Should parents pay an allowance for kids chores?
There are many ways to motivate kids to help out around the house. Often kids are so eager to please and help out that they need little motivation at all from their parents.
At other times, serious incentives are required. These fall into two categories: cash and noncash.
You probably won't be surprised to learn that parents are almost as divided about giving kids an allowance for chores as they are about chores themselves.
Here are the primary arguments for paying an allowance for kids chores, versus those for noncash motivators, to help you decide which approach is best for your family.
The anti-allowance parents argue persuasively that kids shouldn't be paid to help out around the house; after all, it's their house, too.
And being part of the family means giving your time and efforts to make the home a better place for everyone to live in - no compensation required.
Worse, they say, paying for chores will give your kids the mistaken idea that there's a choice: "I'll skip my chores because I don't need the money this week."
The most obvious motivation to get kids to do chores is to pay kids an allowance for them.
The pro-pay parents argue, perhaps even more persuasively, that a tangible reward for kids' efforts motivates them to do other jobs around the house. (In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I'm in their court.)
And in the real world, they say, that's precisely how adults are rewarded, or paid, for their work.
Having money to save or spend also provides an invaluable opportunity to teach kids about money early, while Mom and Dad are still around to talk with.
Here's an example. "Mom, please let me get those rare Pokemon cards," my son pleaded several years back. "In a few years, they'll be worth a lot more than the $80 they're charging now."
In spite of my repeated warnings that such trendy items often go out of style causing any "value" to tank with it, he insisted on using his birthday money he had saved up over the past two years to purchase two cards. I gave my reluctant blessing, seeing a lesson looming in the future.
Sure enough, we recently tossed out those "rare and valuable" Pokemon cards while spring cleaning his bedroom.
He couldn't even give them away. The sheepish look on his face as he threw away the cards told me that he remembered our talk, regretting not having taken my advice. I never had to open my mouth.
On a more positive note, money-for-chores teaches the importance of saving and resisting impulse spending, and that it pays to work.
Rewards for a job well done needn't be financial. Little ones can often be motivated in a big way with stickers and stamps that are placed on a simple chore chart you can create yourself.
If your kids complete the chores they need to, you can reward them with fun experiences, such as lunch at their favorite eatery (Mickey Ds, anyone?) or perhaps a new storybook from the library or local bookstore.
For older kids, cash-free alternatives include offering chunks of time with Mom or Dad, such as a father-son movie outing or dinner at your daughter's favorite restaurant.
This is probably overpayment for all but the most important spring cleaning tasks, so you may want to give your child tickets for each small task.
When he's collected 10 (or 20, or 50, your call), he can "cash" them in for a mutually agreed-upon treat.
In addition to cash and noncash motivators, it will be easier to get your family to help out around the house if it's fun. And if cleaning is fun for the kids, they'll clean longer and do a better job, too.
Really, it isn't all that hard to make housecleaning fun - or at least less unfun.
Here are my best ideas:
Make it a family affair. The key to a successful family cleaning routine is that Mom and Dad join in.
After all, if everyone is working, it's more fun. Pump up the volume. Turn on upbeat music while you clean.
Watch your kids howl while you do the Bump with the vacuum and the Macarena with the duster.
You get the picture - a smiling group making short work of housework. Fill the house with positive energy, not grumbling.
We rotate the DJ selection in our home to keep the peace. One week, Chris selects the tunes, and the next it's Lyndsay's turn. Lyndsay loathes the Macarena, but Chris loves it.
Lyndsay grooves to soulful '70s tunes, while Chris puts his hands over his ears. But knowing that every other week he or she gets to choose the tunes keeps them content.
Be Saturday morning players. This saved (or sunk)-by-the-lunch bell approach to getting it all done by lunchtime Saturday was designed for the revolving-door family whose weekly chores occasionally get sidetracked by tests, book reports, and science projects or meetings and business trips.
Whatever assigned chores are not accomplished during the week are due by noon Saturday. This creates a high-energy cleaning session as Saturday morning becomes a high-speed race to the noontime finish. (Mom note: Never volunteer to drive soccer carpool Saturday morning, so this can really happen.)
Delegate pride. I call this system the "Room Monitor System." Each month, assign a different family member a different room as his or her point of pride.
This means that before lights out, that family member has to give the room the once-over to make sure that it's in good shape. Assign the little ones the rooms that won't be used past their bedtimes, such as the dining room.
At the end of the month, the family member who has kept the best room gets a special treat such as his or her choice of a family afternoon or night out.
Plan a Cinderella Saturday. When a big cleanup day is necessary, have the family don sweats and labor the day away dragging rags and pails, a' la Cinderella.
In the evening, with a wave of the fairy godmother's wand, the family dresses up and goes out to dinner and a movie, something everyone enjoys together.
Looking forward to a magical family outing makes even the most extended list of chores palatable, especially when they're done together.
The best approach, of course, to housekeeping with kids is to train them while they're toddlers so they never imagine until later years that it's even possible to go to bed with toys on the floor.
Picking up your own things should be as ingrained and habitual as brushing your teeth. Parents with older kids are going to have to work a little harder here to get their children's attention, but it can be done.
As the parent, it's your call as to which camp you'll belong to, and how best to structure your chore-motivators. Mom (or Dad) knows best, after all.