Should I pay for chores or give an allowance?

March 28th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 17 comments

 

As my children help with chores around the house, should I reward them for the work done or give an allowance instead?

Thanks,

Doland B.

Answer: 

Dear Doland,

Ask ten parents this question and you will likely receive ten different  answers. Ask one parent at ten different times in his or her children’s life and you will likely receive different answers as well. Enter the words, “Should I pay my child to do chores?” into a search engine and many discussions of allowances will come up as well.

We actually don’t have a horse in this race. We think the important thing is to realize that whatever decisions about finances you make teaches your children some moral message so it is worth your while trying to focus on what messages about family, work and money you want to convey to your child. In our opinion, these should include:

  1. Every member of a family contributes to the functioning and success of that group. Parents and children both fulfill responsibilities because that is what people in a loving group do.  Depending on the children’s ages, make sure they understand that parents don’t just get to do whatever they want either.  Everyone plays a role. The reward is intrinsic. Normal cooperation in keeping the house running, cleaning up after oneself and helping other members of the family are standard and expected behaviors. In the Lord’s language the word for ‘family’ actually means ‘we each serve one another.’
  2. In society money is a medium for gauging how well you are supplying the needs and desires of people. Whichever system you use, you should still encourage a child look for ways to earn money, whether at home or in the neighborhood This means that the child has the option to seek, accept or turn down these jobs and sees the connection between work and having money.
  3. It is important to learn how to manage money including the experience of giving charity, saving, and balancing short and long term desires.
  4. Money mistakes are best made in a safe environment at a young age.

Neither allowances nor money for chores should become a constant source of contention.  The bribe and threat method of parenting is a poor one.  If you find yourself frequently saying things like, “Pick up your toys and I’ll give you a cookie,” or, “If you don’t vacuum you won’t get your allowance,” something is off kilter.

You don’t have to swear fealty to one method; most likely you will adjust whatever you’re doing as time passes and according to specific children’s ages and temperaments. Whichever approach you adopt, try to avoid it appearing capricious. The system that decrees how much they get should be transparent and be treated like a contract.  For instance, if you tell the child she’ll get $3 a week for taking out the trash, and she subsequently misbehaves in some other area,  you can’t punish her by withholding her $3.  You need to find another consequence for her misbehavior.  If you want to institute a system of financial fines for certain behavior, this has to be predefined. You can’t just impose a fine when you can’t think of another response.

Again, depending on age, there are very good financial resources for teaching children about money. Check out our friend, Dave Ramsey.

Like so many aspects of raising children, the work of picturing what you hope to see years down the road helps you make decisions in the present.

Enjoy the journey,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

 

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17 comments

Brian Tucker says:

Growing up I usually got an allowance. However I also had chores to do. If I failed to do those chores there were other consequences, such as not being allowed go with my friends. It didn’t make any difference what the event or activity it was Brian stayed home. I loved my parents and they loved me but Mom & Dad were always the boss we weren’t buddies.

Susan Lapin says:

Sounds like it was as it should be, Brian.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Hello Brian–
I’m with Susan; sounds you were raised with the right values. Are you a father now? Are you or would you apply the same principles in raising your own children?
Thanks for writing.
Cordially
RDL

Rodrigo says:

I can’t talk as a parent, but a son, it is great to have a weekly schedule , with tasks , each one with a price tag.
The total amount, including a 15% bonus for completing all the tasks should be equal to the maximum allowance you would give to your child.
Can you imagine a best way to learn how to achieve goals?
I use this very system on my self , to motivate myself for doing house and maintenance chores and even sales tasks like prospecting or even to get motivated for exercising myself , you know, that kind of jobs where results depend on you creating inputs and the outcomes are related on other factors that are not under your direct control.
Allowances can create entitlement and destroy motivation.
Another idea is to link tasks to pleasurable activities, for example, of you do this you can take guitar lessons/go to that trip…
This is a very interesting subject !

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Rodrigo–
there are only a few ways to gain another person’s cooperation. A gun is one way. Money is another. Which is better? Not hard to see the right answer.
Anything which reproduces within a family, how the world properly works outside the family is good child raising. You are not preparing a child for a happy adulthood if you train the child to throw a temper tantrum until she gets whatever it is she wants.
So clearly we do agree with you that an allowance pegged to no performance standards is not a good idea. It does resemble an entitlement as you say.
Cordially
RDL

Rodrigo says:

by the way, sorry for the typos, I am writing from my phone and didn’t see them
Thank you !

Celeste says:

We have tried allowances in various ways, for various things over the years, but our children didn’t seem to care whether they earned money or not. Relatives tend to spoil them (we are a blended family of nine) so having spending money didn’t interest them. It was exasperating. We eventually gave up on paying out allowance.

Now that they’re older and a few have jobs, we’ve started *fining* them for behavior they wouldn’t change, no matter how many times we scolded. Even though they complain that it’s horribly unfair for parents to take money from their children (I’m talking about only $1-$2.50 per a handful of infractions, so they’d never be out more than maybe $5 per week) and even though they say their friends are shocked that parents would do such a thing, it works beautifully! They do NOT like owing me money, so they’re more cooperative than ever. Why didn’t I think of this sooner??

But I told them that as a parent, I don’t want or need their money. All I really want is obedience. So if hitting their pocketbook is the way to get the desired behavior from them, so be it!

We have weekly family meetings and announce what we expect. The rules are clear beforehand, and it is within their power to never owe a dime in fines. They simply obey the laws of our home and they keep their cash.

I’m glad to know I’m not the only parent who thought of this. In spite of the great results, I confess I’ve doubted myself because of the criticism of my teens, their friends, and even my own best friend, who won’t try this no matter how exasperated her teen sons make her, because fining teens is likely to be perceived as too mean.

Susan Lapin says:

That is a new one on us – the idea that fining a teen is too ‘mean’. I think we would say that not having consequences for misbehavior is mean. In the real world, you can lose a promotion, get fired, and have all sorts of consequences for not fulfilling your obligations.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Hello Celeste and Susan–
My $0.02 worth is that many parents have been so successfully indoctrinated to feel that money is somehow tainted or morally impaired that they feel ‘using’ it as a medium of family understanding tarnishes their relationship with their kids. We know a couple whose daughter is following a path that could hardly be more contrary to their wishes, yet they continue to fund her lifestyle entirely. They could not conceive of withholding their financial support pending her renouncing her choices.
Similarly, I think perhaps some of Celeste’s acquaintances may be feeling similar but utterly unwarranted unease at her comfortably incorporating financial consequences within her family relationships. Which of course accurately echoes the real world and how can that be anything but excellent education and child raising.
Cordially
RDL

Jeremy_R says:

During my childhood, I do not recall learning how to handle money from my parents. Instead, the family finances were more a source of angst and argument than anything else. As a result, I didn’t really understand the benefit of charity and dangers of debt until into my late thirties.

My wife and I have taken a more direct route to teaching our daughters how to handle their money. We do not pay for household chores because everyone needs to contribute to keeping the ship running, so to speak. We will pay for activities beyond “normal expectation.” For example, when my 11-year-old mows the lawn, I pay her $10. However, of those earnings, we require her to donate 20% to a worthy charity, deposit 30% into savings, and then keep the remaining 50% for herself. We hope this will instill the habit of living well below her means, investing financially in the work of HaShem through giving, and saving money for future use.

Right now, this seems to be working well, and I only wish someone had taught me this lesson when I was her age.

Susan Lapin says:

Being a parent forces us to assess what we want to replicate from our childhood and what we want to change. It sounds to me like you have a very good system in place and your children may very well keep that when it is their turn to be parents. I am curious how you came up with 20% for charity. We used to have a similar system in place, but we went with 10%.

H says:

Dear sir and madam Lapin,

First of all I think a reward is a great idea.

Second, this is off topic. I have been on a podcast marathon because a) you are both hilarious and informative simultaneously, I chuckle all the way through every podcast, and b) you are incredibly articulate and your choice of words coupled with Biblical insight is unique, I haven’t found anyone like you on the internet to this day.

Your podcasts are refreshingly non politically correct. Now, I am east african. So of course there are points I disagree on with you as far as the shenanigans of colonialists in my native continent are concerned. The rapes, massacres, shameless theft and import of weapons and just destroying the continent is a terrible sin which God will judge those for who do this yet justify themselves.

Now why am I still inspired by you. Well, by your standards, my country is run by high class people, who build dams, fight crime, focus on education, public health and have christian values, this makes my country an anomality in east-Africa. Yet we are demonized. It makes perfect sense listening to your podcasts because my native countries government seeks independence without a handout and this to the anger of western countries who want a buffoon who takes a bribe and lets their people be raped and robbed by ”the peace corps” while the ruling class is sitting in a mansion and counting their money.

You are right about other african nations thinking only short term. But please do not call all African nations the same.

An injustice anywhere is an injustice anywhere. What the whole world is doing now, trying to destroy Israel, is a sin which The Maschiach will punish these raging nations for. And then also in the great White Throne Judgement, the sins against the poor of the world, who are enslaved to this day in African chocolate and fishing farms, on Kazakh cotton farms, in Indian child brothels and so on will be revealed to the whole world. The west is not as wonderful as you portray it to be, the west has caused war and bloodshed all over the world. The only good thing is has done is spreading the Bible in alot of remote places. By the way not in my country, we were christians before they were.
Which brings me to what you said about a society has peace if christian values rule, this is the case in my country. Which is why there is no total chaos there.

Also it really hurt that you did not call apartheid evil, really? Come on, also you said that Kenya was better when the english were there. Really? Come on sir, all the killing, torture, rape and just all the terrible things they did, you are going to sit here and pretend that the buildings and roads justify that? Sir the english have a very bad name in all the countries they occupied, seperating people by color and so ripping apart families in South-Africa? The Germans who killed thousands of people in Namibia? Namibia is a place where alot of blacks live in poverty. And that has nothing to do with the whites dividing the land amongst one another? Come on sir. With all due respect. There is blood on western hands.

Anyway, as far as my life is concerned, you inspire me to take charge of my life and make the best of it. I hope you will look into the atrocities committed by the west to africans a bit more. We dont sit here and deny the holocaust, or the evils committed to Yisrael right, so please dont deny what is done to Africa, it is very hurtful. I defend Israel daily and I defend jews and judaism. Even though I am not jewish. So please dont look down on us.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear H–
I wish I could address you by name in respect of the beautiful and expressive letter you wrote. Thank you.
Of course I do acknowledge the cruelty inflicted by colonial powers upon Africans; my podcast addressed specifically the good done by British missionaries. Regarding the cruelty of many of the British administrators, it was horrible. In fact the British invented concentration camps they used against white South Africans during the Boer War early in the 20th century. British cruelty against the Irish during the “Troubles” was legendary as well as against the Jews during the British mandate in Israel prior to 1948. But the missionaries were mostly very good men and the effect of their work is seen until this day. Having lived in South Africa during the Apartheid years, I knew of its evil obviously and have often spoken of it. What bothers me is that nobody, including you in your lovely letter, ever addresses the hideous brutality of Africans against other Africans. When Hutus massacred a million Tutsis there were no white men involved. Again and again this has been played out–howls of deserved outrage when white men oppressed black men, but deafening silence when black men, such as Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Idi Amin in Uganda, Charles Taylor in Liberia, and countless others tortured and killed enormous numbers of their black political opponents. I truly believe that only a man’s beliefs, behavior and values matter, not the color of his skin and I am not willing to turn a blind eye when black hands commit the same evil I condemn so vigorously when committed by white.
I wonder in which East African country you live? I have traveled extensively through much of Africa; having ridden my motorcycle as a boy in 1969 from Johannesburg up to the Congo visiting dozens of countries along the way including Kenya which I loved.
I am truly grateful to for listening to the podcast and for writing me. I wonder if you’d also enjoy our TV show? It can be seen here anytime http://www.tct.tv/watch-tct/on-demand-ajw
Wishing you everything of the best,
Cordially
RDL

H- says:

Dear sir Lapin,

I want to thank you for your heartfelt reply. I am glad to read that you adressed the administrators, actually I didn’t even know that they also did these horrible things in Israel when it was under their rule, but also against many others, I shudder with disgust at this revelation, may God not forget this sin.

I agree on the missionaries being good people, they are very brave for going to these remote places and doing what God has commanded Christians to do. May their good acts be remembered. I still have to mark the podcasts I have not yet listened to, I hope I there is alot left, though I doubt it.

I can’t imagine living in Africa and riding a motor cycle, that sounds fabulous. I am very glad to read you enjoyed your time in Africa. I hope God will one day unite all people and I hope for the Day that God’s knowledge fills the entire earth. I share your contempt for the rise of barbarians and the spread of their ”culture”.

Sir, I am Eritrean. And actually my Ethiopian neighbours did heinous things just like the British administrators, like kill innocent people including family members of mine, to take our land. Which is why we had to flee to Europe, we are christians, so arab countries are not an option. I am very aware of black thugs, I loathe them even more than foreign opressors because this constant biting of one another has caused them to consume one another. It is so degenerate this mentality of theirs. They only think of their carnal immediate desires.

I focused on adressing European acts because while I agree there is alot of good to them, there is also a very dark side which I felt was left out. And you called Western countries the only civilizations. While they are advanced in many areas. The way they treated their own poor and later those on other continents is hardly worthy of praise. As far as their poor are concerned. The dark age is not that far behind us. Alot of European countries would make it hard on the majority of their people under the feudal system. Alot of people were really poor here for a really long time. I guess the exploitation of the poor in Europe stopped when they found other people to exploit and share the riches with more people. Because the nobility was threatened so many times and killed for living richly like a Marie Antoinette, while most people were almost starving. To avoid the killing of the aristocracy this socialistic system was called to life. There was never this much peace between the mass and the elite historically in Europe, it’s all because of these government handouts and mass entertainment and focus on these sugary fatty fast foods which have the same effect on the brain as drugs.

I grew up in a European country, which is why I also see alot of good in Europe, there are alot of sincere good people here. I couldn’t live in my country because of what Ethiopia was up to. If you could see the progress Eritrea is making today however, you would be proud. Embargos are sanctioned against us unfortunately, which forces people to live in poverty, yet they bravely keep building. People will not sacrifice so much without the presence of christian values. You can walk anywhere safely, like literally what you mentioned in a podcast was the case back in the good days in the USA. You can’t do that in other African countries, what am I saying, not even in many European nations. I am not saying things are perfect, but sir. But I share an interest in history with you. Now can you tell me, is there a country like Eritrea in Africa today, have you seen one like it before? If I wasn’t married to a European man and could make a living there I sure would go. It is not a mess like Togo (I chuckled when you said ”have you been to a library in Togo, it’s a mess”). Now I don’t believe Eritrea is superior. The order and collectivism which can be seen in Eritrea is the result of biblical values.

Anyway as it is, I pray for people in the west to return to The God Whose values have made this continent great and not deny the source of the form of holiness they put on.

I want to thank you again for the wonderful work you make available for so many people. I am going to read Business Secrets from The Bible, which arrived last week. And ofcourse clean my house and car of chametz. I sometimes wonder if Im the only Eritrean keeping Pesach, I sure hope not. I wish you a great Pesach in advance for you and your wonderful family. I am excited to watch your tv show.

Kind regards,

H

P.s.: Sir, your use of language is very inspiring, it reminds me of how happy I felt reading literature in college and just being privileged to have my soul inspired by the wonderful way writers use words to bring stories to life. I am thankful because I feel a happiness to read and learn again that I haven’t felt in my soul in a long time. God is great. I really understand why He loves Ya’akov so much. Through Ya’akov He blesses many, my faith is strengthened and my soul revived. I can not express my gratitude enough to you.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

And we deeply appreciate you listening to and reading our work as well as for taking the time and trouble to write. Thank you also for noticing the work I do on language and communication. Blessings to you in your home and in your work (Deuteronomy 28:6)
Cordially
RDL

Doubly Impressed says:

Wow. I have only recently learned to take the time to read the comments below the always educational Lapin “answer”.
I have just learned so much about another part of the world through the eye-opening, eloquent, and emotional words of “H”.

Susan Lapin says:

We have learned to not look at comments on so many sites because they seem to be the abode of haters. Not so for our site! We get erudite, on topic comments from which we and others can learn.

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