Kids, Chores and Allowances

After reading and responding to a comment Candi left on yesterday’s post (about accomplishing those weekly and monthly cleaning chores), I realized it’s been ages since I wrote about kids, chores and allowances.

I’m pretty opinionated on this topic, and like a good blogger, that means I should write about it. ;-)

Also, I read some interesting research on the topic in my current read, Laura Vanderkam’s All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending (highly recommended, by the way – and a review is forthcoming).

When I mentioned cleaning yesterday, I neglected to mention the stuff the kids do. Currently the lineup looks like this:

  • Caleb, 13 – Laundry. Yep, a 13 year old boy does all the family’s laundry. This is actually his choice. He enjoys the job.
  • Zoe, 12 – Kitchen. Since Zoe is in public school, she loads the dishwasher after dinner and handwashes the pots and pans. (Since I’m home I do the bulk of the kitchen cleaning.)
  • Julien, 11 – Sweeping and mopping. He sweeps the dining area once or twice a day (always after dinner) and sweeps the living room once a day. He mops those areas every couples of days (at least, in theory).
  • Ilana, 9 – Kitchen floor. She sweeps a couple of times a day and mops once daily. She also puts groceries away after I shop.
  • Sadie, 6 – Random. At this point I am still working on teaching her basics like: putting clothing in the hamper, tidying up the bathroom when you leave it, cleaning up your kitchen mess when you make a snack. The good news is that she is always willing to help me do big jobs (like those weekly/monthly things) as well as cleaning out the back of the car.
  • Ruby, 2 – Official Messmaker. Working on training her to: not write on walls and desks, and to pick up her books and toys.

A bit about my chores philosophy.

Chores for kids are a good thing.

(See also: Chores and your kids. Chores, chores, chores.)

That about sums it up. ;)

No seriously folks, I believe chores teach a good work ethic, teamwork, and responsibility. I will NOT be saying goodbye to adult kids who cannot: cook basic meals, do their own laundry, know the importance of cleaning up after themselves, etc.

Many, many adults struggle with messiness because they don’t have habits and routines like: putting dirty clothes in the hamper or hanging up clean clothing once it leaves their body, leaving the bathroom clean after they use it, etc.


I remind my kids often that for the rest of their lives, they will be sharing space with other human beings. Whether it’s roommates, bosses and co-workers, spouses, etc… it’s a fact of life. And nobody wants to share space with a slob. Messiness is selfish, lazy and shows a lack of respect for the people around you.

Also, a woman is not a maid. I do not want my sons growing up with the mindset that the woman in their life exists to pick up their crumbs and dirty clothing – regardless of whether she works as a wage earner or not. That is immature thinking and will cause trouble in their marriages.

Being responsible for one’s own mess spills over into other aspects of life, like being responsible for one’s own finances, being responsible for one’s own emotions, being responsible for one’s own happiness, and much more I suspect.

Another reason for kids to do chores: because they use my house for entertaining. Having little tea parties and book club meetings, like in the picture above, mean extra work and stress for mom. You bet that kids are going to help with the extra cleanup before and after entertaining their friends.

Now about that research I mentioned. I do believe in paying children allowances. I believe that doing so helps them make a connection between labor and money. You work = you get paid. You no work = you no get paid.

2 Thess. 3:10: “If anyone is not willing to work, neither let him eat.”

Galatians 6:5: “For each one should carry his own load.”

There are some things I expect the kids to do just because they share space with other bodies and make messes. Things such as: putting their dishes in the dishwasher, wiping crumbs off the counters when they make snacks, cleaning their rooms, etc.

It turns out that my belief in paying my kids for work above and beyond those basic “clean up after yourself” tasks has some actual science behind it.

In All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending, the author quotes research done by Lewis Mandell, dean emeritus of SUNY Buffalo’s School of Management. After studying this for years, Mandell learned that children who receive allowances that are not conditional (just free money), were less likely to demonstrate financial savvy than children who received no regular allowance or kids who got paid for chores.

My children sometimes find their allowance docked or withheld entirely if I have to remind them too often to do chores, or if they do a poor job or with a poor attitude. (This has only happened a few times!) Dave Ramsey even takes umbrage with the word “allowance”, preferring “commissions”… his belief is that allowance fosters a welfare mentality (as in, someone will always be there to “make allowances” for your deficit), but I think that’s splitting hairs. ;)

What do you think?

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