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Should Kids get Paid to Do Chores? Pros and Cons (with VIDEO)

Paying for Chores Con #1: It Doesnt Help Internalize Motivation for Your Child to do Chores

The most successful adults are kids who internalized all those life lessons they were taught or experienced as kids.

And completing chores is no different – you want your child to internalize and make a habit out of doing routine chores in their lives.

When you reward a child (or anyone) with money, chore bucks, free printable chore cards, stickers, or something else, it’s an external form of motivation.

You want kids to become adults who do the right thing without any sort of external motivation. Just because it feels ‘right’ for them to do so.

Jane Nelsen, author of Positive Discipline Parenting Tools, writes:

“Think about the long-term results of your approach. Does it encourage internal or external motivation? Internal motivation is important for the long term. Are you promoting self-evaluation or dependence on the evaluation of others? Are you inviting your child to think or telling them what to think? Are you allowing your child to figure things out for herself and engaging her in problem solving, or are you rescuing her and fixing things for her? Are you considering what your child might be thinking, feeling, and deciding in response to what you do or say, or do you avoid getting into your child’s world? Are you helping your child feel capable or dependent?”

4. Dont bribe

This might be a controversial one but bear with me while I explain.

I don’t think kids should be paid to do chores. I see lots of wonderful ideas on Pinterest for paying kids to do chores, like pinning a dollar bill to a corkboard with the chore listed underneath it.

Yes, money will definitely motivate your kids to do work. It definitely works.

But… that is extrinsic motivation (outside motivation). There is a lot of research to support using intrinsic motivation (internal motivation) to encourage kids (and adults!) to do things. There is an AWESOME book called Drive by Daniel Pink, all about it.

Basically, if we are only rewarded by outside forces to do a job, then we will be less invested in it and likely to not do as good a job.

But if we are motivated by internal forces like the knowledge of a job well done or serving a community, then you do a better job and feel better about it and yourself!

So I encourage my kids to do their chores because they are part of a household that helps each other. We don’t expect one person to do everything.

On top of that – I don’t get paid to do chores, so why should they???!!!

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10. Offer Praise

Even though your kids’ methods of doing chores will not be identical to yours, the point is that they give it a worthy effort and that you appreciate the effort they put into it. Doing chores teaches responsibility and helps to strengthen family bonds. Chores also give you the opportunity to coach and support your child in becoming an independent and productive adult. 

Always praise your kids when they do a good job with their chores. This gives your kids the self-confidence to continue and will make chore times non-combative. Remember to thank your kids for their work and acknowledge that they have successfully completed their chores for the day or week.

6. Teacher them

Kids don’t naturally know HOW to do chores. Sure, maybe they have watched you sort the laundry hundreds (or thousands!) of times, but do they really understand what it is that you are doing?

Just because my youngest was normally in a front or back carrier when I was vacuuming the floors, doesn’t mean he knew how to vac when he was older.

Kids have to be taught how to do their chores.

OK, I know this one seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many things we take for granted.

The other day my son kicked over the dogs’ water bowl! Big spill! I started to get mad at him because he just stood there looking at him! I said, “why aren’t you cleaning it up?” He just looked up at me and said: “How?”

Yep, he’d never knocked over the water bowl before, so he didn’t know what to clean it up with. Yes, if he was a little older, then maybe he would think to grab a towel or mop. But he’s little and didn’t know what to do. So I grabbed a couple of towels and showed him how to wipe it up and then put the towels in the laundry.

You also need to remember that you might have to show them how to do something a few times before they get it. Especially if it’s a task that they don’t do regularly.

4. Do the chores in the same order

Everything we do is based on habits. Think about your own morning routine, and how similar it is to every other morning. You likely do the same things in the same order and at the same time. The benefit? No matter how exhausted you are, you still wash your face and brush your teeth—all because of habits.

The same can be true for your kids and chores.

Let’s say you’re tired of reminding them what to do once they get home from school. Start walking them through exactly what to do, keeping the tasks in the same order. For instance, your after-school routine can be:

  • Remove shoes, jackets, and backpacks, and place them on the shoe rack and coat hanger
  • Wash hands
  • Eat a snack
  • Finish homework
  • Play

As you guide your kids through these activities in the same order every day, they’ll be more likely to do these tasks on their own. The consistent repetition “triggers” them into doing the next sequential task. Removing their shoes prompts them to put the pair in the shoe rack before moving on to the next activity.

You can even make it fun by writing a list they can see. You can write a list or use pictures to show which order they should do the tasks. It serves as a convenient checklist to make sure they did everything they needed to.

Take a look at these homework mistakes you should avoid.

2. Describe the positive consequences of doing the chores

Many parents make the mistake of focusing on the drudgery of the chore:

“It’ll only take a minute.”

“You need to do this by tomorrow.”

“Don’t forget to take out the trash.”

Not only does this paint a negative picture of chores, it misses a more effective opportunity: talking about the good things that happen because of doing these tasks.

For instance, your child packing her school bag the night before means she won’t feel rushed the next morning. Taking her bath quickly—instead of dragging her feet—means she’ll have more time to read and play after she’s done.

Remind her of the positive consequences for doing the chore well and on time—this will be a better motivator than focusing on the drudgery of the chore.

Get tips on how to get kids to listen without yelling.

6. Use a Reward System

If you want kids to take responsibility for their chores, integrate their tasks with a reward system. Put a chart on the refrigerator with each child’s name on it, with their chores listed next to their names. If they make their bed promptly and do it right, they get a checkmark. When they get five checkmarks, they get a reward. Maybe it’s staying up an hour later. Maybe it’s having more screen time one night.

In my opinion, electronics don’t have to be on every waking hour. Just because they have a phone or tablet doesn’t mean the child has to be using it all the time. Each child should get their allotted screen time, and then screen time is over. If they want more, they should have to earn it. This allows you to use electronics time as a reward.

Related content: Free Downloadable Chore Chart for Children

Kids might understand that doing the dishes is part of their role in the family, but they’re not going to feel it in some significant way. Chores are work, and in that sense, very few of us like to work unless we’re getting rewarded for it. And the reward has to be something we like.

If my boss had paid me in carrots, I wouldn’t have worked much at all—because one or two carrots and I’m all set. Kids have the same motivating principle. They want a reward in a currency that’s meaningful.

Allowance for Chores?

Should your child get an allowance for chores? Usually not, say most parenting experts.

Chores are partly about responsibility and partly about learning household tasks. They’re not focused on earning money. Yes, kids need to learn how to handle money, but not by doing chores they’re supposed to do anyway.

It’s especially important to not tie allowances to chores for younger kids, Pantley says. That’s because a younger child may be less motivated by money and simply choose to not do them.

There’s an exception: For older kids who already know how to be responsible, money can become a nice motivator for doing extra chores above and beyond their usual tasks.

Fay suggests letting them bid on those extra chores and picking the lowest bid.

Motivating vs. Making

We, as parents, should motivate our kids to do chores, not make them do chores.

“Aren’t they the same?” you may ask. They are not.

When it comes to getting kids to do chores, we often associate it with carrot and stick. But those measures will only create extrinsic motivation, i.e. the child will do chores because there are external reasons and those reasons do not come from within themselves.

However, we want our children to have intrinsic motivation instead. Intrinsic motivation is an inner drive that propels a person to pursue an activity. Intrinsic motivation is better than extrinsic motivation because an intrinsically motivated child has a stronger sense of personal commitment and persistence.

When a child is only motivated to do small tasks through a reward system or punishment, once the motivator is removed, the child will stop doing them. They are not committed to doing these chores on their own. In addition, reward and punishment decrease intrinsic motivation. So if a child had some inner desire to do it before, they would now have less or no desire to do so when the reward charts went away.

But motivating young kids intrinsically is difficult. That’s why most parents resort to making.

Parents are also encouraged to “make kids do chores” because they’ve received parenting tips like the one mentioned above.

Don’t Chores Teach Life Skills?

Proponents of the “making” camp argue that if children don’t learn, they will not have the valuable life skills they need when they grow up.

Let’s try to make sense of this… Are washing dishes, loading the washing machine, taking out the garbage, cleaning their room, folding their own laundry, making the bed or mopping the floor so hard to learn that if our children don’t learn them now, they won’t have these “life skills”?

I don’t think so.

Chores are not rocket science. Once a child, or an adult child, moves out and lives by themselves, when they have to do it, they’ll learn them in no time.

Don’t Chores Teach Responsibility?

Another argument for “making kids do chores” is that regular chores help teach kids responsibilities and work ethic.

So how do chores teach responsibility?

Responsibility can mean several things. One interpretation of responsibility is that the child will learn that they have a moral or mental obligation to do so – a child takes on chores because they know it’s important to the welfare of the family. They want to contribute to the household, to a greater good, so to speak, because they care about the whole family. They want to be a bonded, integral and contributing part of a family.

But when a child does something for rewards or the fear of punishment, they’re not doing it out of moral obligation. It defeats the purpose of teaching this interpretation of “responsibility”.

Another interpretation of responsibility is that you have to do it because it’s your job, whether you like it or not.

Which sense of responsibility do you want to teach your child?

It comes down to what values you want to instill in your kid. Do you want your child’s reason for doing chores to be, “I want to because I love my family. I want to help” or “Suck it up, do it whether or not I like it because I’ll get punished otherwise”?

Which one sounds more like strong work ethic?

What About Teaching Kids Life is Hard Work?

Although it seems to be so, a child’s life isn’t exactly smooth sailing. School workload in the twenty-first century is heavier than ever before. Exams are harder. College admission is much more competitive. Kids will have plenty of opportunities to learn that life is full of hard work. We don’t have to make it even harder.

So, should kids do chores? Absolutely.

To be clear, I’m not advocating no chores for kids. But I’m pointing out the assertion that making kids do chores will help them succeed is a myth.

Paying for Chores Pro #3: It Helps them Associate

Paying for Chores Pro #3: It Helps them Associate Earning Money with Time, Energy, and Work

Paying for chores is definitely a way for a child to connect earning money with doing work, using time, and putting in energy.

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