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Debate Club: Should We Pay Kids for Chores?


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.”

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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Unstructured play is play without predetermined rules of the game. There are no organized teams, uniforms, coaches or trainers. It is spontaneous, often made-up on the spot, and changeable as the day goes on. It is the kind of play you see when puppies chase each other around a yard in endless circles or a group of kids play for hours in a fort they created out of old packing boxes.

Unstructured play is fun—no question about it—but research also tells us that it is critically important for the development of children's bodies and brains.

One of the best ways to encourage unstructured play in young children is by providing open-ended toys, or toys that can be used multiple ways. People Toy Company knows all about that. Since 1977, they've created toys and products designed to naturally encourage developmental milestones—but to kids, it all just feels like play.

Here are five reasons why unstructured play is crucial for your children—

1. It changes brain structure in important ways

In a recent interview on NPR's Morning Edition, Sergio Pellis, Ph.D., an expert on the neuroscience of play noted that play actually changes the structure of the developing brain in important ways, strengthening the connections of the neurons (nerve cells) in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain considered to be the executive control center responsible for solving problems, making plans and regulating emotions.

Because unstructured play involves trying out different strategies without particular goals or serious consequences, children and other animals get to practice different activities during play and see what happens. When Dr. Pellis compared rats who played as pups with rats that did not, he found that although the play-deprived rats could perform the same actions, the play-experienced rats were able to react to their circumstances in a more flexible, fluid and swift fashion.

Their brains seemed more "plastic" and better able to rewire as they encountered new experiences.

Hod Lipson, a computer scientist at Cornell sums it up by saying the gift of play is that it teaches us how to deal with the unexpected—a critically important skill in today's uncertain world.

2. Play activates the entire neocortex

We now know that gene expression (whether a gene is active or not) is affected by many different things in our lives, including our environment and the activities we participate in. Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., a Professor at the University of Washington studied play in rats earning him the nickname of the "rat tickler."

He found that even a half hour of play affected the activity of many different genes and activated the outer part of the rats' brains known as the neocortex, the area of the brain used in higher functions such as thinking, language and spatial reasoning. We don't know for sure that this happens in humans, but some researchers believe that it probably does.

3. It teaches children to have positive interaction with others

It used to be thought that animal play was simply practice so that they could become more effective hunters. However, Dr. Panksepp's study of play in rats led him to the conclusion that play served an entirely different function: teaching young animals how to interact with others in positive ways. He believed that play helps build pro-social brains.

4. Children who play are often better students

The social skills acquired through play may help children become better students. Research has found that the best predictor of academic performance in the eighth grade was a child's social skills in the third grade. Dr. Pellis notes that "countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less."

5. Unstructured play gets kids moving

We all worry that our kids are getting too little physical activity as they spend large chunks of their time glued to their electronic devices with only their thumbs getting any exercise. Unstructured play, whether running around in the yard, climbing trees or playing on commercial play structures in schools or public parks, means moving the whole body around.

Physical activity helps children maintain a healthy weight and combats the development of Type 2 diabetes—a condition all too common in American children—by increasing the body's sensitivity to the hormone insulin.

It is tempting in today's busy world for parents and kids to fill every minute of their day with structured activities—ranging from Spanish classes before school to soccer and basketball practice after and a full range of special classes and camps on the weekends and summer vacation. We don't remember to carve out time for unstructured play, time for kids to get together with absolutely nothing planned and no particular goals in mind except having fun.

The growing body of research on the benefits of unstructured play suggests that perhaps we should rethink our priorities.

Not sure where to get started? Here are four People Toy Company products that encourage hours of unstructured play.

1. People Blocks Zoo Animals

These colorful, magnetic building blocks are perfect for encouraging unstructured play in children one year and beyond. The small pieces fit easily in the hands of smaller children, and older children will love creating their own shapes and designs with the magnetic pieces.

People Blocks Zoo Animals 17 Piece Set, People Toy Company, $34.99

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This article was sponsored by People Toy Company. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Mamas have a hard time carving out time for themselves. Our families almost always take priority, meaning things like skincare can easily fall by the wayside. Even though studies have shown the benefits of caring for ourselves also benefit our babies benefit our babies, it often feels just one more task to add to our to-do list.

Fortunately, it's possible to skip extensive routines and start small. If you have just five minutes (or more!) to spare for yourself this week, try these self-care products you can sneak during nap time or after you finally get the little ones down for the night.

If you only have 5 minutes: Remove your makeup

One of the most important ways to care for your skin at the end of the day is removing your makeup. Start with a cleansing towelette to easily wipe away even stubborn mascara and eyeliner so you can go to bed with a clean slate.

Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes, Amazon, 2-pk $8.97

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If you have 10 minutes (or more): Use a jade facial roller

After cleansing, use this jade roller to gently massage your face to boost collagen, flush out toxins and improve circulation in your skin.

Jade Facial Roller, Amazon, $11.99

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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Chrissy Teigen has been very open about the ways pregnancy has changed her body. Mom to 2-year-old Luna and 4-month-old Miles, Teigen—a former swimsuit model—has famously embraced her postpartum body (stretchies and all), while noting that she's still, at times, insecure about it, but she's not ashamed.

That's why, when a man on Twitter commented on a photo of Teigen's red carpet look for the Emmy's to ask the whole wide world (and Teigen herself, he tagged her) if she was pregnant again, Teigen was quick to shut down the shamer.

"I'm asking this with the utmost respectful [sic], but is @chrissyteigen pregnant again?" The man wrote.

"I just had a baby but thank you for being soooo respectful," Teigen replied (from the Emmys).


Fellow moms were quick to jump to Teigen's defense. Many pointed out that Teigen actually looks incredible for any human, let alone one who is four months postpartum. Other mamas were quick to chime in with stories about their own lingering baby bumps.

For a lot of women, our bodies are different after having a baby. Sometimes that means we're a little rounder in the middle than we used to be. It happens to almost everyone, even red carpet-walking A-listers, like Teigen and actress Jennifer Garner, who once told Ellen Degeneres that she would have a bump forever.

"I am not pregnant, but I have had three kids and there is a bump," Garner explained in 2014, after paparazzi photographs fueled speculation that she and Ben Affleck were expecting a fourth child. "Forever and ever, not another baby. Just a bump like a camel. But just in reverse," Garner jokes.

Like Garner, Teigen dealt with the pregnancy question with a sense of humor, but she shouldn't have had to defend her body from the Emmys. As many, many Twitter users pointed out to the man who asked, it's never cool to ask a woman if she is pregnant.

It's not polite to ask, and it's no one's business whether a woman's bump is a pregnancy, some fabric, a burrito, a weird shadow or (as in Teigen's case) basically a figment of someone's imagination.

A lot of mamas online last night chimed in to say that while Teigen's stomach doesn't look like it did in her Sports Illustrated days, it still looks pretty freaking amazing.

Yes, after two kids, Chrissy Teigen doesn't look like a swimsuit model. But she shouldn't have to. She's not a swimsuit model anymore. She is a cookbook author with her own Target line and she hosts a hilarious TV show. She's also a mother. She is so much more than her midsection.

"Honestly, I don't ever have to be in a swimsuit again," she recently told Women's Health. "Since I was 20 years old, I had this weight in my mind that I am, or that I'm supposed to be. I've been so used to that number for 10 years now. And then I started realizing it was a swimsuit-model weight. There's a very big difference between wanting to be that kind of fit and wanting to be happy-fit."

Teigen is happy with her body, and we're happy she spent Emmy night educating the internet about respecting women.

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As parents, we often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make sure our babies' brains are developing as quickly as possible. But the irony is, for many years the best way our little ones can learn and grow is through play. In fact, research has shown that reading stories, playing simple games, and engaging with toys is one of the best ways to boost baby's brain development for years to come.

It's those kind of findings that fuels the work at People Toy Company, a Japanese-based toy company that believes in encouraging the natural development of children through research-backed toys. Every toy in their line is developed to make playtime engaging for parents and children alike while helping little ones achieve developmental milestones through play.

Here are 10 of our favorite toys for engaging little minds and encouraging motor development from baby's first weeks and beyond.

TOYS TO STIMULATE LITTLE BRAINS BEFORE 6 MONTHS

1. Mochi Double Pendant Necklace (newborn on)

It's a fact of life that babies love to explore their world with their mouths. Save your jewelry by swapping in this teething necklace made from rice. Babies will love the easy-to-hold shape and textured design—you'll love the neutral color palette that goes with any outfit.

Mochi Double Pendant Necklace, Amazon, $15.99

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TOYS TO STIMULATE LITTLE BRAINS AFTER 6 MONTHS

1. Magic Reflection Ball (6 month)

Encourage independent play from six months on with this constantly changing reflection ball. Use the suction cup to attach it to different smooth surfaces to encourage pulling up and standing later on.

People Magic Reflection Ball, Amazon, $8.99

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This article was sponsored by People Toy Company. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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