Growing up I did not have any chores. It’s kind of sad since I was the kind of kid that loved to help. Even though my parents never assigned me any tasks I often vacuumed, took out the trash, made snacks for my siblings, and dusted. My parents missed a huge opportunity to teach me life skills when I was very willing.
Once I was in junior high I started mowing our lawn. Not because I was asked to do it. I just wanted to. I think I may have gotten paid a couple dollars each time I mowed for a little while, but only if I asked my parents!
The crazy thing is — I didn’t need the incentive. I wanted to help, and I enjoyed being outside. I continued to mow the lawn all the way through college (and no, I was not getting paid!).
Do Kids Know How to Work?
As a parent myself now the whole idea of chores is something I have to navigate without past experience.
What is considered a chore? And should you pay kids for chores?
It’s becoming more and more obvious that kids today have a strong sense of entitlement. Kids have so much stuff (at least mine do!). Plus they feel like they should be paid or get some kind of reward for every little thing they do. So they are seriously lacking in self-motivation and drive.
The other day I told my kids it was time to pick up, and my seven-year-old asked if I was going to pay him! It caught me off guard. You want me to pay you to pick up your own mess? That is NOT how it works.
Everyone Participates at Home
My philosophy is that everyone participates at home. If you live here, you work here.
That means that as soon as you are old enough and capable you:
- put away your own laundry
- pick up your toys
- clear your dishes from the table
- take care of your school work
- hang up your coat/put away your shoes
And most of these things happen younger than a lot of parents realize. My four-year-old does all of these tasks.
It doesn’t end with individual tasks. Kids need to help with activities that impact the whole family as well. This includes:
- washing dishes
- collecting and folding laundry
- outdoor/yard work
I want my kids to understand that everyone should do their part. Whether you are at home with your family clearing the table or playing at a friend’s house and picking up the mess you made. Even as they get older and leave home. They should know how to chip in and do their part. That’s how life works. You don’t get to sit back and watch others do things for you.
My kids LOVE to help in the kitchen. I’ve been teaching them to cook using the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse for several years now. They are becoming quite skilled. But once they are done cooking or baking…they tend to just walk away, leaving me with a huge kitchen mess. I’m trying to teach them that you can’t just do the fun part. You have to keep working until the job is complete. That includes cleaning up the mess.
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How to Teach Responsibility
Does this mean you should never pay your kids to work? Not at all. There is also value in teaching kids how to work in relation to earning money. Not to mention teaching them how to handle that money. We are big fans of the Give, Save, Spend method.
Each of my kids has one specific task they do daily and one task that is done weekly that are paid. My seven-year-old feeds the animals every morning (we have chickens and barn cats) and vacuums once a week. My ten-year-old empties the dishwasher every day and cleans the main bathroom once a week. My four-year-old has just started making the beds every day and dusting weekly. Ironically my seven-year-old happened to ask me to teach him how to vacuum the day I started writing this post! And now he loves doing it.
In addition to an assigned chore, we offer opportunities for the kids to help on special projects. For example, after my husband prunes our eighty apple trees the kids get paid to help pick up sticks/branches.
In other words, we distinguish between a paid job (which we call chores and projects) and expected responsibilities.
I also try to help my kids understand how chores and duties are different from service. Acts of service can include:
- surprising Mom by cleaning the whole toy room when you aren’t asked
- baking a batch of cookies for Dad
- helping a neighbor with yard work
- volunteering at church
- helping prepare food when guests are coming
My kids also love to help Grandpa with his farm chores when we visit. They are developing a great work ethic that isn’t motivated by financial gain.
Parents take note that these acts of service provide a great opportunity to give your child encouragement and praise, especially in front of others. This will help boost confidence and make them want to serve more. I wish I could have captured my four-year old’s smile the other day when she baked a batch of cookies for Daddy. She got so much joy from doing something nice for someone else.
Don’t forget you can also praise them for a job well done on any work. Even if it is paid. Everyone works better when they have encouragement!!
Need more suggestions? I shared lots of other tips on raising responsible kids in this post.
Teaching Kids to Clean up After Dinner
Here is one of the Healthy Parenting Connector episodes where Katie answers the most common request from our Kids Cook Real Food members: How do we teach kids to clean up after themselves??
If you can’t see the video above, click “How to Teach Kids To Clean Up in the Kitchen” for the video on YouTube. Or go directly to the skim notes here.
Should You Pay Kids for Chores?
Back to my original question about paying kids for chores. Should you? I say YES!
The important thing is to make it very clear to your kids what is considered a chore and what is just part of their daily responsibility as a member of the family. If you live here, you take part in the work. And if you make a mess you are responsible for cleaning it up. We all work together to keep the home running smoothly.