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Debate Club: Should We Pay Kids for Chores?

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Why I Don’t Pay My Children to Do Chores

By Kathryn Trudeau

The night my husband and I decided we were ready (ha…ready) to start our family, we went out to a diner to discuss how my career would change, how our finances would change, etc. Like most non-parents, we had a laughable list of things called “Things We’ll Never Do as Parents.”

Okay, it wasn’t a literal list, but the point remains. While many things on that list have, in fact, been committed by either myself or my husband, one thing has stuck: We do not pay our children to do chores.

Growing up, I had my own set of cleaning duties, and I was never paid to do any of them. I never felt shorted, gypped, or indentured. In fact, our home was the cleanest to ever house two young children. Scratch that. It was the cleanest home, period.

Now, as my husband and I introduce our son, who is five, to household duties, he has jumped in with both feet. He knows how to fold his socks and underwear. He helps empty the dishwasher. He can use a rag to help dry the floors after a good scrubbing. As the saying goes, “Many hands make light work.”

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Beyond my own experience, there is good scientific reason behind ditching the payment, and no, your house won’t turn into a trash bucket.

Payment diminishes the lesson

Paying kids to do chores eliminates any educational opportunity. The lesson of how and why to keep a clean home are replaced with a motivation for money.  You cannot teach a child to clean for the sake of cleaning when all they see are green dollar signs.

New York Times financial columnist Ron Lieber weighs in on the subject:

“At some point they’re going to get wise to the whole system. [They’re] gonna say to [their mother], “We don’t want to do the chores this week, and we don’t want to do the chores next week, and we don’t want to do the chores next month.” And then she’s in a little bit of a pickle, because the deal she set was that they get paid if they do their chores, which will [teach] them that if they don’t want the money, then they don’t have to do the chores.”

As Lieber pointed out, this pay-for-chores systems teaches kids that to escape chores, they merely have to relinquish payment. In reality, however, chores are inescapable, unless, of course, you like filth.

When your kids grow up, they will have their own houses that require cleaning. Why not set them up for life by instilling the habit of cleaning for the sake of cleaning?

Payment dampens enjoyment

Dampens enjoyment? Who is this crazy lady, and how on earth can chores be enjoyed?

In the early years of our marriage, my husband and I let our chores slide one week. We planned on spending a Saturday to rectify that. As we divided the chores, I tried to get out of kitchen duty. I had made a rather messy dinner the night before, and I didn’t want to scrub those pans.

My husband, however, actually enjoys cleaning the messiest room/pan/whatever, because he feels a sense of pride watching the transformation. If my son only focused on the money, he would lose the opportunity to take pride in his work ethic.

Payment for chores breeds entitlement

While many parents opt to pay for chores as an attempt to thwart entitlement, it actually does the opposite. It sets the stage for entitlement, because it teaches kids that everything revolves around them. It puts the child above the needs of the family. It begs the questions, “What’s in it for me?” and “What do I get out of it?”

On the flip side, “free” chores teach that everyone has a role to play and that everyone must contribute. A family is a community, not an employer-employee situation.

So how do kids learn about money?

The biggest argument in support of paying for chores is so kids will learn to manage money. But the two lessons do not have to be linked. Use chores as an opportunity to teach about cleanliness and familial responsibility. Use allowance to teach about money.

Whether you use the jar system or simply hand out cash, allowance is a great way to teach children the basics of money management. Think of allowance as a stipend, not as pay for work done. A study published in the “Journal of Economic Study” revealed that young girls ages eight to 10 who earned an allowance managed their money better than girls who did not earn an allowance.

The topic of money is always touchy. Add in children, and it’s no wonder that this topic can divide the masses so quickly. If you’ve never tried a “free” chore approach, talk with your kids about how a family is like a community that supports each other. Answer their questions, and try it out.

You still might end up with dirty socks on the floor, but that’s par for the course, right?

I Made My Kids Earn Their Allowance

By Kimberly Yavorski

Like many parents, when my kids were small I felt overwhelmed by how much there was to do. In addition to taking care of my children, I also had a home to maintain – one that was continuously trashed by said children.

I eventually came up with a way to help them understand why Mommy couldn’t play with them ALL THE TIME, and that we could all have more fun if they helped out.

We talked about how certain things needed to get done to have a healthy, happy home. I pointed out that when Mommy did all the work, she had no time for fun things, but that if they helped, we’d all have more time for fun things. They listened and nodded and were even excited about the idea of being able to do some of these very grown-up things.

I made a list of chores and gave each a point value. I made sure to have chores that the youngest could handle, such as setting the table, as well as those that the older ones could take on, such as cleaning the bathroom or the litter box. The easier chores earned one or two points, the more involved ones earned more.

Then I made a list of things that they could cash in those points for. I called them “Privilege Points.” The list included things like having a friend sleep over, screen time, and a special outing.

The chart worked (for a while, anyway), and I think it was largely due to two things. The point system worked like a game, and my children, who are a bit competitive by nature, could keep track of their points and brag about who had the most at the end of the week.

The other positive part of it all, from their point of view, is that it gave them a choice. They had the freedom to choose which chores they did and, for the most part, when they did them. They could also choose to not do any chores with the understanding that they would earn no special privileges.

Like so much of parenting, the chart evolved over time. In fact, my kids probably don’t remember this version. (I myself had forgotten it until I came across it in old files.) As the kids got older, the items on the list changed. When the topic of an allowance came up, it made logical sense to transition from “privileges” to cash.

Over the years, I have read articles extolling or condemning the concept of doing chores for cash and understand the very valid points made. Those on the yes side say that adults earn money for work they do, and children should learn that as well. The other side protests that basic life skills should be learned by everyone, that taking care of oneself and one’s surroundings is a necessary part of life, separate from “work.”

I thought back to when I first started getting an allowance. My father approached me, telling me he would give me a set amount each week for making my bed (apparently that was an issue) and watching my younger sister when my parents were out. Since I had a problem with the whole idea of forking over cash to my kids simply because they existed, this approach made sense to me. I could give them money and help them learn how to manage it. Through this, they would learn that rewards are earned, not simply handed out.

So I adjusted the plan. The objective: to complete chores with a point total equal to their age. In return, they got their weekly allowance. I continued to stress the community aspect of doing chores, how it benefited the entire family, and that everyone needed to make a contribution. Some tasks, such as caring for their own things, putting away their clothes, and clearing their dishes from the table, were expected as being a part of the household and, thus, not on the list.

This system wasn’t perfect. There were times my children came into money from part time jobs or gifts and didn’t “need” that allowance and would choose to not do their chores. Of course, that also meant they would not receive their allowance.

I don’t agree that an allowance should be completely without strings attached. I don’t want my children to think they’re entitled to anything, simply for being. I do, however, believe the ground rules matter.

I gave my kids a choice: Be a part of the family, contribute to the common good, and get to share in the financial success of the family. Or don’t, and have less cash to spend on items their allowance was meant to cover (namely “wants” as their basic needs were always covered).

It has been years since the chart was posted on our refrigerator. Every so often, someone would casually ask about it, but I no longer saw the need for it. As my kids grew into their teen years, the homework load increased dramatically, and I found – at least in our family – that teenagers don’t trash the house the way younger children do. Some of the chores became obsolete. For the most part, my kids cleaned up after themselves (sometimes with prodding) and volunteered to help with other tasks.

Keeping track of points was no longer necessary.

As young adults, my kids no longer get allowances (their part time jobs finance their social lives), but they still help out around the house. They may not always notice when something needs to be done, so I simply ask whoever happens to be in the room at the time, and the job gets done with little argument or delay.  

They all know the value of a dollar and have no expectation of receiving money they haven’t earned. Unlike some parents I know, I don’t get requests for money. Their accounts may get low, but they find a way to manage it until the next payday.

I consider this a parenting win.

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Did you hear that? That was the sound of Nordstrom and Maisonette making all your kid's summer wardrobe dreams come true.

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For decades, doctors have prescribed progesterone, one of the key hormones your body needs during pregnancy, to prevent a miscarriage. The hormone, produced by the ovaries, is necessary to prepare the body for implantation. As the pregnancy progresses, the placenta produces progesterone, which suppresses uterine contractions and early labor.

But a new study out of the UK finds that administering progesterone to women experiencing bleeding in their first trimester does not result in dramatically more successful births than a placebo. Yet, for a small group of mothers-to-be who had experienced "previous recurrent miscarriages," the numbers showed promise.

The study, conducted at Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research at the University of Birmingham in the UK, is the largest of its kind, involving 4,153 pregnant women who were experiencing bleeding in those risky (and nerve-wracking) early weeks. The women were randomly split into two groups, with one group receiving 400 milligrams of progesterone via a vaginal suppository, and the other receiving a placebo of the same amount. Both groups were given the suppositories through their 16th week of pregnancy.

Of the group given progesterone, 75% went on to have a successful, full-term birth, compared to 72% for the placebo.

As the study notes, for most women, the administration of progesterone "did not result in a significantly higher incidence of live births than placebo." But for women who had experienced one or two previous miscarriages, the result was a 4% increase in the number of successful births. And for women who had experienced three or more recurrent miscarriages, the number jumped to a 15% increase.

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Dr. Arri Coomarasamy, Professor of Gynecology at the University of Birmingham and Director of Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research, said the implications for that group are "huge." "Our finding that women who are at risk of a miscarriage because of current pregnancy bleeding and a history of a previous miscarriage could benefit from progesterone treatment has huge implications for practice," he said.

It's estimated that 1 in 5 pregnancies ends in miscarriage. And while even a spot of blood no doubt increases the fear in every expectant mother's mind, bleeding is actually a very common occurrence during pregnancy, Coomarasamy said. Still, first trimester bleeding is particularly risky, with a third of women who experience it going on to miscarry.

So for women who have been through it multiple times, Coomarasamy's findings are an important avenue to explore. "This treatment could save thousands of babies who may have otherwise been lost to a miscarriage," he added.

The study is among a number of recent groundbreaking discoveries made by doctors looking to further understand what causes miscarriages and what can be done to prevent them. While about 70% of miscarriages are attributed to chromosomal abnormalities, doctors recently learned that certain genetic abnormalities, which exist in a small group of parents-to-be, could be discovered by testing the mother and father, as well as the embryo.

Doctors have also discovered that even knowing the sex of your baby could predict the complications a mother may face, thus helping medical professionals to assist in keeping the pregnancy viable.

But while there is no sweeping solution to stop miscarriages, for some couples, the use of progesterone does offer a glimmer of hope. "The results from this study are important for parents who have experienced miscarriage," Jane Brewin, chief executive of Tommy's said. "They now have a robust and effective treatment option which will save many lives and prevent much heartache."

Brewin added that studies like this one are imperative to our understanding of how the creation of life, which remains both a miracle and a mystery, truly works. "It gives us confidence to believe that further research will yield more treatments and ultimately make many more miscarriages preventable," she said.

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It's never easy to give up a career and launch a whole new one, but when I decided to end my time as an opera singer and move into the field of sales, I knew I could do it. After all, I had the perfect role model: my mom.

When I was growing up, she worked as a dental hygienist, but when I started college, she took some courses in sales. She was single with two kids in college, which was a driving force to make more money. But above that, she truly had a passion for sales. In no time, she got jobs and excelled at them, ultimately earning her the title of Vendor Representative of the Year at her electronics company.

When I entered the field of sales, an unusual and unexpected twist followed. Several years into my career, I was hired by a different electronics company. My mom and I ended up selling similar products to some of the same businesses. (Neither of our companies realized this, and we have different last names.)

But rather than feeling uncomfortable, I saw this as a great opportunity. She and I were both committed to doing our best. More often than not, she beat me when we went after the same piece of business. But in the process, I learned so much from her. I was able to see how her work ethic, commitment and style drove her success. I had even more to emulate.

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Here are some of the biggest business lessons I learned from my working mom:

1. Use your existing skill set to differentiate yourself.

As a dental hygienist, my mom knew how to talk to people and make them feel comfortable. She had also served as a youth leader at three different churches where my dad preached. In each town, she found at-risk kids, brought them together and developed programs for them. She had learned how to help people improve themselves and make their lives better.

In sales, she did the same thing, focusing on how the products or services she was selling could genuinely make a difference in the lives of her customers. Those skills translated seamlessly into her new career.

2. Start strong from day one—don't wait for permission to launch your full potential.

From day one at a job, my mom showed up with energy and vigor to get going. She didn't take time to be tentative. Instead, she leaned into her tasks—the equivalent of blasting out of the gate in a race. Having seen how well this worked for her, I strive to do the same.

3. Have empathy, it's essential.

Many women have been falsely accused of being "too emotional" in business. However, empathy is a necessity and drives better results. As a businesswoman, my mom set herself apart by demonstrating genuine empathy for her clients and her colleagues. She loves getting to know people's stories. That understanding is a key component in her finalizing deals and helping her company reach higher levels of success.

4. Learn often—you're never done building your skill set.

My mom is the reason I spend at least three months out of each year getting a new certification or learning a new skill. She's always working to improve, harness new technologies or develop new competencies—and she's passed on that eagerness to learn to me. She knows that to stay on top, you have to keep learning.

5. Bring on the charm.

By nature, I'm analytical. I like to present the numbers to clients, showing the data to help sway their decisions. And that has its place, but charm is universal. Being someone people want to do business with makes a huge difference. If I had a nickel for every time a prospect told me, "I love your mother," I could retire now! Business, especially sales, is about the connections you make as much as the value you bring.

Our paths have taken our careers in different directions, but along the way, I've done my best to incorporate all these skills. Thank you, mom, for teaching me all this, and much more.

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Every mom has her own list of character traits each of she hopes to instill in her children, but there is one that stands out as a big priority for the majority of millennial mothers.

Motherly's 2019 State of Motherhood survey revealed that kindness is incredibly important to today's moms. It is the number one trait we want to cultivate in our children, and according to stats from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, this emphasis on kindness couldn't come at a better time.

In recent years kids and parents have been straying from kindness, but these Ivy League experts have some great ideas about how today's moms can get the next generation back on track so they can become the caring adults of tomorrow.

Between 2013 and 2014, as part of Harvard's Making Caring Common project, researchers surveyed 10,000 middle and high school students across the nation. They found that no matter what race, class or culture the kids identified with, the majority of the students surveyed valued their own personal success and happiness way more than that of others.

Why do kids value their own success so much more than things like caring and fairness? Well, apparently, mom and dad told them to.

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Eighty percent of the 10,000 students said their parents taught them that their own happiness and high achievement were more important than caring for others. (So much for sharing is caring.)

The folks at Harvard say that valuing your own ambition is obviously a good thing (in moderation) in today's competitive world, but prioritizing it so much more than ethical values like kindness, caring and fairness makes kids more likely to be cruel, disrespectful and dishonest.

So how do we fix this? Here's Harvard's four-step plan for raising kinder kids.

1. Help them practice being nice

Giving kids daily opportunities to practice caring and kind acts helps make ethical behavior second nature. They could help you with chores, help a friend with homework or work on a project to help homelessness.

All those tasks would help a child flex their empathy muscles. The key is to increase the challenges over time so your child can develop a stronger capacity for caregiving as they grow.

2. Help them see multiple perspectives

The researchers want kids to “zoom in" and listen closely to the people around them, but also see the bigger picture. “By zooming out and taking multiple perspectives, including the perspectives of those who are too often invisible (such as the new kid in class, someone who doesn't speak their language, or the school custodian), young people expand their circle of concern and become able to consider the justice of their communities and society," the study's authors' wrote.

3. Model kindness

Our kids are watching, so if we want them to be kinder, it's something we should try to cultivate in ourselves. The Harvard team suggests parents make an effort to widen our circles of concern and deepen our understanding of issues of fairness and justice.

4. Teach kids to cope with destructive feelings

According to the researchers, the ability to care about others can be overwhelmed by a kid's feelings of anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings. They suggest we teach our kids teach that while all feelings are okay to feel, some ways of dealing with them are not helpful, or kind (for example, “Hitting your classmate might make you happy, but it won't make them happy and isn't very kind. Counting to 10 and talking about why you're mad is more productive than hitting.")

While the folks at Harvard are concerned that so many kids are being taught to value their own happiness above all, they were also encouraged by the students who do prioritize caring and kindness. One of the students surveyed wrote, “People should always put others before themselves and focus on contributing something to the world that will improve life for future generations."

If we follow the advice of Harvard researchers, the world will see more kids that think like that, and that's what future generations need.

[A version of this post was originally published November 8, 2017. It has been updated.]

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These days more women are having babies into their 40s, but the idea that women are facing down the biological clock is pretty pervasive—once you're over 35, you automatically receive that "advanced maternal age" classification, while your male partner's age may never even be mentioned. The pressure on older moms is unfair, because according to new research from Rutgers University, men may face age-related fertility decline too and America's dads are getting older.

It's a new idea, but this finding actually takes 40 years worth of research into account—which, coincidentally, is around the age male fertility may start to decline. According to Rutgers researchers, the medical community hasn't quite pinpointed the onset of advanced age, but it hovers somewhere between ages 35 and 45.

The study which appears in the journal Maturitas, finds that a father's age may not just affect his fertility, but also the health of his partner and offspring.

Based on previously conducted research, the team behind this study found evidence that men over 45 could put their partners at greater risk for pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Babies born to older fathers also have an increased likelihood of premature birth, late stillbirth, low Apgar scores, low birthweight, newborn seizures and more. The risks appear to exist later in life, too: Research suggests children of older fathers have greater risk of childhood cancers, cognitive issues and autism.

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There's been plenty of studies surrounding advanced maternal age, but research on advanced paternal age is pretty slim—scientists don't quite understand how age correlates to these factors at this point. But researchers from Rutgers believe that age-related decline in testosterone and sperm quality degradation may be to blame. "Just as people lose muscle strength, flexibility and endurance with age, in men, sperm also tend to lose 'fitness' over the life cycle," Gloria Bachmann, director of the Women's Health Institute at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, explains in a release for this news.

As we've previously reported, more and more men are waiting until later in life to have children. According to a 2017 Stanford study, children born to fathers over 40 represent 9% of U.S. births, and the average age of first-time fathers has climbed by three-and-a-half years over the past four decades —so this research matters now more than ever, and it may represent the first step towards setting certain standards in place for men who choose to delay parenthood.

The biggest thing to come out of this research may be the need for more awareness surrounding advanced paternal age. This particular study's authors believe doctors should be starting to have conversations with their male patients, possibly even encouraging them to consider banking sperm if they're considering parenthood later in life.

Women certainly tend to be aware of the age-related risks to their fertility, and many regularly hear that they should freeze their eggs if they're not ready for motherhood. And while it's still too early to say whether we'll ever examine paternal age this closely, this research may set a whole new conversation in motion.

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