Why We Don’t Pay Our Kids To Do Their Chores

My 12-year-old son, Blake, recently invested $150 in the development of skills that will enable him to be a professional graphic animator, possibly by the time he is sixteen. Part of this comes from the fact that we got rid of television in our home a few years ago, which leaves our kids a lot of time to develop artistically. Part of it, in my opinion, has to do with our philosophy on allowance and chores.

Izzy and I do things a bit different from how most other parents do them (no surprise there). We don’t pay our kids for doing their regular jobs:

  • 5 minutes minimum daily bedroom cleaning.
  • Daily bathroom cleaning.
  • Daily vacuuming of the living room.
  • Daily kitchen cleaning after dinner.
  • Dog mess clean-up

We also expect Blake to babysit the kids without pay while we run errands (although we pay him when we go out for fun).

Slave Labor?

I suppose that’s debatable.

We do pay our kids an allowance, but their allowance is in no way tied to their responsibilities around the house. It’s a philosophy I believe in. If they forget to do their jobs they either get a lucky break or they have more to do the next day. But we pay them their allowance.

My Philosophy

It was important to me that my kids never associate their responsibilities with getting paid. They clean because it is their responsibility as a member of the family and a resident of our home. If they ever get to a point where they refuse to clean, they will just lose all of their privileges, like:

  • computer use
  • friend dates
  • desserts or snacks, or any foods not necessary to sustain life
  • clothing that is not necessary to maintain modesty or health
  • toys or fun stuff
  • extra-curricular activities

So far the kids have never refused to clean, and complaints are fairly minimal. They forget a job here and there, but for the most part they just do them. If they forget and get on the computer, they run the risk of losing their computer privilege for the day. Blake often has his jobs done before we are even out of bed in the mornings. The kids understand that they have to do their part. Once their regular jobs are done, they are allowed to perform extra jobs for pay if we can use the help.

Allowance With No Strings Attached

We pay our kids allowance because we want to help them learn to use money. We refuse to pay them to do the things they should do. We have never, ever said they would lose their allowance for any reason. They don’t earn money for good grades or good behavior. They don’t lose their allowance for inappropriate behavior or poor grades.

  • We expect them to be decent human beings because their actions effect others.
  • We insist they get good grades because they are fully capable (or if they were not, we would expect them to get the kind of grades they could reasonably get), and because they will need to get scholarships.
  • We can see they are capable of scholarships, so if they want to go to college, we require them to live up to their abilities and earn one. We have told them a number of times that we will not pay for their college tuition.
  • We expect them to share most all of their belongings with each other. Having their own allowance enables them to buy some things that are truly their own that they do not have to share.

How They Can Spend Their Money

We have a collection jar for the purpose of donating to an organization called, Kiva. Kiva advances micro-loans to individuals in third-world countries who are trying to start or sustain a business. The kids are only allowed to donate a percentage of their money to this cause. We match their donations times 7.

We gave them a cap because:

  • Trinity would give away most of her money and feel guilty about any she kept for herself if we didn’t cap the amount.
  • We like the reverse psychology of telling them they’re limited in how much they can donate.

To help them learn to spend well, we have these rules for how they can spend their money:

  • They have to declare to us their intention of purchasing something. We have the right to tell them no. For example, Blake can only buy one or two video games in a row, and then he has to buy something else before he buys more games.
  • After declaring their intentions to us they have to post those intentions, along with the date, on the fridge.
  • They have to wait 2 weeks after “declaring” before they can actually buy their items. This is the part that gets the most resistance, but they have realized how quickly they change their minds about what they think they want. They’ve also learned from this how seductive advertising sways them to make unwise spontaneous buying decisions. The 2-week requirement forces them to be sure they’re not acting from the gut when it comes to money. Every time they change their mind they see how the two-week wait prevented a poor buying decision.

Once in a while, when there was no real way to plan, we let them make spontaneous purchases.

Responsible People

I love the messages we send our kids every day with our method. As they get older, we see them invest more and more of their time developing their talents and skills. In my (biased) opinion, they’re growing up to be pretty awesome, independent individuals who understand their place in the tribe, as well as how their choices effect themselves and others. They’re very cool people.

17 thoughts on “Why We Don’t Pay Our Kids To Do Their Chores”

  1. Very nice! Great ideas! I also agree with NOT attaching monetary values to what should be “common courtesy” and “simple responsibility.” We all help keep the house clean because we all live here! That’s what I tell my fam. If we each do our little assigned job daily, we don’t have to spend a whole day cleaning. Just a few minutes daily. No big deal. It’s just a part of life.

    Allowances. Yeah, I need to work those into the budget.

    Oh, I also like the two-week waiting period. Brilliant. = )

  2. As I was a kid growing in Brazil I never had allowance and never was paid for things in the house, I don’t know today but I do agree and my mother used to say to me if you leave in under this roof you have to help as well.
    I got kid of shocked of kids being paid here for something is their job as member of the family I totally agree.
    Allowance to me still a strange thought because to me I learned since 17 that money was from my work. Nothing was easy to me. My father would make sacrifices to give sometimes what we’ve asked but to have a actual allowance it was out of concept and my father didn;t have any conditions to do that.
    Money is a concept that is very tricky not just money but what you allow your kids to have, I see my sister that grew up in a life totally different than mine when my father had more money.
    She always studied in private schools and my father drove her to school she never used a bus till going to college.
    And today I see her insecurities and how she is spoiled sometimes.
    I don’t want my kid to be that way. So this is something I have to think long and hard.
    But the 2 week thing is indeed a great idea.

  3. Wow. You know, this is not that far off from how my parents raised my siblings and I. We weren’t paid an for doing chores. You did chores because you were a member of the family and it’s what you did to contribute to keeping the family going. But actually, I never got an allowance. My parents would give us money occasionally to do something fun, but we rarely asked for money. We mostly earned it ourselves with babysitting and stuff.

    I have to tell you, I paraphrased your blog to my husband. It sparked a good discussion on our own thoughts and ideas on allowance. I know our first baby isn’t even being born until July, but these are the sorts of things that we’ll need to be on the same page eventually. I like alot of your ideas. Hope you don’t mind if we borrow a few and eventually use them with our little girl. (Because really….I think kids should get an allowance, and having never gotten one myself, I wasn’t sure how best to manage the process.)

    Extremely thought provoking. 🙂

  4. It sounds like you’re raising children that will grow up to be responsible adults. I’m 26 years old and can learn something from how you’re teaching your children. Keep up the great work. I think I’ll use some of these tips on my own children one day.

  5. That’s how we do it, too (allowance not tied to chores). Though, I hadn’t come up with a great way to get the charity notion across — thanks for the great idea of a jar with a cap! Also, I love this idea of declaring and waiting two weeks — we get a lot of buyer’s remorse around here and I think that would really help. Thanks for the tips, Noell!

    =) Liz

  6. Love this thought. I too needed to be capped with giving in my younger days! Though I’m not sure about whether an allowance is a good idea (pocket money here in Aus) I got a little each week, and we just banked it each term it was still fun and we had heaps of stuff anyhow just from birthdays and christmas pressies.

  7. I like your ideas about allowance. I’ll keep them in mind for when my kids are old enough to receive some money for them to spend.

    How old were the kids when you start to pay them the allowance?

  8. We too share this same philosophy….you are a part of this family, and with that comes responsibilities. I hope and pray that our parenting decisions such as this along with modeling our work ethic will make them hard working, responsible, reliable adults.
    Great post Noell.

  9. Danielle_nl — I think our oldest was probably 9 years old or something? We only paid a tiny bit. We really struggled with the whole allowance thing: whether to pay or not; how much to pay. It was becoming obvious that my son’s friends were getting paid much much more. Finally a year ago we decided we wanted to enable the kids to participate in donating to charitable causes without forcing them to. So we increased their allowance just a tiny bit and told them it was so that they would feel like they had enough to donate if they wanted. We have been shocked that the kids started voluntarily buying each other Christmas and birthday gifts. That was one of the cool results of increasing their allowance.

  10. This is a great post Noell! I never got paid for chores either and like Jana I didn’t get an allowance, it wasn’t a common thing in the Caribbean back then. We did get some spending money for Christmas though. I love the two week wait idea. I should institute that for me! lol

  11. This is great, thanks so much for sharing! This was a good starting point for discussion for my husband and me and I think we’re going to use your two-week rule.

  12. Dude, I asked you and you said, “9 or 10.” And I said, Tthat’s exactly what I was thinking.” This is hilarious.

  13. I love your very purposeful and provident approach to allowance and chores! I love a system that rewards children with the right kinds of things for the right reasons. 🙂

Comments are closed.