Homework Allowance: Earned or Out-of-Pocket Money?

It’s an old parenting question, but one that still causes a lot of debate: should you give your child pocket money / allowance to do housework?

The best answer I can give you is “sometimes”.

One obvious reason to link the two is to foster a work ethic. Giving pocket money for housework teaches a simple lesson: If you do the work, you get paid. If not, it is not. For example, children in the UK can only work part time at the age of 13 (except in certain ‘performance’ related jobs), pocket money is a good way to teach this lesson at a young age .

But wait a minute … shouldn’t your kids help out with chores anyway? A key part of being a family is working as a team and acknowledging the hard work of others. Giving money for housework runs the risk of creating a selfish and entitlement attitude, and it also runs the risk of hearing comments like, ‘So you want me to take my backpack upstairs? What are you going to pay me for that? Also consider what happens if a child decides that it does not bother him to receive pocket money for a particular week. Does that mean they can get away with it without doing their chores?

You can immediately see the difficulties of the system. So what is the best way to overcome them?

Each family may have a slightly different approach, but one of the best systems I have come across is paying your child a basic amount of pocket money, which is not related to household chores. This basic amount will teach them vital decisions about money and saving, whether they save money to get something they really want, or spend it right away for instant (but often fleeting) gratification. In the meantime, children should be asked to perform basic tasks around the house, but they may be given the opportunity to earn additional “rewards” by completing tasks that are beyond their usual scope. Cleaning the car, for example, is a chore that many parents agree that they would like to reward their children for taking on. This reward can be monetary, but it can also take other forms. A good option that we find is a sticker system. Whenever your child goes above and beyond what is expected of him, he is allowed to put a sticker on his chart, and once he has reached an agreed number, he is allowed a treat. This could take a variety of forms: perhaps a special purchase that you both agree on, or possibly a special trip. The advantage of this system is that the rewards are flexible and can be varied according to the preferences of each child.

Of course, no matter what pocket money system you use, it is almost inevitable that your children will complain about their chores at some point. But if you talk to them about the system, explain why it is fair, and above all keep it consistent, you will find that these cases become much less common.

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