Do We Still Give Allowance, When Kids Don’t Do Their Chores?

The Healthy Family Connections Podcast

Episode 121 · Duration: 00:13:25

Do We Still Give Allowance, When Kids Don’t Do Their Chores?

Do We Still Give Allowance, When Kids Don’t Do Their Chores

Is allowance a payment for doing chores, or is it a right of passage?  

Today we’re answering a question from Kara, who lives in Nevada. Kara writes:

What are your thoughts and suggestions regarding allowance?  Is allowance a privilege to be earned or is it a set amount given consistently regardless of behavior or cooperation during the week?  I've heard it advised to not attach allowance to chores, but when kids refuse to do chores and are rude to parents and/or siblings during the week, it feels inappropriate to then give them money to spend as they like. I have two children ages 12 and 14 and I'm trying to figure out a good way that will help them learn financial skills while not being taken advantage of, i.e. (I can do whatever I want during the week and still get money on Saturday!)  Thanks in advance for your help.

Thanks for your question Kara.  It certainly is one of those questions that hangs around begging for an answer.  Before I give my answer to this stubborn question, let’s look at what we’re trying to accomplish.  We want our kids to learn to contribute to the household as members of the household. 

Why Kids Should Contribute to the Household

We want that for several reasons:

  • As kids grow up and become physically mature, they can do more and we want them to experience their growing capabilities.
  • I don’t need to tell you how much it takes to run a household; shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, yard work, car washing, bill paying; need I go on?  As kids grow, we want them to participate in these functions so they learn how to do them and develop good life habits.
  • Also, we simply need their help and we want them to know that we need them and their efforts; their contributions matter to us.

Now, let’s look at why we want our kids to have their own money.

  • It’s a way of supporting their independence.  It gives them a chance to make their own decisions and learn about making choices with money. 
  • It is a way for kids to learn the value of money, how to save for something they really want, but costs more than a week’s allowance such as a computer game they want or a guitar and amplifier. 
  • And it gives them a chance to save for the future, maybe invest their money, save for a car, college, a trip to Europe. 
  • All these things are about learning and growing.  It’s empowering. It gives them the power to get what they really want, if they’re willing to make healthy decisions, make the sacrifices to get them.

Now, if we pay for chores, theoretically, if they don’t care if they get paid or not, they have the option of not contributing or doing chores.  That’s not acceptable.  Participating in the tasks of running the household is not an option, so paying for chores is not what we want.

Participating in the tasks of running the household is not an option, so paying for chores is not what we want.Click To Tweet

On the other hand, as you suggest Kara, it doesn’t make any sense to be offering kids disposable funds when they’re being irresponsible and disrespectful.  That would feel like we’re rewarding bad behavior.  It seems like a great way to raise entitled kids; do none of the work, get your full reward.  That’s not how the world works so we don’t want to raise our kids with that experience.

So let’s see if we can get off the pay for chore model yet not raise entitled kids. 

How to Get your Kid to Cooperate

Let’s start with a premise that says, your kids are great kids.  And Kara, that includes your two as well, although they may not be demonstrating that very well right now. They need to contribute for all the enumerated reasons.  If we avoid control battles, stay positive and don’t make doing chores, well, a chore, things will go well.

Commonly, the way we set up chores invites control battles.  We expect kids to remember on their own to do a chore that has little inherent pleasure, and do it on their own.  Then, when they don’t do it, we get annoyed, we remind them with a negative tone of voice, and expect a good result.

Here are some principles to keep in mind to get cooperation with youth involvement in the business of managing a home, and avoid Control Battles.

  • Notice and appreciate contributions
  • Ask for involvement and give a reason- “Jeff, will you be able to get the lawn mowed this morning?  It could rain this afternoon and we need it cut before everyone comes over for the BBQ tomorrow.” 
  • Do more things together such as weeding, dishes, cooking.  In truth, we don’t involve kids enough in home responsibilities.  By doing things together, we can teach them how to do things from menu planning, shopping and cooking, to changing the oil in the car, changing the furnace filters and so on.  And when you do things together, it’s an opportunity for connection and casual conversation emerges.
  • When asking for involvement, give notice-“Stella, I want to show you how to change the oil on your car today.  I have to do something at 3:00PM, anytime before then works.  When would you like to do it?”
  • Be flexible and reasonable, deal with an issue on its own.  In other words, if your daughter gets back from soccer practice tired with a ton of homework, maybe cover her jobs for her.
  • How about if we don’t call them chores.  That word sounds like something arbitrarily assigned for the sake of assigning something, which they often are.  It has a negative connotation.  How about jobs, tasks, or functions.
  • Make sure that our kids know that their contributions are important and make a difference.  “Thanks for the nice vacuuming job.  It really makes a difference in how the house feels to me.”
  • If you are going to remind or prompt your son or daughter, do it once with a positive tone and let go.  If they don’t do it.  You do it and deal with them about it later.  Don’t get into a struggle.
  • How about doing something to help out a grandparent or elderly neighbor, or young family with a new baby.

Now, let’s say that you’re doing all the positives you can think of and you’re still getting attitude and a lack of cooperation.  Do we give allowance?  Hell No!  And we don’t give other privileges either such as going out, electronics, screen-time.  Use the approach outlined in the chapter, Making The Big Shift from my book Ending The Parent-Teen Control Battle

Kara, if you are getting continuous attitude from your kids, it’s not a chore thing, it’s exactly that, an attitude thing and if their attitude is bad, then let’s shift the burden to them and let them know that the privileges are there for them to earn, and earning them requires a best effort with their responsibilities and a good attitude including cooperation and respect.

Privileges are there for them to earn, and earning them requires a best effort with their responsibilities and a good attitude including cooperation and respect.Click To Tweet

In Conclusion

So the simple answer to Kara’s question is:  We don’t pay for chores.  We do expect our kids to manage their responsibilities and have a good attitude.  Responsibilities include school, home, and social and personal responsibilities.  Social responsibilities include the choices they make with others when they’re out and away from adult supervision.

Good attitude means respectful and cooperative behavior.  Not that they’re never snarky, they wouldn't be teenagers if they weren’t; but by and large respectful and cooperative.  Now, with those things in place, age appropriate privileges are theirs.  When there’s a breach in any of these areas, we discuss it and deal with it.  When things devolve so that irresponsibility and disrespectful or uncooperative behavior is now the norm, then all privileges go away until there is a major shift.  Allowance is one of those privileges, so are video gaming, use of phones or electronics other than for school-work, time with friends, use of a car, etc. 

So parents, don’t let yourselves become disempowered by a parenting guideline, such as not tying allowance to chores.  When kids are being irresponsible or disrespectful, take a step back, clarify your standards and expectations which should be high, stay positive in your tone and in knowing they can meet and will meet those standards, and offer privileges, only when they are earned.

 And here’s an invitation for you, think of one pleasant thing you can say or do for someone today, that you wouldn’t ordinarily say or do.  Go ahead, give it a try and let me know what happens.  I think you’ll enjoy it and please:

Take care of yourselves, you need it, you deserve it, you’re worth it.  Bye for now.

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