It seems like chores and allowance go hand in hand, but I’m here to tell you that this is not the case. In fact, chores should be a routine part of family life without an added incentive. Why? Well, for one thing, chores are important because they teach children about responsibility and work ethic. When we reward chores with money it turns into more than just a chore-it becomes something they see as ‘work.’
Why Allowance is a Good Thing
Kids should definitely get an allowance! It’s a way for them to learn about money, how to manage it, and what you can spend your hard-earned cash on. It helps teach the value of a dollar which is so important to grasp at this age.
Giving your kids an allowance also gives them disposable income. It helps them learn how to budget and plan for the future. They learn how to make buying decisions and value the items they purchase.
Allowance benefits parents too! When kids receive a regular allowance and can purchase their own items, parents are no longer on the hook for buying a bunch of non-essentials for kids.
Why Chores are Great for Kids
Chores are a must for kids. We all have chores to do as a part of our family life and chores teach children responsibility, work ethic, independence.
When kids contribute to the maintenance and well-being, they are more engaged as members of the family. They learn life skills, learn to take on responsibility, and develop a sense of self-reliance.
You might also notice that kids who contribute to the household develop an attitude of gratitude! It’s nice to have kids who appreciate your efforts and your home.
Why Allowance Should NOT Be a Reward For Chores
Ok, so chores are amazing. And allowance is good for kids. So why not offer an allowance for chores? It sounds like a match made in heaven. But it doesn’t actually work well.
When you offer money for chores, you’re offering a reward for work. It might seem like chores are just work to kids-but they’re not. Chores should be a part of family life. It’s not like you going to work and performing a job for money. These are basic life skills that are necessary for your family to thrive.
When you tie chores with allowance, it changes how children feel about both chores and allowance. They come to see chores as work that requires an outside source of motivation. That’s not good!
What Experts Say About Rewards
Rewards Don’t Work Long-Term
Reward chores with money, and you start to change your relationship! Kids can feel like chores are a job outside of their control and would not be motivated to do them without an external source of motivation. Rewards might seem great in the short term but they are not a long-term solution for motivating children.
Alfie Kohn in his book Unconditional Parenting says, “a considerable number of studies have found that children and adults alike are less successful at many tasks when they’re offered a reward for doing them–or for doing them well.”
Rewards are a Slippery Slope
Satiation means that more of something is required to get the same effect. Rewards are subject to satiation. So when chores become associated with rewards, children will need more and more rewards to get the same excitement.
According to Richard Curwin (Director, Graduate Program in Behavior Disorder, David Yellin College), “I love a hot bath, but eventually, it starts to feel cooler, and I add more hot water. Rewards are like that. Children never say, “That’s way too much. Please give me less.” They often say, “Is that all? I want more.” Eventually, rewards like stickers, food, parties, toys, or candy become expected, and their effect is greatly reduced. It is a common myth that you can start with rewards and later remove them. This happens very rarely.”
Rewards are Counter-Productive
There’s a large body of research that’s concluded that rewards are actually counterproductive. In other words, when you say, “Do this, and I’ll offer you money.” kids actually become less interested in whatever this is.
Kids who are rewarded for chores do fewer chores, and kids who aren’t offered rewards tend to be more interested in doing chores.
This research is backed up by Alfie Kohn, who says that rewards can interfere with children’s natural tendency to build and maintain self-esteem.
Rewards Erode Intrinsic Motivation
Rewards eat at a child’s intrinsic motivation, which is the internal, natural desire to do something.
In a study of children offered rewards for drawing, those who were given external rewards showed less interest in the activity and demonstrated poorer performance than their counterparts when they were not rewarded.
Daniel Pink, author of The New York Times bestseller, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, tells us that paying kids to do chores “…sends kids a clear (and clearly wrongheaded) message: In the absence of a payment, no self-respecting child would willingly set the table, empty the garbage, or make her own bed. …. It converts a moral and familial obligation into just another commercial transaction—and teaches that the only reason to do a less-than-desirable task for your family is in exchange for payment.”
The Bottom Line
You might feel like chores and rewards are a great idea, but they’re not.
Rewards don’t work long-term because kids start doing chores for the reward instead of out of love or responsibility to their family. When chores become associated with rewards, children will need more and more rewards to get the same excitement. Rewarding kids for chores erodes their intrinsic motivation, and rewards are counterproductive.
So the bottom line is this: Offer your child an allowance and require them to do chores. But don’t tie them together.
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