Pocket Money and Chores

There are two main schools of thought around Pocket Money and Chores. On the one hand, pocket money can be given as a direct payment to your child in return for chores they do. They may earn a set amount per activity completed (for example $1 for washing the dishes $2 for packing away laundry and so on, paid upon completion or at the end of the week) or a set amount which is paid or withheld whether or not they were generally helpful or completed all their tasks for the week.

Small Boy With Piggy BankAlternatively pocket money can be given separately and with no relationship to chores done. Pocket money itself is a learning experience about money, how to save, how to spend, what different types of currency are worth, there are lots of opportunities for learning maths through budgeting and learning about the value of money and what it can buy. Meanwhile chores are something everyone does as part of the family, nobody pays mum or dad to unpack the dishwasher or cook dinner; it’s just part of being a contributing member of a household.

There’s no right or wrong, myself I was raised with the latter and my partner was raised with the former, so this is a topic of debate in our household, as there are advantages and drawbacks to each approach.

My partner was most enthusiastic about introducing pocket money, with plans on exactly how he’d teach our son to spend and save – which you can read HERE– however, as I’d predicted, after a few weeks of being paid to help his father clean the house each Saturday, one Saturday he decided he had enough money, he didn’t want any more, so decided he no longer needed to help with the cleaning.

What can you say to that?

Because, the thing is, we WANT him to have the pocket money AND we want him to contribute to the cleaning. By bargaining with one for the other, we’re risking him saying no to both. It’s like how sometimes Mr 5 year old attempts to strike deals with me like “Mummy, if you do craft with me, I’ll let you get me something to eat”…. It doesn’t work like that. You can’t really trade something you want for something you want.

By having them as completely separate activities – both intended to foster skills for long term independence – there is a lot more room for us to make both contributing to the household and handling money, learning opportunities.

In the “real world” you don’t get paid to clean up after yourself, or take care of your own things, or to be a cooperative member of a family. Considering most the tasks he can complete himself are things like packing away HIS OWN toys, putting away HIS OWN clothes, tidying HIS mess in the bathroom – and so on – by paying him to complete these tasks, he’s not really learning how to take care of himself so much as he’s learning to not do anything for himself unless there’s something else in it for him.

So, for example, if he chooses to not clean up his toys – after several times being asked – he’ll get a warning that if I have to clean up his toys, I’ll pack them up high and he won’t be able to have them to play with until I decide to give them back to him. Rather than “If you don’t pack away your toys, you won’t get your pocket money”. It’s a more logical consequence.

I also like a bit of balance between the two ideas; where he can be paid a set amount each week to learn about money, help out with the household as a member of the family, and then also earn himself some extra cash for doing jobs that are outside of what he should just do anyway. A few weekends ago he wanted $10 to buy something, so he helped his dad clean up the garage – something that wouldn’t normally or reasonably be his responsibility, so it was fair to pay him for this task.

Neither way is right or wrong, it’s just about what works for you, your child and what outcomes you are hoping for.

How do you manage pocket money and chores?

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Rachel Stewart

Rachel is the founder of Parenting Central. She is raising two children, boy and girl, with her partner.Rachel has a passion for prams and all things baby. She worked for a big brand of baby carriers and now works in a baby store that specialises in prams, car seats and nursery furniture.When Rachel isn't playing with prams she's enjoys crocheting, drinking coffee (sometimes wine) and spending a little too much time on Facebook.

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