To Pay or Not to Pay the Kids an Allowance

My kids are 9 and 11 and sometimes I swear, they must be two of the laziest, most unmotivated people I’ve ever met. Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh, but it’s how I feel after many long weeks of tripping on toys or shoes and not being able to find a clean spoon for my yogurt in the morning.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been struggling with whether or not to pay them an allowance.

I’ve always been of the mindset that there should be responsibilities and chores. Responsibilities are those that they do as members of the household out of respect for those that feed, clothe and provide sleeping places for them; they should not get paid for those. Chores are the extras, like the changing the kitty litter or laundry or (insert any number of other things that need to get done around here). In my perfect world, I would offer a nominal allowance for completing those tasks.

The problem is, they seem to ignore responsibilities. My house is a constant disaster, I work too much to keep up with it, the husband only yells at the kids to get it done, or for not getting it done and by the end of the week I’m about to lose my mind. But…..responsibilities?!?! I should be teaching them better, right? They should want to be helpful, right? At what point do I throw in the towel and say “Forget it, I’ll just pay them!” I mean, if I would pay a house cleaner to do the same things, (I don’t, but my perfect world has a full staff), why wouldn’t I pay the kids while using it as an opportunity to teach them a different kind of responsibility?


I’ve been thinking long and hard about a solution to the madness that is my house. Last week, our 11-year-old wanted $20 for the book fair at school and asked if she could clean the living room to earn it. I tacked on the dining room and kitchen, required meticulous completion of the tasks and that they be completed before bed that night. I’ve never seen that child work so hard in my life. The things that I’d been asking for two weeks to get done were 90% complete before bed that night. I didn’t trip on my way to bed. In the end, she didn’t meet the expectations set forth for $20, so she didn’t earn the full fee, but she was satisfied with her $10 earnings and went to school the next morning walking tall and eager to spend.

Tonight, I’m looking around the house in despair, wondering how I might get everything done before we leave for vacation. I remembered what happened a few nights ago and told the kids that they will have opportunities to earn up to $20 each for souvenirs if they complete the tasks I give them each night this week. Friends, my kitchen is clean and the floors are swept and mopped! Perhaps I’ve been thinking about this wrong all along….

If money motivates them, why not play on it?

I mean, my profession is sales; I’m also money motivated. Maybe I just need to prioritize what’s more important; getting them to work for something by helping me out and saving what little of my sanity is left or teaching them responsibility. In retrospect, I suppose I can do both. Pay them for the work, and teach them responsibility by helping them manage their money. Could it be a win, win in the long run?

I’d love to hear from you. Do you pay your kids allowance? For what tasks? When did you decide?

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