Don’t pay your chil­dren for chores

Re­ceiv­ing a small al­lowance is im­por­tant for child growth, but shouldn’t be for help­ing

Toronto Star - - LIFE - ELIS­A­BETH LEAMY

Eighty-three per cent of par­ents who give their kids an al­lowance be­lieve they should earn it by do­ing chores, ac­cord­ing to an an­nual T. Rowe Price sur­vey. Those par­ents are get­ting it wrong, if you be­lieve a pile of par­ent­ing books go­ing back a cou­ple of decades that say an al­lowance should be for learn­ing — not for earn­ing.

For a re­cent one, Ron Lieber’s The Op­po­site of Spoiled ar­gues that we shouldn’t give al­lowances in ex­change for chores be­cause one day our kids will de­cide they don’t need the money and will refuse to do the work. “So al­lowance ought to stand on its own, not as a wage but as a teach­ing tool,” Lieber writes. So does this mean our kids shouldn’t do rou­tine chores? No. It just means that they shouldn’t get paid for them.

Th­ese par­ent­ing ex­perts — and more — ar­gue that chil­dren should help out around the house be­cause it’s the right thing to do, not be­cause they make money at it. Many sug­gest that if you want to pay your chil­dren to do ex­tra work around the house — your own work — that’s per­fectly fine.

The T. Rowe Price sur­vey also found that 34 per cent of par­ents don’t give their chil­dren an al­lowance at all, and th­ese ex­perts would say that’s an­other mis­take. Af­ter all, to learn to ride a bike, you need a bike. And to learn to man­age money, you need money. Even in house­holds where money is tight, par­ents can move a lit­tle bit of the money they spend on their chil­dren into an al­lowance for the chil­dren to spend on them­selves.

So that’s the “why” of al­lowance. But what about the when, where, how, how much and how of­ten? When In the T. Rowe Price sur­vey, 20 per cent of par­ents who give an al­lowance started it when their kids were 6; that was fol­lowed by ages 7 and 8, each with 19 per cent. So there is no one “right” age.

The con­sen­sus among ex­perts is that you should give your child an al­lowance as soon as he or she be­gins notic­ing and ask­ing about money. How of­ten Once you start an al­lowance, how of­ten do you dole it out? The ma­jor­ity of par­ents give their chil­dren this money on a weekly ba­sis, and the ex­perts say that’s fine for lit­tle kids. How­ever, for teenagers, some sug­gest a larger, monthly al­lowance to give them prac­tice mak­ing their funds stretch over time. How, where Sim­i­larly, you could change your method of pay­ment as your kids grow up. For ex­am­ple, kids in the sin­gle dig­its are learn­ing to count and like vis­ual and tac­tile stim­u­la­tion, so giv­ing them cash and coins is a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

You may be able to reach screen-ob­sessed tweens by giv­ing them their money via var­i­ous apps that al­low you to de­posit money and al­low them to group that money into vir­tual jars, in­stead of real jars. For older teens, money and par­ent­ing ex­perts sug­gest a bank ac­count with a debit card to give them prac­tice for the real world that’s just around the cor­ner. How much There’s one fi­nal, fraught cat­e­gory to tackle: how much. Eden Burgess eas­ily deals with mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar paint­ings in her role as an art and an­tiq­ui­ties lawyer for Cul­tural Her­itage Part­ners, but when it came to ne­go­ti­at­ing her grow­ing daugh­ter’s al­lowance, she needed help. “I asked some par­ent friends who said that a good rule of thumb is half the child’s age,” Burgess said. “So we started at $4 per week when my daugh­ter was 8.”

Burgess chose to give her daugh­ter half her age; oth­ers say to pay kids their full age. There are ad­van­tages to us­ing an age-based for­mula when your kids are young: It avoids ar­gu­ments about the ini­tial amount, pro­vides a method­ol­ogy for raises and jus­ti­fies dif­fer­ent amounts given to older and younger sib­lings.


Par­ent­ing ex­perts ar­gue that chil­dren should help out around the house be­cause it’s the right thing to do, not be­cause they make money at it.

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