It’s a question that parents all over the world seek to answer: should we pay our children to do chores, or should they just do them anyway?
Different parents have different opinions, and as a parent myself (and after years of talking to parents of young men at Menslink), I have developed my own opinion on the subject.
However, let’s start by looking at what the experts say.
Ron Lieber, an American journalist who writes the “Your money” column for the New York Times, says that parents shouldn’t give money in exchange for chores. His reason? When children decide they don’t need the money, they will simply refuse to do the work!
Steve Biddulph, author of Raising Boys, encourages parents to teach responsibility from a young age, by getting them involved in helping out around the home with age-appropriate chores.
Dr Jane Nelson, author of Positive Discipline, argues that chores are separate to learning about money, and should not be connected to an allowance.
It’s hard to find an expert who recommends parents pay their kids to do household chores. Some parents who argue its benefits though, cite reasons such as “it promotes a positive work ethic”, “children deserve rewards”, “kids learn to respect money”, and “it promotes future life lessons, that you earn from working”.
Through my own observations, I have to side with the majority of experts on this one, and say that paying children to do chores offers no real benefits.
I’m a big fan of teaching positive “habits”. For example, you need to learn to get into the habit of washing up, because that’s what you have to do as an adult. You will not be able to live anywhere and never clean up (just ask any rental property manager!).
And if you pay them to do something they need to do as an adult, it may be a bit disheartening when they get older and find that, in fact, no one will pay them to clean up their own mess.
This is especially true when, as Ron Lieber says, they claim to not need the money anymore. Every parent reaches a point where “because I said so!” fails to cut it. Teenagers ask why to just about everything, and though it can be annoying, it’s also a great opportunity to start explaining more of the facts of life.
As an example, compare these two scenarios:
Mum: “Do the dishes please!”
Mum: “Because I asked you to.”
Son: “I’ve got stuff to do.”
Mum: “Do them now!”
Mum: “Do the dishes please!”
Mum: “Because washing up after dinner is something we adults have to do. When you get older, no one is going to come to your house and do the dishes for you. So it’s important for you to get into the habit of doing them now.”
The second scenario is more likely to get your young man thinking about his responsibilities. You’re not asking him to wash up because of you. You’re asking him to wash up because of him. You’re trying to help him become a man.
Steve Biddulph and Maggie Dent both have some great tips on positive communication and encouraging children to help out around the family home. You can find more information at:
These are general observations only, and not intended as advice. For professional advice, please seek the services of a counsellor or other professional.