I Won’t Pay My Child for Chores. But I Will Do This…


These days it is commonplace for parents to come up with price lists for chores. They offer their child 20p for making their bed, 50p for tidying their room, £1 for mopping the floors and so on. The idea behind doing this is that the child learns the value of money and helps out the family whilst doing so.

Although this might seem like a win win situation on the surface, payment for chores is not something I will ever be offering my children.

I’m going to share something we do instead of paying for chores, but first let me explain why we don’t pay our children for helping with household tasks.

Intrinsic motivation:

When you offer a child a reward for doing something, you immediately take their focus from the task and transfer it to, “What’s in it for me?” When I ask my child to help me, I want him to do it out of a wish to be helpful and a desire to be involved and included – not out of greed.

This mentality seeps into every area of a child’s life. If they can’t see the point in doing something without payment, they are going to miss out on countless learning and character building opportunities.

Separates him from the family:

As things stand at the moment, we are a team. We help each other. He sees his Mummy emptying the washing machine and wants to help. He rushes ahead to open the door for me, or helps to carry the laundry basket. He sees his Daddy getting the hoover out of the cupboard and has it plugged into the wall and is clearing the carpet of his toys before anyone even has chance to suggest it.

He wants to be a part of the team. He wants to be a useful member of the family.

He never considers otherwise. Offering payment for these things creates separation. Suddenly these tasks which once seemed so fun come with added pressure. Children begin to question them, to resist them. Maybe they aren’t so fun after all? Maybe I should be rewarded for helping? Children know when they are being bribed and they naturally resist it, even if the task is something they previously enjoyed.

Creating a sense of entitlement:

Sometimes jobs need doing that aren’t that fun or that seem like hard work. Playing is fun, but tidying up can be boring and arduous. Yes my son loves to be involved in a task, but there are always going to be jobs that become favourites and those which are pushed to the bottom of the list.

But in a family, we all need to work together to make life run smoothly. Sometimes nobody wants to cook dinner. We still have to do it. Sometimes something sticky and messy gets spilt. It needs cleaning up, much as we would like to ignore it. These are valuable life lessons.

If we offer money for doing tasks which should just be done, we create a sense of entitlement within our children. They don’t help out of a desire to make life easier. They aren’t discovering that hard work is sometimes necessary in order to live harmoniously. They aren’t learning to use their own initiative to fix a messy situation.

Instead they are sitting back waiting to see if you make it worth their while.

And if you don’t?

Well why should they help? Why can’t YOU do it??

We create an attitude of believing that we parents should do all the work for free and that we are there to clear up behind our children. The team spirit of the family who works and plays together is dissolved and in its place grows resentment and arguments.

So no, I won’t pay my child to help around the house. I expect him to help (although I never force him or use punishments to coerce him either) and he in turn loves to do household chores. The reward for him is simply pride in a job well done and satisfaction in helping his family.

There is no need for anything else.

However, the reasons I hear people using for paying their children for chores are plenty. I want him to learn the value of hard work. I want my child to gain an understanding of money and begin to learn how to manage it in small quantities. I want them to have money of their own to enable them some financial independence, but I don’t want to give pocket money for nothing. I think all of these reasons are important, and I want them for my children too.

So if we don’t give them money for chores, how do we achieve this?

We enable him to explore his passions and find a way to earn an income. I want him to know that if he is creative and hard working, he can come up with a multitude of ways to earn income. I want him to explore and make mistakes, learning every step along the way. This will set him up for a life of knowing how to monetise his passions and understanding the value of money.

He has watched with increasing curiosity over the years as I have disappeared off upstairs to work. He loves the idea that I can imagine something, and then with time and effort, turn that idea into a book that he can hold in his hands and read. And recently he has begun to understand that this work that Mummy does actually earns us money. He knows that artists, writers, jewellry designers, you name it, can sell all their work. He also knows that it isn’t always easy and you have to find the right people to buy it.

DSC06485Yesterday we were painting together and he said to me, “Mummy, I’m going to sell this painting. It’s good.”

“You should. I think it is too and you’ve been working on it a long time.”

“How much would you buy it for Mummy?”

“Darling, you determine the value of your own work. Think about how much time and effort you’ve put into it and then decide what you think it’s worth. Then I can decide if I want to pay it or if you need to find another customer.”

He painted in silence for a while and then looked up. “It will be £20. I think it’s worth that. Would you like to buy it for £20?”

“I need to see it finished. Show me when it’s done.”

We both worked quietly for a while. Then when he had been at it for a good hour or maybe more, he looked up. “It’s finished.” He talked me through the detail and then said, “So Mummy, do you want to buy it?”

DSC06481I looked it over and considered how much it was worth to me. That wonderful memory of painting together, his hard work displayed on the canvas. £20 was a good deal. Daddy came in and offered him £25, but he refused to take it, saying he had decided it was worth £20 and that was a fair price. He would accept no more and no less. Daddy and I decided to split it and pay £10 each (a little time for a 10+10=? maths lesson for him) and we were all happy.

“So,” I said to him after we shook hands. “What are you going to do with your £20?”

DSC06482He looked at me seriously for a long moment and then pointed at the painting I was working on.

“How much are you selling that for?” he smiled.




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6 thoughts on “I Won’t Pay My Child for Chores. But I Will Do This…”

  1. Lovely yet again. G is only 4 and doesn’t really yet understand monetary values. I can see that as a ‘producer of things/art/goods etc then value of work can be explained. Very difficult to explain however that my work as a nurse helping people with certain neurological conditions has a monetary worth. Surely I should be helping people because it’s the right thing to do and makes me feel good?? Nothing is ever easy. Ho hum, the joys of parenting 🙂

  2. I wonder how temperament comes into it. My son is just not into helping out with tidying or cleaning. It just doesn’t interest him (he’s 6). He would help with cooking, but not because “we’re a team”, but because he is interested in the cooking himself. Similar with mopping. I don’t think he really cares about “being part of the family unit” that way. I think it’s pretty normal for a child to be that bit self-centred.

  3. What if your child simply isn’t interested in helping out as they should to be part of a familial team? I’m afraid we’ve set up some bad habits with our 3.5 year old, who we bribe often to get her to do things. AS I’m sure you can imagine, this system is losing its allure for her. What do we do now? How do we repair this, and help instill the internal motivation? Also, I’ve tried to instill this, explaining the reasoning behind why we do things like clean up around the house, brush our teeth, etc…. It seems to have little effect 😦 Any tips, Sam?

    1. Absolutely! I think everyone falls into bad habits at some time or another, and the great thing about children is that they are so fluid and able to adapt to new situations, you can usually find a way back to where you want to be.

      It sounds as if your daughter is feeling the pressure around these tasks, no matter how subtle that might be. In your situation I would back off completely and not talk about helping out or why you need to work as a team because that will only bring more resistance. Instead, get on with things yourself and try to do it in a positive way. If you make it look like a big hassle and a stressful experience, she won’t have any desire to join you.

      Then, after some time, and this may be several months, pick a morning when she is looking a bit lost and bored and in need of a task, and find something simple you can work on together. Simply offer, with no pressure or need for her to continue the whole time. Maybe something she hasn’t seen for a while. My son loves mopping and dusting above everything else, so I would say to him, “Oh, after lunch I’m going to mop the floors, they need a clean.”

      Let that simmer and if she doesn’t ask to join in, start by yourself and ask if she wants a turn, presenting it as a treat. If she doesn’t, wait and try another task another day. You will get there, but for different children it will take differing lengths of time. The key is to present these things as enjoyable tasks, not work that we have to do. I hope that helps.

      1. Awesome, thank you for your response, Sam! I watched your recent video on building connection with your child rather than punishing, and I have definitely found that to be true! When I am connected with her throughout the day and give her the attention she deserves and needs, things are MUCH smoother and there is less ‘drama.’

        Also wanted to say Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability in your videos, especially the sleep deprivation one. I can so relate!!! It was nice to know that there are other mothers out there going through the same struggle. Also, I can relate to not being able to nap even though I’m exhausted because of the pressure. 😉

        Thanks again and take care!!!
        Keep on keepin’ on 🙂

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