You mean we get paid just for being born? Eli queried.
Me: Yeah, I guess so.
We were talking about allowance. See, the deal at our house is that you get paid cuz you’re in the family, and for no other reason. So every Saturday, we shell out two bucks to each child—no strings attached. Sounds pretty good, I know.
But before you put your name on the (lengthy and very selective) waiting list to be adopted into our family, know this—you will have chores. Lots of chores. Which you can choose to do or not to do, but not really cuz you have to do them cuz you’re in the family. Get it? But whether you do your chores (which you have to do) or not (which is not really an option), you get your allowance cuz you’re in the family. See how this works? Allowance and chores are not related. Near heresy in a capitalist economy, but it works.
The basic philosophy is that each member of the family shares in the family’s money; likewise, each person shares in the family’s work.
It’s a good plan for a number of reasons:
- it promotes the idea of shared family rights and responsibilities
- you avoid the hassle of figuring out how much a child did or didn’t earn that week based on how well the chores were done
- a lot of kids get money as gifts in birthday cards, etc., and so allowance money may not be sufficient incentive to do chores
- teenagers can get better-paying jobs, so unless they have some motivation other than money (e.g. sense of responsibility, respect for you, etc.), they won’t want to do work around the house
- it helps take the battle out of chores—household help is an expectation, everybody participates, and they get a sense of pride in being a contributing and essential member of running the household
- the kids have a modest source of money that they can count on (even if you were out of town or they got sick or had too much homework to get the chores done), so you can teach them all those good money lessons you wish someone had taught you
Also, don’t underestimate what kids are capable of doing. If they CAN do it, they probably SHOULD do it. Even toddlers can have small jobs, like pushing in the chairs around the table or setting napkins next to the plates, etc. And school-age kids can do all kinds of things: dishes, garbage collection, sweeping, vacuuming, shoveling snow…they’re wonderful inventions, these little folks.
So teach them how to do a job, supervise and inspect at the beginning, and then let them handle it. Even if you’re extraordinarily organized and productive and don’t feel like you need the help (do such people really exist??), there are very good reasons to give your kids chores as shown in this excerpt from the WebMD article, Chores for Children by Annie Stuart.
Elizabeth Pantley, author of eight parenting books, including Kid Cooperation: How to Stop Yelling, Nagging, and Pleading and Get Kids to Cooperate, identifies still more benefits to be derived from chores for children:
- Chores are one of the best ways to build a feeling of competence.
- Chores help children understand what needs to be done to run a household.
- Chores establish helpful habits and good attitudes about work.
- Chores teach real-world skills and valuable lessons about life, easing the transition into adulthood.
And who doesn’t want to help their kids learn these things?
In terms of logistics, we use a chores chart, which was kind of a pain to set up initially because it has to be FAIR (argh!), but now it works great, and they can see for themselves what they need to do each day. And that ROCKS. (When they were younger, I used clipart to show the chores.)
When we can, we add extra incentive to tasks, e.g. whoever sets the table gets to decide where everyone sits—a big deal when you have four kids jockeying for a seat next to dad or away from “the worst sister in the universe.”
(At the risk of triggering your gag reflex), we recently instituted “folding parties”—each person sets up his/her territory in front of the TV, while my husband and I go through the giant industrial bin (not kidding, it’s HUGE) of clean laundry and hurtle shirts and underwear at the kids. Everyone then folds his or her own laundry (this did require an initial tutorial). After the TV program is over, the kids carry their clothes up to their room and put it all away (okay, so the putting it away part isn’t exactly happening yet, but we’re getting there). The cool thing is that the kids don’t mind doing it. Seriously. It’s a together thing, I guess. We call it a “party” and they don’t even roll their eyes at us.