Allowance For Chores Trap?

Here is a question I received from an old friend:

My husband and I were discussing this the other day. If their allowance is not dependent upon the completion of chores, because their chores are an expectation, what do you do with their allowance when they refuse to do their chores? Paying them their allowance when they don’t do their chores would most certainly send the wrong message. Thoughts?? – Jenny Bee

I love your question! I understand why you would be worried about sending the wrong message, giving an allowance to a child who is not doing their chores, even if you have not directly tied the allowance to the completion of chores. But if you believe that their allowance is money management practice (i.e. saving, spending, and giving), and not a wage (i.e. earning), then there should be no mixed messages.

If you have set the expectation that your child’s allowance is a chance for them to practice using money then you should treat it like the other activities your child practices. If you keep your child from soccer practice or music lessons when they don’t do their chores, then yes, feel free to take the same approach with the allowance. If they still go to soccer or music even when their chores are not complete, give them their allowance too.

I completely understand and relate to the concern that if I give an allowance when I can’t see my son’s floor, I’m rewarding “bad” behaviour. But they are not related. If you haven’t started an allowance, you have already found ways to encourage/incentivize your children to do the work around the house without the threat of “not paying up”, so keep it up. If you have started an allowance, and you are worried about your child being responsible, you have other parts of your child’s life to help encourage positive behaviour and good ethics, such as school, sports, and other extracurricular activities.

As your child matures and is more comfortable managing money, their allowance should be turned into a budget that they manage, such as their lunch budget, or clothing budget. As you can see, once this happens, withholding the allowance almost becomes impossible. I don’t think many of us would withhold our child’s lunch for not finishing chores, although we may want to 🙂

Our children will have lots of chances to practice earning a wage for work well done. I definitely encourage summer jobs, so they start to build up a good work ethic, but I don’t think we need to be their first bosses. They will feel the consequences of not doing their work from their employers, and we can be there to empathize and guide them. Also, a good work ethic doesn’t just come from compensation (Refer to Dan Pink’s Drive).

We all want our children to be responsible, and chores are a part of that, but don’t let the completion, or lack there-of, stymie the other lessons we are teaching.

Thanks again Jenn for the question, keep them coming.



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