Getting children to help around the house can be a great benefit for parents, while also teaching children accountability, responsibility, and independence. Kids who are expected and required to complete chores around the home gain an appreciation for all the work that goes into taking care of the family.
Chores also help to increase self-confidence in children. They gain a sense of accomplishment at getting things done and doing things well. Chores teach self-sufficiency, which is, after all, our primary goal as parents.
But, even though the benefits are mounting it can be hard as a parent to loosen the reigns and allow our children to take over household tasks. After all, it is much easier most of the time to do the cleaning ourselves. Children have an intrinsic desire to be independent and as a parent it is important we nurture and sustain that. And, once they get the hang of a task they can be super helpful. It just takes some patience and calm instruction.
Start small. Have your children help with age-appropriate tasks that are safe and easy for them to get done. For example, you can have them put plates in the dishwasher, help to clear the table after meals, water plants, throw dirty clothes into the hamper, pick up toys, get the mail, collect garbage around the home, strip sheets off beds, feed animals, help with meals, etc. As they get older you can add things like cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming, and even mowing the lawn.
Make a list and come to an agreement with your child to help avoid nagging. Sticker charts can be helpful and incentives like allowance or activities can also be motivating but they are not necessary. Don’t feel like you have to reward your child with anything more than a “good job” for the chores they have done. After all, that is not real life. You don’t get $1 every time you do a load of laundry, so they don’t need to either.
We have all heard the positive arguments for paying your children to do chores: it teaches them how to manage money, it is motivating, it gives them an allowance to use on things they want, and it teaches them responsibility.
The other day this very question came up in my home and my therapist brain kicked in and said: “this is a bad idea.” But why is it so bad? Here are three reasons why you don’t need to pay your children for chores, and why it could actually be a bad idea.
Here is why:
1.)It teaches children that love is transactional. When you pay your children to be helpful and do things they should be doing out of love, you are teaching them they should get money for being a helpful, kind, contributing member of the family. Family members should be stepping in to help each other. It shouldn’t be expected that you will get paid every time you do something for family.
2.)They won’t learn intrinsic motivation. Rather than teaching your children that they will feel good if they help, that it makes other people happy, and all those other internal feelings that should motivate them in life, you are teaching them to do something only if there is an external reward. They are learning to only be motivated by external forces, rather than the internal rewards that build character and shape them as adults.
3.)They won’t get paid for chores as an adult. Do you get paid every time you clean the toilet or do a load of laundry? I don’t think so. So why set that expectation? Your children will need to take care of the yard, their homes, and their family’s needs without any external rewards. It is just something that needs to get done.
If you do want to give your kids an allowance, pay them for doing things that are out of the routine. Maybe you need help sorting something or working on a home project. Those are great times to “hire” your children. When it comes to the daily routine, leave money out of it. Instead, tell them how appreciative you are of them for helping out. Thank them. Give them a high-five or a hug, but leave the money to the special circumstances.