Should Our Children “Work”?

Should children HAVE money?

As a mom I say “yes”, but under specific conditions. Merely giving children money for the sake of it is not a good idea. This is how the “money growing on trees” ideas get started. I say this, because I have done it before and now I regret just giving my kids money. If you are not interested in giving monetary rewards…keep reading…I have non-monetary prize suggestions, also!

Should children EARN money, then?

Again, I say “yes.” Why? Well, when it all comes down to it, parents DO provide for their children. They are the ones who buy them their clothing, food and entertainment. So, why not let them earn these things? Dave Ramsey also promotes the idea of requiring children to work for what they get. I agree to a point. Young children of course should not have to earn rent money to live at their own home and they most certainly should not earn money to buy their own basic clothing. Fancy clothing-yes! Extra shoes-sure! I am sure you are getting my point here. I think that a child should earn money to buy their own toys, tasty treats and other fun stuff that is not necessary to survive.

Earning Opportunities:

They can engage in simple household tasks, like:

  • Taking out the garbage
  • Putting away their laundry
  • Making their bed
  • Helping clear the table after meals
  • Helping put clean dishes away
  • Taking care of a pets needs: filling the water bowl, taking them for a walk

Children can also earn money for things that they already have to do, like:

  • Going to bed on time
  • Brushing their teeth before bedtime and before school
  • Packing up their backpack and getting things ready for school
  • Eating breakfast
  • Doing their homework

The above are tasks that have to be done anyway. They are tasks that mom usually does by herself and then she’s so exhausted and frustrated because no one is helping, right?!! So, by enlisting the rest of the family, everything that needs to get done, will get done and the kids will earn stuff they want, in the process.

What if I don’t want to give my child MONEY? What else can I give them?

  • Children can earn points. You can even keep track of their points on a new website called “Chore Monster” (it’s free!)
  • You can download a simple “chore chart” online and keep track of what they accomplish. When the chart is complete-they can earn a desired toy or prize.
  • Print out or buy tickets or coupons that they earn. After they have earned a certain amount, they can trade them in for a prize or sweet treat.

What does Research Say?

  • Research shows that children learn responsibility and independence by engaging in housework (and also homework).
  • When children earn money, they also learn about saving, giving to those less fortunate and spending their money wisely.
  • As children get older, they can learn about investing their money. As a result they can start saving up for a larger and more expensive item, like a video game, toy or even a new bicycle.
  • By earning money, as opposed to “being given money,” children will learn that hard work pays off!

What do you think? What has worked for you and your children? I would love to hear your ideas and suggestions!


One comment

  1. Hi Andrea,

    You have interesting ideas here 🙂 From solely a pedagogical point of view I wonder if it is wise to give money (or any other prize) for things kids should be doing anyway… like their homework. The reason why I am asking this, is the detrimental effect this has to the intrinsic learning motivation – when learning is externalized to something that is done for a reward (monetary or any other bribe) it loses its intrinsic value. This makes it hard for students to learn simply because they enjoy learning. And that autonomous learning is actually the place where we want to take all students, right?

    Autonomous and independent learning grows from finding the genuine thrill of work well done (solving a puzzle, getting a window sparking clean, finishing the homework and putting books to backpack etc). An external reward steals away that feeling, and replaces it with something less valuable (like money or gold star) and also forces them to ask acceptance from others to know if the job was done well enough. Alfie Kohn has written an excellent book about this: Punished by Rewards.

    If you really want to teach children about the value of money, let them help you choose items at the grocery store and compare the prices (they learn surprisingly much math that way, too). Having real choices and thinking whether they want to have store brand yoghurt or cereal vs more expensive one makes spending money more tangible for kids, and this is how my kids learned to use money. The decision was truly their own, and if they saved money then we probably were able to buy something else they wanted, like ice-cream. We compared other things too, when they grew, like sugars and nutritional value in general.

    As for chores I have the principle that because I work full time (like everyone else in the household- either as student or an employee), the chores are shared and everyone does their share. Without pay. Because we all live here. And they are not my chores, but belong equally to everyone. My Finnish upbringing makes me really frown upon the idea of chores being something mom automatically “does by herself”. Asking for the kids if they want to do something extra (not the daily/weekly chores needed to run the household) and paying them for that because I value my free time is okay to me, though, and allows them to save up for something they want to get.


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