Kids and Chores

So I interviewed Prof. Lewis Mandell last week for my money book (now, called again, Laughing at the Joneses… it will come out with a title, I swear!) His research has found that kids who get non-conditional allowances do worse on financial literacy tests than kids who get conditional allowances (for doing chores) or don’t get allowances at all (who basically act like charity fundraisers getting cash out of mom and dad when they need it — a useful skill, it turns out).

I’ve been thinking about kids and chores lately because Jasper is almost 4 years old, and definitely old enough to start helping out a bit more. I’ve managed to get him to empty the silverware out of the dishwasher (provided someone else takes the sharpest knives out first). If we have set containers for toys he can put those away, though he’s always tempted to start playing again. And right now the prospect of organizing a bunch of non-classifiable toys into different containers in our house seems like a worse set-up than Carl Linnaeus faced. I think he could probably help carry dishes from the table and make his bed. Perhaps he could put laundry away (I don’t care if the kids’ clothes are folded).

So I’m curious: what age did you start various chores for your children? How did you go about teaching them various domestic skills? Is there any way to make it seem like fun?

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6 thoughts on “Kids and Chores

  1. I have 3 children (my daughter is 4 and my boys are 8 & 10) and they all know that Saturday morning is chore time. The boys vacuum and mop floors. They each receive $5 after they are finished chores on Saturday. During the week they help with setting the table and putting laundry away etc. I will admit, they don’t do the best job and it rarely feels like they are actually helping! But, I refuse to wait on my children. Nothing drives me more crazy than when my 10 year comes marching into my bedroom wondering why he has no clean clothes to wear. Maybe someone could help me put away the 3 backets of clean laundry? He knows better now – nothing makes Mom fly off the handle quicker 🙂 And here’s the thing, chores aren’t always fun. But before we go outside and play soccer and jump on the trampoline, everyone needs to help Mom clear the table. It is not fair for me to be stuck in the kitchen after working all day, I want to jump on the trampoline too.

  2. My boys (4 & 8) get an allowance, $4 and $6 respectively. 50% goes into their wallet, 40% into their banks, which they can’t spend & 10% into charity. Every few months they decide where they want to give this money. This time it went to the Walk for Hunger that my older son participated in.

    They sometimes have to be reminded to do their jobs (mostly the 4YO) and I don’t often penalize them by withholding allowance. If I do withhold I still give them the long-term savings and the charity, just not the spending money.

    I am not sure how well this is working as their wallets are quite full. There is very little they want to spend their money on, as they watch very little TV and rarely see commercials. My older son has saved up for video games and they’ve both purchased the occasional action figure.

    They have to keep their floors “vacuumable” and make their beds. They also set and clear the table for breakfast and dinner plus scrape their plates and put them into the dishwasher. (I had to teach this skill repeatedly, after I had to pay someone to clean nasty gunk out of the d/w filter, and they used to put dishes in the sink, then I put them all in the d/w, which made more work for me)
    In the play room the toys must be returned to their bins.
    When it comes to laundry my 4YO sorts everyone’s socks and folds his pants. My 8 YO folds his shirts, pants and PJ’s. They each put their own clothes away. Sometimes they dust. my younger son thinks it’s fun to clean the tables b/c he likes the sprayer. (a safe vinegar and water cleaner)
    This summer they will be emptying the dishwasher more regularly. 4YO–silverware and glasses: 8YO– dishes and other misc. items.

    I make putting the laundry away into a race. I carry the basket to my room and they have to get a stack of one type of clothing, run to their rooms to put it away and come back. While they are doing this, I am putting away my own clothes. They complain sometimes about chores, but I remind them that we all have to do our parts so we can have more time for fun together.

  3. @ Laura,
    PS–Although the toys may be non-classifiable to you, maybe Jasper sees them differently. If it’s his sorting system he may be more likely to use it. My younger son’s set-ups are uniquely his own, but he can explain if you ask him.

    1. Thanks to everyone for these comments! Yes, probably Jasper should devise his own sorting system. It would be interesting to see what he comes up with. But there are probably a lot of chores they can try. My 19-month-old likes to sing “een up! een up!” which is the clean up song without the “cl.”

  4. I don’t do a weekly allowance as I don’t want to nag, negotiate or judge whether their efforts were good enough. There are plenty of things the kids (7 & 10) need to do “because I said so”. However, I do have a list of household chores posted with an associated payment. If they are feeling like they want to buy something, I direct them to the list. Once they do something, they can let me know and we deposit their payment into the “Bank of Mom” app on my iPhone. When we are out and about, they can check their balance or make a “withdrawal” at any time. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone else do it this way, but it feels easier and more realistic to me.

  5. @Sarah–I like the ‘bank of mom’ idea. I have plenty of extra chores I’d like to post and pay for.

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