Why you shouldn’t pay your child for chores

Pieter Rossouw, Financial Wellness Researcher at Momentum

Establishing a connection in your child’s mind between getting money and doing chores is a risky one. But why exactly is giving your children money for chores likely to do them more harm than good?

Well, there are at least two reasons for this.

The first reason has to do with the values you want to impart to your child.

Once you have positioned a chore as being connected to an incentive, it is very difficult to convey the real, and often right reasons for doing something.

Similarly, once the incentive disappears, will the chore still be done?

Behaviours that you as a parent want your child to adopt and internalise as part of their own value system, should not be connected to an incentive.

Feeding the family pets, is an example of caring behaviour you want your child to adopt for reasons that have to do with love and responsibility – not an incentive.

Other examples would be making your bed in the morning or making sure your room is not a pig sty, or packing and unpacking the dishwasher.

While the first example seems pretty understandable, it is important to know that the same fundamental principle applies to the second examples. Making a behaviour part of your value system requires that it is not done in exchange for reward.

The real world

Children need to understand that in the real world, everybody needs to do their part and certain responsibilities are simply what they are and need to be done, for no reward. End of story.

Many of these examples of behaviours would depend on the values of parents in the first place, but, the mechanics behind rewarding children for behaviour that should be done for the sake of doing it, or as part of a personal value, suggest to us that we have to be careful with incentives, otherwise the true meaning of the behaviour gets lost.

Or, the behaviour might become dependent on the incentive.

Bribing your children with money to get them to do what they need to do, is another bad tactic that paves the way for poor self-discipline later in life.

The second reason can be explained by the following question: if your child has enough money, what reason do they have to do a chore if they don’t need the money? This question demonstrates the danger of making chores subject to reward. If there’s no need for extra money, it is highly likely that your child will argue that they don’t need the money so they don’t really see the point of doing the chore. Or, can you imagine your child’s face if you stop paying him for a chore that previously got him some extra money? Chaos!

So what do you do when your child wants opportunities to earn an extra income?

Well, this is where you have to decide what you give as pocket money (an allowance) and what you’re willing to pay extra for. The idea behind pocket money is to give your child the means to engage with money and make money decisions – good and bad. It’s a tool, and some part of it should be given for free.

A wage, or whatever you want to call that extra income, is the money you may give for work done. A good way to identify these kinds of opportunities is to ask yourself what work or task that you were going to pay for, can your child do instead?

Next time you want to take your car to the valet, offer the R90 to your child to do it, or get them to help in the garden. In both cases, you were going to spend the money one way or another if you weren’t going to do it yourself, and it’s also a way of encouraging entrepreneurship.

AUTHOR: Pieter Rossouw, Financial Wellness Researcher at Momentum



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