Dear Mumbling Mommy,
We have a 2 year old, 5 year old, & 7 year old at home. With school in full swing, the older two have been asking more and more about getting an allowance. We’ve resisted for quite some time – assuming they should earn money and not just have it given to them; and they should clean up after themselves because they are part of the family. I’m worried about consistency issues for me (I don’t want this to be a daily battle) and if we’re sending the right message giving them money for things they should do as part of the family. What do you think?
Hi there, Desperate Housewife —
The chore conundrum is one that many parents battle, especially with elementary-age children. As these kids start to understand the way the economy works, they want to be a part of it. The problem is that they are about 10 years too young to apply for a job as a grocery bagger. So they come to their parents instead — you know, since parents have been looking for ways to get rid of all that extra cash burning a hole in their khakis.
A survey done by scheduling specialty company Cozi found that 87% of parents have their children do chores but 91% of parents think kids today do too few chores. Based on the findings, the average child starts doing chores at age 4.5. While 46% of parents pay an allowance, only one in three tie allowances to completing chores. I’m not sure why only one-third of parents surveyed made their kids earn the cash and I think you are on the right track by not simply handing it over with no strings attached.
The first piece of advice that I have is to make sure that earning money is a responsibility that falls on their shoulders — not yours. You mention how tracking chores and doling out allowances could turn into a burden for you and that is certainly something to avoid. Part of earning a living is taking initiative — not simply doing a prescribed task for an agreed upon amount of money. There are really two routes that you could take with kids this age.
The first, used by Mumbling Mommy blogger Heather C., is to come up with a set of chores that have a price tag. In Heather’s case, her daughter is only three, so there is a decent amount of oversight on her part and the money goes into a savings account. In your case, both of your older kids are big enough to make a chore chart, negotiate with you on price and keep track of their accomplishments (with quality control on behalf of the bosses).You should never have to remind them which chores are theirs or nag them to do the tasks. Just like a “real” job, if the chore does not get done one day, they are fired from it and lose all future claims to allowance connected to the particular chore.
If you are concerned that giving out money to help out the family gives the wrong message, chose certain chores that are not monetized. Perhaps chores like setting and clearing the dinner table earn a dollar amount, while making beds and cleaning their own bedrooms do not. Find what combination works best for your family and adjust as time goes on.
Another way to approach this issue is to help them find “work” in places outside of the home. This could include finding cleaning or yard projects that family members, neighbors or church friends need completed. In a few years, this might include babysitting.Sit down with your kids and ask them what ideas they have to raise some cash. Stir up their entrepreneurial spirit. The great benefit to this approach is that in addition to learning the value of earning money for hard work, kids learn that finding jobs to do is hard work in itself. Jobs are not simply handed out; earning money takes training, persistence and innovation.
The con to this suggestion is that due to their age, you are forced to become a “middle man” of sorts, driving them to jobs and ensuring that your family schedule is flexible enough allow for this work.Hard work and its real-world reward (cash!) are values that are important to instill at a young age. A child that shows interest in money is one that is old enough to earn it in a way that does not cause an undue burden to parents. Hold a brainstorming session with your kids and see what they bring to the table. Just like everything else in life, sometimes kids come up with the simplest, smartest and best answers.Need advice from Mumbling Mommy?
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