Frugal Parenting: More On The Frustrating Subject of Chores

It may sound counterintuitive, but even if you are consistent with inconsistent methods of giving out allowances for chores, somehow kids get the right messages when it comes to money and teamwork.

Make a Wish event at Beardsley Zoo 2012
My daughter volunteered at a Make-a-Wish event in 2012. She aced the job, handling dozens of families at a time at her popular table. She even told me to go do something else because she had it covered! And, she was as calm and controlled as a cucumber.

Reading Aimee’s post, I wished I had adopted the chore wheel early on. Aimee and her family luckily found a method that worked for them while my family, on the other hand, has tried numerous methods of doling out allowances and money for chores. Our most recent experiment was a dismal failure–read more here–the idea of putting a list of chores on their door every day was making us all nuts.

But, we’ve managed to do something right in spite of all of our flubs. My husband and I noticed that after we stopped allowances, they do more things without being asked! It seems that when we were merely giving them an allowance, they felt entitled to get the money and grudgingly did their chores just to get the dough. However, they were only really motivated by money when they had a goal in mind to buy something. That’s not a bad thing, but after they bought something they saved up for, they didn’t care much about making the money any more (that’s because they don’t have ongoing bills to pay…). Or, maybe they just aren’t interesting in “things” right now, but we all know that may change the further into teenhood they go…

My daughter is also an animal care volunteer at the local Audubon. As soon as she turned 13, I nudged her along to volunteer. She fills out time and task sheets, too, teaching her real-life skills. Next up to volunteer will be my son when he turns 13.

So, it seems even with all the imperfect methods we’ve used, we’ve instilled in them (we hope) three important points of a positive work ethic (but as we know it’s an ongoing project):

  • they understand the goal of saving up money they work for to buy something they want
  • they understand that doing chores and helping out is a way to work together as a family to make the household run semi-smoothly
  • they understand that if we ask them to do something (a chore), we mean it and they better do it!

My point is this: we never had a perfect system down, but somehow, in all the experimenting, they learned valuable lessons.

In addition, my daughter volunteers whenever and wherever possible in order to build up her work ethic.. As a result, her teachers tell her that her work ethic is amazing. As soon as my son turns thirteen, he’ll be onto volunteering, too.

So now, we have a new chore/money-making idea (ha, this should be good, right?): we do want to pay them to do major chores around the house (raking leaves, mowing the lawn, that sort of thing that we don’t love to do ourselves). In the past, we’d offer say $1 for one bag of leaves. What do you think happened? My rebellious son would try to do the bare minimum and get away with it and my sometimes less-than-excited daughter would do a couple of half-filled bags and then say she was “tired.” All the while expecting that buck a bag for a less than stellar job even when we told them we won’t pay them unless the bags are filled.

What will we do this fall? My husband has this idea: we’ll tell them we’ll pay them but we’ll determine what we pay them when the job is done.

Stay tuned…

~Marilyn, TFF