Allowance & Chores - When to Start & How Much?

Updated on January 03, 2012
A.S. asks from Landenberg, PA
6 answers

I just saw a recent Mamapedia Voices article and this jogged my memory of a question I've been meaning to ask. My older child (4 1/2 yo son, 5 end of March) will go to kindergarten next year and currently only has 1 job around the house (feeding our dog). My younger child (3 yo daughter) inherited her brother's job of bringing in the recycling bin each week. I like the idea of giving jobs for the kids to do without pay - that's just what our family expects as being a member of our family - we all chip in and help. I also like the idea of having additional chores with dollar values assigned in case they want to buy something (but I think my kids are still too young for that). So, if they're doing jobs as part of the family, when do I start giving them an allowance? When did you start giving your child an allowance? How much and for what chores?

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answers from Savannah on

First, I'd like to answer that I emphatically disagree with the thought that allowance tied to chores automatically makes a child less of a team player or someone that will only do something if they get paid for it. I am 36, my mom started my allowance when I was 8 years old, in 3rd grade. My brother was 4 years younger but started around the same time as I did. We did age-appropriate chores, a basic list (I remember that I did laundry, ironed, cleaned my bathroom, cleaned my room, put away dishes) as allowance. But I had a choice: do the chores because I have to, it's life, it's part of being in the family.......or do it with a good attitude, without being nagged, and do it well, and earn allowance for it. It's how the parent approaches it that directs the views a child develops, not the mere fact that money is involved. I have always had a superior work ethic, have always been a self starter, have always been able to use my imagination to come up with creative ways to get what I wanted (at 10 I had a summer job at an auction barn running tickets, cleaning stalls, sitting on horses to show that they are "child friendly", 12 I went to babysitters camp and took classes and was not only a babysitter but started a full babysitting business with 2 friends complete with schedules, recruits, fliers, advertisements in the local parenting magazine and community newspaper, age 14 my brother and I worked together to weed gardens, edge, mow yards in our neighborhood, at age 15 I was working at Burger King between school and soccer / softball practice but did extra things on the side for extra money). My brother, 4 years younger than me, is the same---he is well known for his work ethic and is the go-to guy if you want something done quickly, efficiently, and well. Not just for money but because we are naturally workers. My nephew is 11 now and is not just good at doing his chores, but also is an amazing big brother to his 1 year old sibling, he excels at every sport and club, he tutors his peers. It's not because he's paid, but because he's taught ethics and to do things right the first time. I have seen children that expect to get paid for things, but it is because of how things have been handled, not because they got an allowance. We say that you are going to do what needs to be done, BECAUSE it needs to be done. IF you get up and do things on time (like you have to in the real world) and have a good attitude (like you have to in the real world) and you can do things after a certain age without being nagged (like you have to in the real world) then you can get paid. If you do over and above, or take on extra projects, or can earn bonuses (like you do in the real world). As they get older, we will be instructing more as to the hows, whys, and how things tie in to the real world. For now, it's just day to day stuff and a lot easier. My brother's son, and my son, LOVE and take pride in the fact that they make their own money.
I started when he was 3 years, 2 months old. It was because he was all about "going to work and buying money" like his dad. When my husband was going back to work after a few weeks of paternity leave, my 3 year old burst into tears. He was feeling kind of "funny" about having a new baby in the house, our routine wasn't the same as it always was now, and he was crying about not wanting daddy to go to work again, and then that he wanted to go to work and buy money too now. I pulled him over and said "Listen, daddy already has his job that he has to do, and it's time to go back. But with our new baby brother here, Mommy sure does need help! Would you be willing to do some work here and have a "job" here helping me, and I will pay you money?" He stopped crying and took that very seriously. It helped his confidence, made him proud, and taught him other lessons as well.
At 3, his "job" was to keep working on potty training without arguing, eat his meals without a fight, get dressed and take his dirty clothes to the hampers (colors in the colored bag, whites in the white bag), pick up his toys at a specific time in the evening, once a week empty the little bedroom and bathroom trashbags into the big trashcan in the kitchen (night before trash pick up), he'd swiffer the floor and use swiffer rags to dust the furniture, and just basic helping me out with baby stuff. He also liked to empty the dryer and push the basket into the living room for me to fold. Truthfully, I could sweep/mop, empty the trashcans, and dust better or faster than him but that's not really what it was about. It was about encouraging him to do it, thanking him for it, building his confidence and self esteem, as well as developing a budding work ethic.
We put little stickers on the days (on a calendar) that he did well (meaning not only that he did his jobs, but that he did them with a good attitude). On payday (Saturday evening), we'd count the stickers on his calendar to see how many quarters he earned. We divided it for him: 10% into tithes that he could give on Sunday, 10% into savings, and 80% for "spending". We still do this and love it. He is very proud of the things he buys with his own money, and he can explain to anyone what he's doing, what our method is, why we do what we do, etc.
Now he's 5: he feeds the dog and cat while I water them. He still keeps his bedroom picked up in the evening, makes his bed (not perfectly, but not bad), sorts his laundry, he sits with me and while I fold towels and stuff, he matches his socks and folds his underwear, folds washcloths. He dresses himself, vacuums twice a week, picks up in the playroom (with my help), dusts, and rinses his bathroom sink daily. He also keeps the backyard picked up (toys), and practices his kung fu and pre-K stuff. Those are his "jobs". When he does something above and beyond, or with a super good attitude, or extra projects, I will reward him with extra money (might be 10 cents, might be $3) as I see fit on pay day, and will give it to him as a thank you. (I put 2 stickers on that day to help me remember).
My 2 year old "helps" dust (rolling eyes), swiffers the floor, and is learning to put dirty laundry and toys away in the correct bins, and "helps" pick up leaves after we rake them and put them in mulch with us. Simple stuff, but things he can join in and help us do as a family.

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answers from Columbia on

I started at age 7 and 8 with my boys. We use

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answers from Abilene on

We just started with our 4 year old. Everytime we went to the store she wanted us to buy her something and we were tired of it. We gave her 3 chores to do each day and she helped to pick them. She feeds the dog, helps to set the table, helps with dishes (loading and unloading dishwasher). We do expect her to clean her room without being paid. We gave her 3 envelopes: one for saving, one for spending, and one for giving. Each week she gets $2.00. She has to add some money to each envelope. We let her choose what she wants to do with her give away money and she chose to give it to the local animal shelter. When she gets enough money we will go buy some cat/dog food to donate. She is doing great and even saved enough for a $40 toy that she wanted. Good luck.

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answers from Dover on

My kids are 10 & 12 years old. They have chores to do daily that they do not get paid for (dishwasher-empty & re-fill, scrub pots & pans, take out trash, empty/clean catbox, as well as taking care of their own bedrooms, etc.).

I don't have set jobs/chores for when they want to earn money, but trust me, I can always come up with something. Example: A couple of years ago my daughter was desperate for a pair of $10 sweatpants with her school logo on them. I didn't for one second believe she would actually wear them & at the time, $10 wasn't in the budget for frivilous stuff. I told her if she weeded out all of the front flower beds twice (once each for 2 consecutive weekends) plus watered the flowers every evening I would buy them for her. She did it & I held up my side of the bargain. We bought the sweatpants a size too big so they would last her & she still wears them to this day.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I started giving a $1 a week allowance at 5, and increased it since then to $3 at age 9. I don't tie allowance to chores at all. Chores are because you are part of the household, allowance is to learn about handling money. Paying children for chores can lead to children who will only help if they are paid.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

My 5 year old has had chores around the house for about a year. Every day he has to (and doesn't get paid for): putting away the silverware from the dishwasher, sorting socks, and setting the table for dinner.

However, he wants a particular toy that he didn't get for Christmas, so we made a list of extras he can do. On top of his regular chores, for each day he also picks up his room, picks up the toys in the toy room, and puts away all the shoes in the house, he gets $0.50.

So, I guess we do a combination of things - both unpaid chores that he needs to do as part of a functioning household, and the list of extras that he can do in order to earn money. I expect that both lists will get longer and with harder things to do as he gets older.

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