Allowances vs Payments for Chores: What's Best?

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What is the best way to raise kids to become responsible Catholic adults?  Should they “get” an allowance or earn it?  Should you pay kids for doing chores?

Those are trick questions, because everyone’s family and situation is different!   Some experts believe giving an allowance should be used strictly to teach money management skills and therefore should not be tied up with rewards or punishment.

Then you have Lewis Mandell, professor emeritus of finance and economics at State University of New York in Buffalo, who asserts that paying your children an allowance is cruel. Really?  He may want to turn me in to child services.

Personally, I am for an unconditional allowance and against paying my children for chores.  Here are a few reasons why:

I believe chores are their responsibility.

I want them to understand they are obligated to help with chores because they are members of the family who live in the house, not because they’d get money for it.  I want to develop a sense of responsibility and pride in our home and all work together to take care of it.

I want to help them learn independence and financial responsibility. 

They get “paid”  unconditionally once a month so they can experience and develop skills to prioritize wants, weigh their choices, learn to budget, practice patience and live with consequences of bad decisions.  They both understand advertising propaganda and scams!

I feel it is my responsibility as a parent to teach my children to be self-sufficient adults.

It is important they learn how to do laundry, cook, and care for a home.  They need the practice.   I don’t charge them to teach, so they shouldn’t expect to be paid to learn.  Plus I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking they should get a reward for simply doing what they are supposed to be doing.

My kids are proud of themselves and the contributions they make in our home.

They feel more capable and mature than their friends who have no responsibilities.  I’ve actually heard them say this!

I know my kids, and they would choose not to do the chores.

If chores were tied to an allowance at my house, they would sometimes choose not to get the allowance rather than have to do chores for it.  It would become a choice for them and a struggle for me.  It would open up a whole other can of worms dealing with being docked pay for chores in arrears or wanting to get paid for absolutely every little thing.  Sometimes I need my kids to do something extra because I need their help.  They should be cooperative and helpful because it’s the right thing, not because there’s an extra five bucks in it for them.

Allowance vs payment for chores

Have you ever felt like someone was reading your mind?   Themint.org  has a great article that lists more of what I would have added here if they hadn’t read my mind and already written it before me!   Like paying extra for “big” chores as a way for kids to earn extra cash and determining what items will be their responsibility vs. which ones you will continue to provide for them.

My children have matured a lot from the days when $1 in their hands meant you had to go to the dollar store immediately so they could spend it right away and get something NOW.

My son plans his purchases around his allowance to get the best electronics and games.  He strategizes how to combine expected future gift money with his allowance to be able to afford a coveted item or determine whether he should pay for his own XBox Live card one month.

My daughter loves to save up her money.  She rarely parts with any.  She will beg me for something she wants, and if I tell her she should buy it with her own money, she most often says it is not important enough.  Except for gifts.  Sweet girl that she is, she does not mind spending her savings on presents for others.

What are your views?  Are you in favor of unconditional allowance or against it?  What do you think about paying kids for chores?

Copyright 2014 Deborah Shelby

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6 Comments

  1. Children should NEVER be given an unconditional allowance. Even three year olds can be taught to pick up their toys. Giving our children unconditional allowances only teaches they can get something for nothing. It promotes laziness ~ especially in teenagers. It promotes and encourages the “entitlement” attitude many teenagers have today. Instead, give your children ~ all ages ~ a commission. If they don’t work, they don’t get paid. Some chores are paid for and others are ‘because you’re part of the family’ chores. The younger you teach children about the value of money, the better financially responsible they’ll be as an adult.

    • Thanks for your comment and feedback, Lisa. I think every family is different, though. If my teens were paid for chores, they’d elect to go without the money. However, that would leave me still having to pay for all their needs regardless. For me, it’s important they must do chores and be contributing members of the family. Period. Not because they’d get a reward. But I need them to have their allowance in order to learn how to prioritize and budget for themselves. It’s surprising how little money they waste when it comes from their own pocket.

  2. Our children do not earn an allowance, and they are expected to do their weekly chores. They are a part of this family just as much as my husband and I, and there are things that are their responsibility…and they don’t get paid just for doing them. We don’t give them an allowance just for being a member of the family…they know they need to earn their money. It’s all part of being a family and working together. We do, however, provide things (money or purchases or activities) for them, on a case-by-case basis, and they are very grateful for those opportunities. (Lots of thank-you’s and hugs). We also have a list posted in our kitchen of items that they can do to earn money. They are extra chores around the house and yard, above and beyond their area of responsibility, but they need to do those things without being told in order to earn the money. (i.e., emptying the dishwasher is worth a dollar if they do it without being told, as is folding a basket of laundry). Once they are told to do it, they loose the earning potential. We don’t want to tie family responsibilities to money…we all contribute. They use the list of extra items to earn their spending/saving/charity money, (in addition to anything they receive as gifts). If there is something special they want to buy, or if there is some event/trip coming up, they always know they can earn the money for it by checking things off the list. We also use opportunities such as garage sales for them to earn money. In addition to cleaning up their room, selling the items they no longer need at a garage sale allows them to split the profits, as most of what we sell belonged to them, anyway.

    • Great ideas, Peg! I do the list on the fridge for extra earnings too. With two teens, though, I find it SAVES me money to give an allowance. When I was paying for everything directly, they HAD to have this, NEEDED that, WHINED and pleaded constantly. But since they became responsible for their own purchases, I find they’re spending less when it’s their own money!

  3. I grew up having chores for responsibility sake and never had an allowance. I have a 7 y.o. now that has had chores on and off and we are also in the process of giving her a steady allowance. We probably fit a similar model to you that we’d like to instill in her responsibility to do her part as a member of the family and separately to gain financial planning skills that come with savings.
    She currently is saving money to get a hamster. She has diligently done research to see the added costs that come with different hamsters and the additional items like food and cleaning that will be part of taking care of a pet.
    On top of that, she has become aware of the cost of other things, like her Christmas presents or traveling to see her cousins, or even the cost of college. So much so that as she begins to ponder “How will I take care of myself” in that big (and very far-off future), she has been calculating if it might be helpful if I pay for one of her hamster toys so that she will have saved enough to go to college. Funny girl.

    • Your daughter sounds adorable, Jay! You must be so proud of her. I grew up like you, required to work, but never got any money of my own.
      I think it really helps with kids’ maturity and feelings of independence to have their own money. Mine feel very proud and grown up to say, “I bought this with my own money.”

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