For Parents

Should Chores Be Tied to Allowance?

We walk you through our reasoning behind why we think chores and allowance should not be tied together in your household.

girl-doing-chores

Parents, it’s a confusing world out there. You want to do the right thing, teach your child valuable financial lessons, and live as whine-free as possible. So, you entice your child to do their chores with a financial reward – aka an allowance.

On the surface, this seems like an excellent plan. You think, “Yes! This will definitely persuade my child to do their chores with no pushback!” What you don’t know is that offering a monetary reward essentially kills any natural motivation your child might have to do the right thing and fulfill their family duties.

That’s right. That behavior you’re hoping to inspire can many times have the opposite effect when you make the decision to bring money into the equation. But don’t worry, it’s not too late. We’ll let you know how you can course correct, with some great tips below.

Why Chores Shouldn’t Be Tied to Allowance

There’s been study after study discussing the negative effect of paying your child for chores. Should they have chores? Of course! Should they have an allowance? Of course! Should you pay them to do their chores? Of course not!

We’ll give you some tips on how to keep these two lanes of learning separate, but equally important.

Why Chores Matter

Chores are a very important part of any family dynamics. To keep the unit running smoothly, it’s important that each family member, regardless of age, make their own, individual contribution.

Yes, even a toddler can help set the table or bring a diaper from the nursery.

Chores help the child feel like they are a valuable member of their family. This boost in self-esteem, coupled with the ability to learn how to do certain tasks, makes chores an immensely important part of growing up.

According to WebMD, here are some age-appropriate chores for young children.

Chores for Children Ages 2 to 3

  • Put toys away
  • Fill pet’s food dish
  • Put clothes in the hamper
  • Wipe up spills
  • Dust
  • Pile books and magazines

Chores for Children Ages 4 to 5

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Make their bed
  • Empty wastebaskets
  • Bring in mail or newspaper
  • Clear table
  • Pull weeds, if you have a garden
  • Use hand-held vacuum to pick up crumbs
  • Water flowers
  • Unload utensils from dishwasher
  • Wash plastic dishes at sink
  • Fix bowl of cereal

Chores for Children Ages 6 to 7

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Sort laundry
  • Sweep floors
  • Set and clear table
  • Help make and pack lunch
  • Weed and rake leaves
  • Keep bedroom tidy

Chores for Children Ages 8 to 9

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Load dishwasher
  • Put away groceries
  • Vacuum
  • Help make dinner
  • Make own snacks
  • Wash table after meals
  • Make own breakfast
  • Peel vegetables
  • Cook simple foods, such as toast
  • Mop floor
  • Take pet for a walk

Chores for Children Ages 10 and Older

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Unload dishwasher
  • Fold laundry
  • Clean bathroom
  • Wash windows
  • Wash car
  • Cook simple meals with supervision
  • Iron clothes
  • Do laundry
  • Baby-sit younger siblings (with an adult in the home)
  • Clean kitchen
  • Change their bed sheets

If you’re reading this and thinking, “It’ll take me longer to teach my kids to do these things than to get them over with myself” you’re not alone. And it’s true, you might have to do a little bit of clean-up around them when they first get started. But soon enough, they will be able to master each chore because they know it’s an important contribution to their family.

We all want to raise helpful, intrinsically motivated kids. And the important thing to remember when guiding young children is to allow them to help in any way possible. Without micromanaging and without giving them busy work just to keep them out of your hair.

If you’re in the kitchen cooking, resist the urge to let them sit there watching their iPad. Instead, recruit them to help you wash the produce, make the salad, or season your protein.

This is how you help children build that intrinsic desire to be helpful, but our culture doesn’t always empower parents to raise helpful kids. Books like Hunt, Gather, Parent: What Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About the Lost Art of Raising Happy, Helpful Little Humans delve into this idea in other parts of the world and can help you develop a more creative approach toward chores.

Why (Some) Chores Shouldn’t Be Tied To Allowance

We’ve discussed the importance of chores, but it’s very important that these chores aren’t tied to their allowance. Chores should be mandatory. They are responsibilities that need to be taken care of no matter what, because that’s what the family unit needs to continue running.

Of course, some children need more motivation than others. And when it comes to kids, one of the best incentives is to turn chores into a fun experience!

Instead of sending your child to clean their room by themselves, perhaps the family could fold a huge load of laundry together in the living room while watching TV. This makes the chore a bit more pleasant for them. For more ideas, check out the book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us and use that knowledge to hack family your chore chart!

The Benefits of Separating Chores and Allowances

Separating family duties from allowance gives your child the chance to build intrinsic motivation to help their community. That’s why allowance should be independent of good grades or completed chores. By establishing a recurrent allowance system, you can help your child tap into a sense of belonging.

How to Establish an Allowance System

If chores are your child’s contribution to the family, an allowance is the family’s contribution to them.

Having a weekly allowance will allow kids to have some pocket money when they are out and about with you, cutting down on the relentless “Mom, can you buy me this pleeeease?”

Giving kids an allowance can also help them learn to save for the big ticket item they’ve been asking you for, or start saving for college.

Again, this allowance should be independent of their chores. Actually, let’s stop using “chores” and use “family contributions” instead. Mind-blowing? A little. 

You see, the word “chore” already has a charged, negative feeling. It doesn’t quite help you describe why your child’s contribution is essential. The words “family contribution,” on the other hand, create a sense of belonging and responsibility.

But How Much and How Often?

The rule of thumb here is $1 per age year, every week. So, a seven-year-old will get $7 per week. Keep in mind that this is just an average. You should do what suits your family budget best. The idea is to commit to giving them an allowance, whatever the rate, in order to allow them to make long-term plans with it.

Got an ambitious kid who wants to earn more money? Great! While most chores should not be paid for, there are some that go above and beyond the normal scope. And we’re all about making an extra buck or two! By opening up the conversation to extra family contributions, you can help your child earn some money and encourage their entrepreneurial spirit.

Kids Are Born Helpers

In discussing chores or family contributions, it’s important to remember that kids should remain kids, and they should enjoy their childhood.

No one is advocating for chores to take over their lives. Just to add some chores to their weekly or daily routine to help them learn some life skills they will need in the future.

The only way to do this is to allow them to jump in to help whenever they ask, keeping safety in mind, of course. No micromanaging. And not turning down their help if they offer. Remember, that’s the fastest way to kill their budding intrinsic motivation!

By pairing the concept of family contributions with a weekly allowance,  your child can begin to build plans for the future. This will allow them to start making money decisions for themselves, as they become more empowered and financially independent.

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About the Author

Lucia Caldera

Lucia Caldera is a writer who specializes in personal finance. Her goal is to create approachable content that sparks financial wellness and unlocks personal growth. Lucia's work reflects her passion for financial education as the key to reducing the wealth gap for future generations.

Last updated on: August 18, 2022