Parenting Debate: Should You Pay Your Kids for Doing Chores?

It’s hard to argue against the benefits of giving kids chores. But the opinion wars about whether to reward them for it rage on. Here, experts on both sides discuss whether money should ever be on the table…you know, the one you asked your six-year-old to clear an hour ago.

These Are the Chores Your Kids Should Do, by Age Group

kids setting the table
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No Way, Don’t Pay

The consensus from parenting experts is that chores and allowances should be totally separate. Why? 1) A kid may decide she doesn’t need the money, and thus see no point in doing the work. 2) Receiving an allowance teaches kids how to manage their money, and the difference between wants and needs; it has nothing to do with meeting their inherent obligations to the family. Chores, in other words, are not above and beyond; they’re what’s expected. As New York Times personal finance columnist and author of The Opposite of Spoiled Ron Lieber puts it, parents don’t get paid for family housework, [so] neither should kids. Money-Smart Kids author Gail Vaz-Oxlade agrees: “I define an allowance as the money you would normally spend on your children put into their hands so they can learn to manage it.” Lieber’s caveat? “No bailouts” if they blow their monthly budget on a Hatchimal but then need a new backpack. That’s the teachable moment.

kids money piggy bank
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Earning = Learning

Research psychologist Dr. Denise Cummins worries no-strings-attached allowances lead to entitlement. She warns that kids raised within this system wind up “believing that adults or authorities ought to give them what they want simply because they need or want it.” Personal finance expert Lauren Greutman also believes in paying kids for chores—selectively and on a sliding scale. Her son gets paid 25 cents for taking out the garbage, for example, but $5 for scrubbing the kitchen floor on his hands and knees. Regular everyday chores like doing the dishes are unpaid, but tasks you could pay a stranger to do are compensated accordingly. She writes about the time her son had his eye on a racecar toy but, after counting his savings, came up a dollar short. Greutman gave him the opportunity to clean the backyard to earn the extra dollar; he took it, delivered, returned to the store and bought the toy. “I gave him his earned dollar, and saw the sense of accomplishment on his face,” she writes. “These are the types of opportunities that I feel would have been missed if I didn't pay him for his work.” To some, earned money—whether it’s for mowing the lawn at home or lifeguarding at the local pool—is a teaching tool too valuable to pass up.