Author Topic: Teach kids to work/help for money, or that they donít do everything for money?  (Read 1019 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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My son is now at an age where he is starting to ask about money more and more (nearly three), so i have re read the blog about what MMM is teaching his son, and other comments etc. Iím now trying to gather my thoughts on what my parenting style will be in this area.

My thoughts on all of this are, that lots of people seem to go no pocket money / allowance but the kids have to earn the money. I understand the reasoning for this completely, but my wifeís reaction to this is that she doesnít want to teach him to only do things and help out in order to get money, and instead a base allowance is better, with the expectation to help out without Ďpayí as it teaches him to want to help people instead of just target money - I see her logic behind this.

Has anyone any words of wisdom, or experiences either way, or ideas on how to accomplish both goals (strong work ethic and also happy to help out without reward)?



  • Handlebar Stache
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I'm right there with you.  The strategy you implement will highly depend on your priorities, so find out what is most important for you and your wife.  Once you are in agreement finding specific tactics will be the easy part.

For us, our priority was first teaching the kids about money management, how to save for things, learning delayed gratification, and learning impulse control.  So we started our kids on an allowance once they started asking for things on a regular basis.  They get an allowance once a month, half goes into spending and half goes into savings. If they wanted a new toy they would have to use their spending money or have to save up for it if they didn't have enough.

My oldest asked for an increase in allowance and I used it as an opening to doing extra chores around the house above an beyond his normal chores, which is decoupled from his allowance.  The car was dirty and I offered to pay him $2 to help clean the inside and $2 to help clean the outside, which he took me up on and earned his $4 with about an hour's worth of work.


  • Stubble
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"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest."

Incentivizing good behavior is not a bad thing, and indeed even as adults we are incentivized toward behaviors that we have learned are "good" even if the reward is not monetary (for example, a feeling of virtue or moral satisfaction). Incentivizing him now with rewards that his little brain can easily comprehend teaches him that these are "good" things to do because they earn him a reward (i.e. money), and once he is older he can learn to also tie higher-minded ideals and virtues to those actions. But don't try to put the cart before the horse. Young minds much more easily understand concepts like "pain" or "pleasure" than they do "kindness", "selflessness", "work ethic", etc. These are abstract ideas that we all learn later in life.


  • Bristles
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My daughter is 8 and doesn't get an allowance. Most/all of her limited cash comes as a gift thrown in birthday/holiday cards from family. She is pretty much free to spend that money however she pleases but we do try to discuss her purchasing decisions with her so that she understands buying another stuffed animal isn't really going to make her life better.

We are pretty lucky that she actually enjoys helping around the house and asks if she can help almost anytime that she sees us doing something. If you are having issues with this, I would say something like, "Mommy and daddy don't get paid to do chores, neither do you." If some encouragement is needed, bribes/promises of fun dinners or trips to the park can help.

My daughter sees us both volunteer in her school and in the community on a regular basis. This also teaches her that while we work for money to pay our bills, we don't do everything for money. My daughter wound of volunteer at a school program for a couple weeks this summer and I could not have been more proud of her.

Some other random stuff:
- My wife has started talking to her about knowing her worth and not being afraid to ask for money. I'm not exactly on board with paying her a per chore rate, but we'll see how this works out.
- Teach your children to negotiate. It is a valuable life skill.

Good luck. The fact that you are even thinking about stuff like this likely means that your kids will turn out great.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Weíll be doing base allowance when little one is old enough, And teaching her to help around the house when needed for free, because everyone needs to contrubute to the family, according to what they can do.


  • Pencil Stache
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My kids never really got an allowance. For a while they got 25 cents a week, just because they were involved in a group in which they were supposed to pay dues out of their allowance.

Partly, I admit, it was just laziness on our parts--we didn't want to bother with finding change, keeping track, deciding how much each kid should get, etc. But it was also a matter of principle. On the one hand, any work they do around the house is a matter of learning to look after themselves and contribute to the family. On the other hand, a constant source of unearned money to a person who has no real needs just seemed like habituating them to self-indulgence. To the other poster's point that parents don't get paid for chores and neither do children, I'd add that parents don't regularly spend money on frivolities and neither do children.

They got occasional infusions of cash from birthday gifts, contests, being human subjects in studies, etc., and those we helped them deposit in the bank to save for something extra or for the general future.  They all started babysitting relatively early and doing other odd jobs for neighbours, and we've encouraged that. When they got old enough to do work that we would pay outsiders for, such as insulating the attic or repairing the garage or installing a fence, we would pay them for those jobs.


  • Magnum Stache
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I think it was someone on here who described their system, if anyone recognizes it, tag them.

Basically, the kids had to do a certain list of chores, and then if they other chores on top of those they would get paid. I believe they lived on a farm or similar, cause the kids each had a garden plot to tend, plus feeding animals, some cleaning, etc.

This made a lot of sense to me. If you are part of the household, you need to contribute to the household functioning. (good citizen behaviors) Beyond that, if you put effort in you can earn money. (work hard for money behaviors)


  • Bristles
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I gave my kids a small amount of spending money, just so they could learn how to buy things and make change. 

Helping around the house is something they did as part of being a family member -- they need to learn how to do all the chores involved in running a household.  We will sometimes trade jobs; for example if my son needs to be driven somewhere and it really is inconvenient timing for me, I'll agree to do it if he does a task I had on my list to do.

I encourage them to look outside the family to earn money.  If they do a job for me and "earn" $20, that's not actually adding any money to our family budget.  That's just changing who decides how to spend $20 I already had.   If they dogsit the neighbor's dog and earn $20, that's new money to our household.   

I have been having good success with my teenager this year in giving him discretion over spending a large amount of money on his needs.  This isn't an allowance per se, but is money that I would be spending on his upkeep, that I am allowing him to spend (and track) as he wishes (within reason).  I give him a certain amount of money each week (in our case $60) and have him budget it between clothes, grooming, extracurriculars, and entertainment/gifts/snacks.  He needs to keep receipts when he spends anything and balance his records weekly or I don't give him the next allotment.  He's been really good about saving instead of spending everything, and has had the money to cover things like Boy Scout trips, school field trips, and hiking boots.  He now has a sense as to how much things like shampoo and haircuts cost, so when he goes off to college in a few years he'll have an idea of what he will need for spending money (and at that point I'll expect he is earning it himself).   But this system probably isn't so good for young children.


  • Bristles
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The way we did it:
The kids were given $1/year of age every Sat after they became 3.
They were told this was not for doing 'chores' but it was because Daddy worked for money for his family, and he was able to share.
Half went into their college fund (we took a trip to the bank regularly), 1/4 went into their 'short term savings' (money they could spend after discussing it with us, but was always their decision), and 1/4 they could spend however they wanted, right away.

We paid for 3 outside of school activities per year and paid for all school activities.

There were things they were just expected to do and we didn't seem to have a problem with that. One thing, was to clean the toys from the living room every night. If Mom had to do it, they were charged $.25 per time. It didn't take long for the kids to see it was smarter to pick up their toys.

We had one rule for the bedroom - keep the floor relatively picked up, and the beds made. If they weren't, I didn't want to see it. So, if the door was open and I saw it, .50 for making their bed and .25 for everything picked up.
If they didn't want me to see their room, the door must be kept closed. The boys kept their room clean, our daughter chose to just keep her door closed all the time. We only had one problem - When she was about 12, our first basenji kept tying to get upstairs and scratch at her door. We had never had a basenji before, so I just thought it was a breed thing. We found out later she had brought a rat home from school and kept it in a cage, in the corner as far away from the door as possible.

TheHusbandHalf always brought towels and clothes down to the laundry room, so the kids naturally thought that was just the way things were done. So they did too.

From what I can see, the 2 boys are excellent at handling their money. Our daughter seems to spend more that her parents would have in her situation, but nothing severe (she just got married yesterday!) They are 33, 31, and 30, never drinking excessively or drug problems, and all there were able to buy their first home. THH and I can see that none of them believed in the 'work on it while you live in it' idea, that their parents lived with!


  • Pencil Stache
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We did a combination.

There are chores that are required because you live in this house - things like bringing your dirty laundry downstairs, folding and putting away your clean clothes, picking up your things, setting or clearing the table, feeding the dog, etc.  If you don't do these chores, you  get a punishment that is usually not monetary.

Then they get a base allowance that comes with a list of daily/weekly chores that must be done to get the allowance.  We usually let the kids pick from a list, and they have to negotiate with each other to make sure all the chores are covered.  (We renegotiate twice a year.)  If they don't do their weekly chores, they get in trouble, their allowance gets docked, and they STILL have to do them.  There's a chart on the fridge so they each know what they are responsible for (it had pictures when they were smaller).

Then there are chores that they have a choice whether or not to do, and they get paid if they do them.  Washing the cars, helping me weed, scrubbing baseboards, etc.

I started mine on allowance at 4.  They are 9-12 now, and they are all pretty good with money.

Prairie Stash

  • Handlebar Stache
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We do a sticker system for the 5 year old, 25 stickers gets a toy out of the prize box. The prize box contains items my daughter says she wants...but some of those are permanent it seems.

Money is for buying stuff essentially, instead of money we buy appropriate items for her. I hate impulse purchases, I'm hoping she'll feel the same, if its something that she wants or the world will end (at 5 the world may end imminently), it goes in the prize box until she earns it. In this way it encourages delayed gratification, a MMM essential. We don't do deprication, and I think this is a fair balance between her wants and my desire to teach her valuable lifelong habits. Side bar, I value delayed gratification a lot as a personal habit as seen in the choice "Should I study today or party instead" - see Aesops fables on the Ant and Grasshopper, its a personal favourite.

Getting stickers is a pretty loose affair. Right now bedmaking gets a sticker, in a few months that will end. Its a constantly evolving list, with the intent to encourage good habits. She use to get stckers for teeth brushing, now she does it twice daily. Same with clearing her dishes, its automatic now (with the occasional reminder, she's 5).

My favourite is when she realizes she only needs 5 more stickers and gets into a whirlwind trying to earn more. Her motives may be for toys but its habit forming none the less. We give her odd tasks like sweeping the kitchen; she does a terrible job, but its the intent and not the result. As a parental force we came up with some good tasks, they were clearly articulated to her (repeatedly). On both sides we enjoy the system; she likes the rewards, we like the tasks, and she likes the challenge aspect (its often a game to her to get more stars).


  • Bristles
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Our take:

Money is generated by creating value outside the home.  i.e. job, or business.

What you do at home is to help the family.


  • Pencil Stache
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We've done a combo approach: you have chores that you do because you are part of the family, and we are all living together. In fact, we all do chores at once, usually Saturday mornings: Laundry is sorted and started, boys vacuum/do front and back mats, or clean the bathrooms (they switch off), hubby sweeps the main house, maybe vacuums our bedroom and office, and I make meal plans and do grocery shopping. About an hour - 90 minutes later, we're basically all done (laundry continues to be schlepped back and forth for a while).

We think of allowances as more of "profit sharing": to the extent that  we all get everything done, you get a little more then you need to eat one lunch out per week (decided upon because MrInCO eats one lunch per week out).  If you do additional chores, we'll negotiate on price (usually mowing and car washing when needed). You are also free to make more $$ off other people, and both kids do -- the older one (17) has a job, and the younger (14) mows other yards, and is now working as a camp counselor.

The older one hasn't gotten an allowance in a while -- he's supposed to be making at least one dinner/week, and it's not happening.  However, chores, because they're something we generally all do together, are still a thing. (Adults do dusting/baseboards/spiderweb removal/etc. as we notice a need.)


  • Pencil Stache
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I attempt to do both.  My kids (both now 11) started at 5 years old w/ chores.  We have "family" chores, which are non-paid chores their family contribution.  These include helping with dinner, cleaning their bed room, playroom and bathroom and helping in the garden.  Then we have chores that they can sign up for to be paid.  We started with small stuff like sweeping, folding towels etc.  Now, we do bigger chores like "clean downstairs" which includes vacuuming, dusting and polishing.  or "clean kitchen".  Sign up chores range from $5-$10/ week.


  • Stubble
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I don't give allowance yet (my oldest is 3.5), but I don't plan to link it to chores, except maybe extra chores that go above and beyond.

A good question to ask yourself is - are you okay with your kids not doing their chores if they don't want their allowance that week? If the answer is no, then it doesn't seem like they should be tied together.


  • Pencil Stache
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I don't give allowance yet (my oldest is 3.5), but I don't plan to link it to chores, except maybe extra chores that go above and beyond.

A good question to ask yourself is - are you okay with your kids not doing their chores if they don't want their allowance that week? If the answer is no, then it doesn't seem like they should be tied together.

And they'll make that calculation at a surprisingly young age!

This is why we've conceptually separated the ideas: chores are something you do because we all live in a house together, and we all make it dirty, so we should all contribute to making it clean. An allowance is more profit-sharing -- Papa has lunch out once/week, mom has coffee out once/week, the kids have enough $ to get one lunch per week, roughly. (Papa is tracking his lunch and coffee expenses at this point, so we can have a conversation about it. But it's partly social time with his office-mates.)
(We do pay for additional stuff, so mowing, cleaning the cars quarterly or so, ... at one point we had a list of optional chores for $$, but I think the kids realized they can make more from other folks, mowing or shoveling or working, or whatever.)


  • Handlebar Stache
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We have always used money as a tool to teach whatever particular skill/lesson our kids learned -- which, for our DD, has consistently been of the "money doesn't grow on trees" variety.

We started with a basic allowance when she was in 2nd grade and discovered the school cafeteria; we gave enough to get 1-2 lunches a week, but not every day (because they're crap).  We also allowed her to earn more money for a specific behavior we were working on.  Beyond that, I have always told both kids that if they want more money for something, I have a whole list of things they can do to earn it.  DS will always jump in to earn stuff, but he never spends his allowance except on the occasional PS game; DD is always broke but completely uninterested in doing anything even remotely hard/nasty, so she is learning allllll about living on a budget.


  • Bristles
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We didn't overthink it too much.  Our kid gets $0.50 per year of age each weekend.  he is expected to do chores and help out, but the money and allowance are only very loosely connected.  We thank him for helping around the house and doing chores when we hand him the money, and he thanks us.

If he helps doing extra chores he will usually get an extra $1 in his allowance, and he has lost his allowance just once for hitting.

He is quite cheerful about taking in the dinner dishes and taking the recycling out, he main two chores, and is pretty good natured about helping make dinner when asked.

When I was growing up my poor mother tried to price individual chores in a capitalist fashion to motivate us two boys, and it was a giant failure.  We might do some extra chores when we wanted something, or almost none at all when laziness exceeded our current level of greed.  I chose to go a more socialist household route with my own family.


  • Stubble
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Why not some sort of combo plan?

We choose not to give our kids an allowance. They are required to help out with age appropriate chores as a family member. Everyone pitches in if they live in the house. This means hey are expected to pick up their toys at least once a day, clear the table after meals, rinse their dishes, sort their laundry, put away their laundry after it is sorted/hung, etc. My kids are 5 and 8 so donít have super difficult jobs yet.

Then we have extra jobs in mind for when they get a little bigger that can help earn money. Picking up sticks, weeding, washing the car, etc. Basically we are thinking about jobs that arenít the ďeverydayĒ jobs but those extra big things.

We also provide a little monetary encouragement for educational goals. Basically it is a reward for the kids to meet the goals they set. Our oldest took quizzes at school that tracked his reading last year. At each 1/2 million words, there was a monetary goal attached. He set his goals and then we discussed amounts together. He is an avid reader and because he was so far ahead of his classmates, it helped keep him focused on his goals and he really did a fantastic job.


  • Pencil Stache
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I read another article this morning and thought of this thread, only to find kanga beat me to it. I think the combo system is totally the way to go, with few and phasing-out rewards. It's actually echoed by a lot of food research I've come across, which I dug up in case anyone's interested.

Not always getting a reward for doing the right thing is far better than always getting a reward for doing it, in terms of reinforcing behavior that can survive not getting a reward. Also, there are less tangible rewards, like praise, which instead carries information about the recipient that has meaning. A reward does not. A reward is simply a transaction. It can actually demotivate people when they learn to expect a reward and don't receive it, even when they enjoyed doing the thing in the first place. Essentially, they "forget" they liked doing the thing without the reward.

Also, there is a significant community bonding component to doing things because you care about your household and its members. Being taught to do things only in your own self-interest misses out on this completely. Self-interest is not the only thing, shouldn't be the only thing, and if you agree with that sentiment, then you must doubt that the "self-interest" model encourages empathy or community pride and engagement. A sense of being anchored and connected is a major component to happiness, a foundation which is also helpful to weathering unrelated hard times.

Children who are told their job is school, say, may wind up not only focused on narrowly self-interested activities, they may learn to resent being diverted from their interests. However, just like teaching a child to eat more than his or her favorite food, the persistence of the parents in "no I don't wanna" hell is largely what determines whether the good lesson or the bad wins out.

Op-ed on the reduction in chores being done:

Family interaction study:

Cognitive article on reward systems:

Regarding the value of parental persistence (in this case with food), and involving children instead of rewarding them: