Chores, Work and Allowances

What Parents Can Do
  • Teach your children to work.  Teach your children as many skills as you can—to plant a tree, paint a room, refinish a piece of furniture, repair their clothing, garden and yard work.  While spending time with your children and making memories with them, also teach them the joy of working and completing a project.  Example is the most important teacher for children.  
  • Teach children to enjoy working, by working with them and as a family.  Show them the value of working toward a worthy goal, and the satisfaction of doing their best.
  • Teach children responsibility by assigning chores.  Explain that all members of the family are responsible for chores to keep the home and family running smoothly, without being paid.  If those things don’t happen, the family does not function.  Those things are part of being a family—working and serving each other.  
  • Make a family job chart for responsibilities like helping with dishes, yard work, taking out the garbage, sweeping/vacuuming, dusting, and feeding animals.
  • Don’t give children everything they want—or you will train them to be selfish and expect instant gratification without sacrifice and work.  Teach children what it means to save and experience delayed gratification.  
  • Working for a wage, at the appropriate age, is an excellent way to instill responsibility, work ethics, and money management.
  • Parents may need to rearrange their own work schedules, if possible, to be home when the children are home.
  • Advice from a psychologist at Harvard Medical School who specializes in the therapy and upbringing of children and adolescents.  
    • Teaching your children how to work is a lesson that will benefit them throughout their lives.  Having a good work ethic enables children to study and achieve in school and to feel competent and self-sufficient.  A strong work ethic also is key to their future success in the workplace.
    • “A good work attitude develops from years of age-appropriate opportunity and responsibility that begins at home.  Here are some ways for parents to instill a healthy work ethic in their children:
    • Start early.  Young children love to help their parents.  Encourage them to do so.  Let their little hands share the dust mop handle or the hammer.  These early experiences will feed your child with good feelings for being productive.
    • Teach.   Find ways that your children can assist in housework or a do-it-yourself project.  Remember, the goal isn’t to get a good day’s labor out of them, but to nurture their work attitudes and make them feel able.
    • Have expectations.   Even very young children can contribute to a household.  Whatever their age, expect every child to play a role.  Putting away toys, setting the table or raking leaves are examples of tasks that children can do.  
    • Work with them.   Don’t send your children alone to the basement to clean for hours.  Work together, and use the time as an opportunity to talk and bond, and to teach them to work cooperatively.  When it fits the task, you can be the helper.
    • Pay reasonably.   Some parents prefer to tie chores to allowances.  If you choose to pay for special work duties, keep the salary modest.  A fifth-grader doesn’t need to earn the hourly wage of an adult.

    • Be a good model.   Parents are children’s ambassadors to the adult world.  Lead by example, demonstrate responsible work attitudes and try to keep grumbling about your job out of you children’s earshot.”   (“FAMILY,” by Richard Bromfield, Ph.D., psychologist at Harvard Medical School, July 26, 1990, Parade Magazine)
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