The landscape of compensating kids for chores is a battlefield, with two sides entrenched in opposing positions. One side says tying chores to money teaches kids the value of hard work. The other argues that contributing to the household without compensation teaches character and helps kids understand their role in the family. Anyone wandering into the no man’s land in between is putting themselves at risk. So, if you aren’t sure what to do, how do you decide?
The right answer when it comes to money and chores is “do what feels right for your family.” It is as simple as that. And feel free to experiment. Smart small, see how it goes. Course correct if you don’t like the results. Talk to your kids about your expectations, and solicit and listen to their ideas as well.
What works well in my household is a blend. There are some things we expect the kids to do without asking … it is just part of being a member of the household. Other tasks around the house have monetary awards.
After dinner you clear your dishes, rinse them and put them in the dishwasher. You get paid for that. Same with taking the recycling out to the curb.
Mow the lawn, rake the leaves, or clean up the garage? That comes with a reward.
In our family we use my company’s product, Current, which has an app that lets you assign chores to your kids and apply a value to them. In the app they see a list of chores and the rewards associated with it. Once they complete a chore they check it off and I get an alert on my phone, so I can release the money.
We saw a behavior change in our kids as soon as we started using the app. We used to have to hound my older son to get him to mow the lawn. Suddenly he was doing it without prompting. I’d be sitting at work and I’d get a message through the app on my phone saying “Elias has mowed the lawn.” It was like magic.
Because I see aggregate data from our customers, I also know what the most common chores are, and how much they are typically rewarded.
The most common recurring chores for kids? Housecleaning and taking care of pets.
Most common chores
13% taking care of pets
11% dishes /setting the table
8% taking out the trash/recycling
6% doing/storing laundry
3% mowing the lawn
It is no surprise that “cleaning your room” is a popular housecleaning chore, but I was surprised to see that cleaning other parts of the house, including the kitchen and bathroom, made up more than half of all related chores.
Most common housecleaning chores:
44% clean your room
33% general housecleaning
14% clean the bathroom
9% clean the kitchen
For kids with pets, nearly half of the chores involve some sort of poop disposal.
Most common pet-related chores:
31% Walking the dog
22% Feeding pets
22% Scooping poop
16% Cleaning litter box
8% Cleaning cage or tank
Parents reward babysitting with the most money, followed by mowing the lawn and yard work.
Highest compensated chores (averages)
$9.91 Mowing the lawn
$6.26 Miscellaneous yard work
$6.21 Cleaning or washing the car
$4.17 Cooking a meal
– David Lowey
David is a New York-based marketing professional with two teenage boys. He has spent much of the last decade working with teen-related consumer products and services, and has a particular interest in the intersection of mobile technology and behavior. His company, Current (www.current.com), has created a debit card and app for teens (and parents).