to pay for their own crayons or toys using the money they have earned from doing chores.

As they grow older and become accustomed to using their payments to make purchases, you can increase the payment for certain chores and, at the same time, increase the magnitude of their assigned spending responsibilities or the specific expenses that they are expected to cover. An example for older kids is requiring them to pay for their own snacks after school or for certain clothing items.

Only specific chores done to your full satisfaction get a payment

Here are some things that I think parents should never consider paying their children to do: being courteous, respecting others, personal hygiene (such as brushing their teeth, combing their hair or taking a bath), cleaning their room, completing their homework, eating and going to school. 

So, why should kids not be paid for these? These are not chores but responsibilities that every kid should learn. Through these responsibilities, kids acquire extremely valuable skills that will serve them well as they grow up. If a monetary incentive is attached to them, the skills-gaining aspect becomes secondary. It becomes all about the money. 

My advice is that you create a list of responsibilities that your kids are expected to meet without payment. Making their bed every morning is a responsibility I believe should be at the top of that list.

Additionally, for those chores that warrant payment, set out your expectations and only pay if  the chores are done to your full satisfaction. If the kids fail to meet your expectations, then their payment can take a hit or be redacted completely. This will teach them the importance of honest and satisfactory work. 

Key takeaway

The main danger of paying kids to complete chores is that it can turn them into money-grubbers who cannot accomplish little tasks or provide help with basic household activities without demanding to be paid. However, by creating a system of paying for chores that is based on the rules described above, you can avoid this outcome and instead raise personally and financially responsible kids who not only appreciate the value of money but also take pride in the work they do.

With that said, there is a situation where you might be in favour of paying kids for chores but you are not entirely comfortable with handing them hard cash. Here, a great alternative would be taking the money that you would have paid the kids, possibly supplementing it and then setting up a stocks and shares ISA for them. By the time they are fully grown, these stocks or shares might have grown by several percentage points, yielding great returns. Your kids will undoubtedly thank you for that in the long run.

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