When it comes to chores and allowance, there is always the age-old debate: Should children be paid to help out around the house, or is that just part of their responsibilities as a member of the family?
What if the answer is both? No one wants to foster a sense of entitlement in their children. The idea of your child expecting to be paid to help out is cringe-worthy. But learning to budget money, spend wisely, and save for purchases are important lessons that can’t be learned without having access to an income of some sort.
There’s no perfect way to do an allowance, but there are some things that make finding the balance easier.
Make a distinction
There are some things children should do simply because it is their responsibility. This will vary by age and household, you can determine what these are, but some examples might include keeping their room clean, feeding pets, cleaning up their dishes, or anything else that relates to them or their belongings directly. It’s reasonable to expect kids to do these things without compensation. This teaches them innate responsibility for themselves and as part of a family.
Jobs that are above and beyond might include helping to clean the car, taking out the garbage, cleaning floors, dusting, or anything else that is more household-oriented than applicable to the child directly. What tasks you include here is completely up to you, but they should be things that benefit the whole family. These are tasks that you compensate the child for.
Set reasonable expectations
It’s unreasonable to expect a four-year-old to run the washing machine, but it would be reasonable to ask them to help sort whites and colours or to put away folded clothes. On the flip side, paying your 15-year-old $20 a week to empty the dishwasher would be too little responsibility. Find tasks that are age-appropriate and a reasonable work-load when combined with the tasks they are expected to do without compensation.
Set pay reasonably with room for negotiation as they mature
If you pay your six-year-old $20 a week, it won’t take them very long to save for things they want to buy. This doesn’t do a great job teaching them the value of a dollar. It also puts you in a compromised position as they get older and are expected to take on more tasks, and/or want a raise. Negotiating a pay increase is a great lesson for kids to learn, but you don’t want to be stuck paying your ten-year-old $50 a week. Start small, and increase as it is earned.
Insist on professionalism
Of course you don’t expect perfection from a kindergartner, but it’s important to instill a sense of work ethic in your children. You are paying them to perform a job, and you expect it to be done to the best of their ability, and without argument. If they don’t put in the effort, they don’t get paid, just like anyone who is paid for a job. Again, expectations need to be age-appropriate and reasonable, but they should be clear expectations with consistent consequences.
Encourage them to save their money, but don’t insist on it
Part of learning the value of money is seeing how it works. If they earn $5 every Friday and spend $5 every Saturday, that is their choice for what to do with their money – but make saving money more appealing. If they want a $50 toy, don’t buy it for them. Let them choose to forgo smaller purchases to save for the thing they really want, or to miss out on the bigger item. These logical consequences help them learn that money is finite and that they will need to make decisions about how to maximize their enjoyment from it.
Give opportunities to earn extra cash
Having a set amount of cash paid regularly for regular tasks is helpful for learning responsibility and budgeting, but sometimes your kid will have a big ticket item in mind that they want to earn money for that will take a long time to earn at the regular rate. Resist the urge to spot them the money on credit, and instead offer them the chance to do extra work for extra pay to reach their goal sooner.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to allowances and household responsibilities is to do what works for your family. You know your kids, you know the lessons you want to teach them, and you get to decide how you want to manage them. Now get to work, kids!