Allowances and Chores
||Learn the best way to set your child's allowance — and whether
you should reward your child for helping out with household chores.
Chores and Children
By Patricia Sullivan
Brought to you by the National PTA®.
Getting the Job Done
Many parents cajole, beg, or even bribe their children to help out around the
house and still end up with a lawn that needs mowing, a sink full of dirty
dishes, unmade beds, and a pet dog barking to go out for a walk. How can parents
get the real result they're looking for: children who do their chores without
being reminded or reprimanded?
Although chores are important because they teach basic life skills and help
children build personal responsibility, the children and their relationships
with their parents have to be of paramount importance, according to John Covey,
director of home and family for Franklin Covey Company and co-author of The
Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families: A Proactive Family Guide Book. This
doesn't mean that children get a pass on chores; rather, parents should
establish a solid one-on-one relationship with each child. This way, the
parents' values and principles will be embraced by the children, and getting
chores done will be a lot easier for everyone involved, he said.
"There are always two reasons parents want their children to do chores --- to
get the job done and to help the children grow," Covey said. "If children don't
do chores, how do they learn? How do they build personal responsibility?"
Linda K. Waite, professor of sociology and co-director of the Center on Parents,
Children, and Work, an Alfred P. Sloan Working Families Center at the University
of Chicago, said that sometimes parents simply need an extra pair of hands. She
also said some parents want their children to learn the skills of household
work, such as doing laundry, cleaning, and cooking. Others want them to learn to
pull their own weight and participate in family life through teamwork and
Assigning Age-appropriate Chores
"The level of expected chores should be appropriate to the child's skill,
ability, and what you need," said Frances Goldscheider, professor of sociology
at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. But even for very young
children, helping around the house allows a child to feel like a vital part of
Many chores take place in the kitchen because it is the heart of the home. Covey
recommends that children do the dishes, some of the cooking, and set and clear
Laundry is also an important chore that children can help with at an early age.
They can begin by putting dirty clothes in the hamper, or helping switch loads
of laundry from the washer to the dryer. As they get older, they can learn to
sort laundry and help fold and put away clothes. The last step is running the
washer and dryer. By the time they're teenagers, they should be able to do the
entire job themselves.
Motivating Kids to do Their Share
Four things influence the process of motivating children to do their chores,
John Covey said.
Parents must model being responsible by doing housework themselves.
Parents must have a caring relationship with each child in the family.
The culture in the home must be cooperative. Do you do things together? Do you
help each other?
Parents must see chores as an opportunity to teach their children both important
life skills and values.
Surprisingly, Covey, the father of 10, suggests that parents sometimes negotiate
with their teenagers about chores. "The big thing is to listen to the child when
they don't want to do a job, or listen any time, really," he said. "Don't just
use force. Force, in the long run, doesn't build the relationship. Although, it
gets results in the short run." Chores shouldn't be a burden or a punishment,
At different ages, children need different levels of help and support while
doing their chores, according to Covey. Parents should work side-by-side with
young children, washing the dishes as the child clears plates from the dinner
table, for example. The more you do with them when they're young, the more they
can do by themselves later. "The older they get, they don't want you hovering
over them while they do their work," Covey said.
Chores and Allowance -- Keeping Them Separate
Part of the rewards for doing chores should be the sense of accomplishment the
child feels when the job is completed. Covey and Goldscheider agree that an
allowance probably shouldn't be connected to fundamental chores. "They're very
separate things," Goldscheider said. Chores are part of the basic
responsibilities that family members have toward one another, Goldscheider said.
Occasional tasks that the child does, however, can be compensated.
The important point here is that parents are not just trying to get their houses
clean or the lawn mowed or the snow shoveled, Covey said. The goal is to help
the children develop values such as taking care of other people, finding
pleasure in work, and being responsible and productive.
This article was excerpted from National PTA's magazine, Our Children.
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