Avoid The Allowance For Chores Trap

Mouse Trap image like the Allowance For Chores trap

Should I give an Allowance for chores?

Here is a question I received from a good 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. What does it mean if you give an allowance to a child who is not doing their chores? Even if you have not directly tied the allowance to completing chores, you may worry about the perception. 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.

An Allowance Is For Practice.

If you have set the expectation that your child’s allowance is a chance for them to practice using money, you should treat it like the other activities your child practices. For example, if you wouldn’t keep your child from soccer practice or music lessons when they don’t do their chores, then don’t withhold an allowance from them either.

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. On the other hand, if you have started an allowance and 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.

Transition Allowances to Budgets

As your child matures and is more comfortable managing money, their allowance should be turned into a budget that they manage. For example, 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 when they do, we can be there to empathize with 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 of chores, or lack thereof, stymie the other lessons we are teaching.

Thanks again, Jenn, for the question. Keep the questions coming.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.