As my children help with chores around the house, should I reward them for the work done or give an allowance instead?
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:
- 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.’
- 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.
- It is important to learn how to manage money including the experience of giving charity, saving, and balancing short and long term desires.
- 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