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Should You Pay Kids for Chores?

girl dusting

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?toddler girl picking apples

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
toddler girl dusting

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:

  • cooking
  • washing dishes
  • collecting and folding laundry
  • cleaning
  • 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.

RELATED: Kitchen Chores for a 5 Year Old 

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kids putting away dishes

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.

young boy vacuuming

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
kids helping around the farm

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?

boy helping collect eggs on the farm

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.

Do your kids have chores? Do they get paid for work at home?
Need more inspiration for getting kids to work hard? Check out this interview with Olympian Shannon Miller on teaching kids to have a gold medal mind set.
Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.
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8 thoughts on “Should You Pay Kids for Chores?”

  1. My parents didn’t pay me for helping in house work and never ever considered to pay me for grades. They just taught me this things are important for myself and my future life as adult.
    In Thomas Phelan’s book “1 2 3 magic” there is one interesting idea: If the child doesn’t want to do her chores, SHE should pay the mother to do the work, not the opposite 😉

  2. I raised 8 children and they did not get an allowance. Number one, we could not afford to do so, and number two, my husband and I came from homes where we did not get an allowance as we were expected to participate in helping our family run smoothly as we were part of the team. We were happy with the values we grew up with and passed them on to our children, and would have done so (and did!) even when we were able to afford to pay an allowance, but did not.
    My kids are all now grown and older than most of your children as my kids range in age from 44 down to 27. My kids had opportunities many children do not have today as some of mine had a paper route (kids cannot run paper routes anymore), they babysat from ages 10 up (very mature for their age and neighbors/friends trusted them), did lawn work (mowing, raking, shoveling snow) from age 10 up, ran lemonade stands, sold items for a company whose name I cannot recall (but it eventually was not a good deal for the kids), and were even sometimes hired by neighbors to do chores such as help clean out a garage, attic or basement.
    If our kids wanted or needed extra money for something, then we gave them jobs that were beyond their regular chores such as cleaning out my husband’s truck bed, help clean basement or garage.
    We absolutely did NOT pay our kids for getting good grades at school as this was NOT their ‘job’ as they were never hired by the school system. Our kids went to school because it was/is compulsory and then eventually we brought most home or did not send the younger ones as we homeschooled.
    Those who stayed in school knew they had to get good grades if they wanted to achieve other goals such as sports or college admissions. We have two sons and both played sports in high school (and worked at a paying job), and one daughter went to Mortuary college. They chose to get good grades for themselves, not because we bribed or rewarded them with money. The achievement was their reward which they earned on their own and took pride in themselves for a job well done.
    We taught all of our children a strong work ethic (all went to work at age 15/16), strong life skills (religious teaching, ethics, honesty, manners, respect for self and others, cooking, mending, house work, laundry, lawn care, child care, how to change a tire, check oil and transmission fluid (not necessary today, but was 20+ years ago), how to pump gas, buy on sale, budget, bill paying, tithes, community work, etc.) I also have always served in many areas of church and community and my kids have worked by my side through much of it. We must model what we hope to pass on.
    When our kids went to work at age 15/16, they began to buy some of their own personal items (deodorant, tampons, a shirt/blouse here or there, etc), and by age 17/18 were buying all their own clothing, personal items, shoes, and paid for their own phones (as these came out), their own cars, gas, insurance and upkeep, and continued to have a savings account and budget their money. Most had $10,000 or more saved by age 18 and were able to put a good amount down on a car, with money left to save, invest or have for emergencies. All were prepared to be adults by the time they turned 18.
    All of our kids are married, with kids, and all but two own their own homes. Three own their own businesses. Most are continuing to raise their children the way they were raised. We have 6 grandchildren who are now adults and most have their own families. There are plenty of young grandchildren who come here and they know they have to pick up after themselves, be respectful, and often help. We pay them to do special chores so they can earn extra money.
    Kids today have too much, are given too much, not much is asked of them, and they often act entitled. Too many are not prepared for adulthood by age 18/19 when they leave school. We have known of some not ready for adulthood way into their 30’s! (Childhood friends of our kids.) Their parents have emotionally stunted their maturity growth and they flounder through life. But we also know many who were well-prepared for adulthood who work hard and have become awesome people.
    We only get one chance to raise our kids; do it well. It is much harder for people to learn to be responsible and to grow up once they become adults.

  3. My oldest kids are 4 and 2. I rarely think to ask them to help with anything other than picking up their toys/books (which is apparently quite painful). I am inspired by this article! Tomorrow I will ask them to help me drag the laundry sacks to the laundry room to empty them there, and also to put their own plates in the dishwasher after eating. Tiny little things, really, but I never thought to do them before. Baby steps 🙂 I love the thought of raising responsible children!

  4. My kids get paid for grades (their job) but not for doing things around the house. We all live here so we all work together to make meals, clean up, do laundry (they do their own since age 8), etc. School is their job. the goal is to do YOUR best not get an “A”.

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