Little helpers: Tips on getting your kids to help out around the house

Monday, May 7, 2012
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In many families, children are responsible for certain chores each week, and if those chores are completed, the child is paid an allowance. In other families, chores are expected to be done by children and money is given for spending or saving, but the two aren't tied to each other. Which is the best way to get your child to do chores and have an understanding of money seems to come down to personal preference.

Susan Bartlett -- a kindergarten teacher, mother of two grown children and grandmother of four -- shares an idea she found on the website Pinterest: The family gives each child three morning and three evening chores to complete without pay as a part of being in the family. But, the children can earn money to do listed chores beyond the daily ones to teach earning and money management. "I told my daughter, Leigh, who has three boys about this cool idea," says Bartlett. "I wish I would have used this with my own children!"

Chore charts are also popular for getting household work done and paying allowances.

"I'm planning to make a spreadsheet of all the household chores and yard work that needs to be done this summer," says Lynne Palmer. Palmer and her husband, Steve, both work full time and are the parents of three teenage boys. "Each chore will have a dollar value, depending on the chore. The boys can pick which chore and the amount of chores that they want to do depending on how much money they want to earn, " she explains. Some chores, such as their personal laundry, will be expected to be done without pay. If the chores get done during the week, the boys will get the allotted amount of money from those chores to use for spending money, and it will give the whole family free time to do fun things on the weekends. If the chores are not completed during the week then they must be done without pay on the weekend during the time that our family would normally go out and do something fun."

Allowances aren't always tied to household chores. Sherry Thomas, mother of two boys, gives each child $5 a week for an allowance that is not tied to their ages or the chores they complete but to good behavior at school. "Any poor behavior in school results in them losing their allowance for the week," says Thomas.

Palmer is also trying to use monetary rewards to encourage her younger sons, twins who are 15, to plan for their future. "We are offering Alex and Eric $5 for each college scholarship that they apply for," says Palmer. "This includes filling out all the application information and, in some instances, writing a paper."

Not everyone is a fan of giving kids an allowance. Melissa Hincha-Ownby wrote a blog on the Mother Nature Network website stating that she doesn't offer her children, ages 9 and 7, an allowance for helping around the house as that's just an expected part of living in the house.

"Although we don't offer a traditional allowance to them, both kids receive money throughout the year for birthdays and other special occasions," she writes. They also have an open invitation to write a blog post for one of my websites and earn money for the post. Both children do have the ability to learn about saving, spending and giving their own money, so I just haven't seen a need to institute an allowance at this point."

On the U.S. News Money website, Kimberly Palmer wrote an article on "The Smart Way to Pay Kids an Allowance." Palmer quotes Dan Henderson, founder of the financial education toy Zillionz. Henderson says consistency is one of the most important aspects of an allowance. Sticking with a regular schedule, whether it's weekly or monthly, lets kids plan for and anticipate their "income" and also sends a message that it's important to uphold financial commitments. Henderson also recommends helping children learn what to do with their allowance by teaching them to budget: dedicating 30 percent to spending, 30 percent to short-term purchases like a bike, 30 percent to long-term savings such a college and 10 percent to giving.

Whether you give your child an allowance, making a game out of chores, or at least making them more interesting, can help motivate kids to complete them. Two great ideas shared on Pinterest are "The Bored Jar" and "Clutter Buster."

With The Bored Jar, chores as well as fun activities are written down and placed in the jar. If a child complains of being bored, he picks a slip out and has to complete the activity, whether it's a dull household job or an outing for a fun treat.

In Clutter Buster, chores are written down on ping pong balls. Each child chooses a ball and completes the task written on it. When the task is finished, they pick another ball and continue doing the tasks listed on the balls for a set amount of time, say 30 minutes. At the end of the allotted time, whoever has the most balls wins a prize.