Chores and the judicious use of money allowances both help
children learn responsibility. Chores help to lighten the burden
for all members of the family and underscore the message that the
home belongs to everybody who lives in it, and that all are
important. The delegation of chores has to be done well, however,
in order for these tasks to have a positive influence in the
One vehicle for the distribution of chores fairly is the
family meeting. At such a meeting a list of chores can be
developed and members of the family given equal opportunity in
deciding who will do what chores. There may be schedule
developed, and the chores can change and rotate among the
members. Consequences can also be worked out for members who do
not complete their chores. All members of the family from the
youngest to the oldest can participate in doing a chore and
helping in the smooth running of the household.
The chores for very young children should fit their ability.
It sometimes helps for the parent to work along with the young
child. For example, the child puts the napkins on the dinner
table while the parent puts out the utensils. If putting the
napkins on the table is the child’s agreed upon chore, however,
he or she should be expected to complete it. Sometimes the
Šnovelty of doing a chore for a young child wears off and the
child forgets to do it. You can re-negotiate new chores, but the
child should be expected to carry through on his or her part of
being a family member by helping out.
I have found the best system for chores is to keep a chart
in the kitchen, listing the agreed upon chores. In our family,
the agreed upon daily chore for my sons was the one I hated–
cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. The calendar for the month
consisted of each boy’s initial on the day he had to clean up.
They could trade off and negotiate among themselves but I never
touched a dish after dinner. They learned to do a good job
because they had to go back and do it again if it was not right.
The main reason I was sorry to see them go off to college was
they left my husband with the dinner dishes.
There are many other things children can help do around the
house. Even a young toddler can help put away the toys. As
children get older, they can help feed the pets, rake the leaves,
mow the lawn, vacuum the rugs, and make their beds. Sometimes
these chores may not be done as well or as quickly as the adult
could do them but the adult should resist the temptation to do
them over or do them for the child even if that is more
efficient. When adults do that they are giving a message to
children that they are not important and cannot contribute to the
well being of the family.
Some parents pay children for doing chores in the form of
allowances. I do not think that is a good practice. Allowances
are mainly for the purpose of helping children deal with and
understand the value of money. You may want to pay for extra
jobs you might done around the house but I feel that agreed upon,
evenly distributed chores, should not fit that category. When
children have allowances, the money should really be considered
theirs to be used as they see fit. Parents may want to advise
but children need to learn to take the consequences of misuse of
money. If they spend their money on something foolish, they will
not learn anything if parents bail them out later and give them
more money when they have used up their allowances. Before
allowances are given, the family should negotiate what is the
children’s responsibilty in relation to what their allowance
The assigning of agreed upon chores and the giving of
allowances when done well both have the potential of helping
children to develop into responsible adults.