When you start paying pocket money to your kids you need to know what to do and what not to do. Here Claire Orange provides the essential guide for parents navigating this difficult path. Read her advice here.
Let’s face it, every parent, at some point, has exchanged money for cooperation. While some golden children love helping out, doing their chores and hopping to their self-care tasks with alacrity, most others are moaning, proclaiming the unfairness of life and finding ways to get out of stepping up and helping out.
In order to make sense of when to pay pocket money, let’s start by looking at the big asks in most family homes that cause parents to pull their hair out.
Self-care tasks – having a shower, brushing teeth and hair – these are tasks that children are required to complete every day – often more than once a day. And the thought of having to moan and groan to get a child up and mobilised into action – knowing full well that once they actually get into the shower they LOVE it and then the moaning and groaning is on to get them out – well, it’s exhausting.
Family contribution tasks – tidying common areas, tidying the playroom, setting the table for dinner are examples of these sorts of tasks. Everyone in the family needs these tasks done and they improve the quality of family life for everyone – they’re not just focused on benefiting one family member.
Chores – tasks that a child undertakes that are repeated activities that need doing often – like emptying the dishwasher, taking out the rubbish, feeding pets.
Now, the big question is, with the wheels of every home turning and churning constantly to keep everyone fed, clothed, educated, well slept, socialised… how do parents inspire kids to want to contribute? If only there way an easy answer. Well, maybe there is an easier answer if not an easy answer – because those seem to be few and far between in parenting world.
There’s a clever little word play but actually quite necessary in family life. Being successful in life is all about being able to respond – to step up, to manage, to cope with adversity and to persist – even when tasks are repetitive and boring. And the training for life begins in those humble tasks around the family home. Not everything in life is paid for – so learning to contribute for the greater good is helping kids to become life-ready. Now, that doesn’t mean that reinforcement and reward should be absent because we all want to be rewarded for effort.
In family life, the greatest success is achieved when children are asked to contribute in developmentally appropriate ways – with some tasks having rewards and others just a necessary part of family life. And very successful parents will have systems in place for identifying which tasks are those that are simply expected to be done and those that they’re happy to reward. Make a list of the self-care tasks, the family contribution tasks and the chores that happen in your home – and separate them out because then it becomes super-easy to know how and when to pay pocket money – if that’s your currency of choice.
Fully respecting that each and every family is different, this is a good rule of thumb for knowing when to pay pocket money.
Self-care tasks – well, they’re a must. They’re something that every child has to learn to do if they’re going to be a well-groomed and non-stinky adult one day. These tasks should be rewarded with attention and encouragement but introducing money to get them done is a slippery slope. If you don’t pay are they going to keep brushing their teeth? Uggh – almost too gruesome to contemplate. And if 20 cents is enough today to get the task done at 5 years of age – how much are you going to need to pay a 14-year-old to motivate them to get that very necessary task done? Anything that appears on your list of self-care tasks should never be rewarded with money.
Family contribution tasks – these are the ones that most parents find, in a busy schedule, are easier to do themselves. Waiting for that potato to get peeled, waiting for another glass to get broken on the way to the table as it’s getting set – it’s easy to leap in and do it yourself. Don’t – and don’t pay money for these tasks to get done either. Your child is learning to help others, they’re learning that there’s are not the only needs in the world. This is invaluable learning and your family contribution tasks are helping your child to become a giving, compassionate and community-minded adult.
Chores – this is where you can go wild with pocket money – or whatever currency works for your child. It might be that your child is motivated by craft supplies, or lego, or construction sets and money is not their currency of motivation. Other kids just love cold, hard cash. Chores are extremely important in family life and are often brain-drainingly boring and repetitive. So, a little motivation to stay on-task is just the thing. Agree on the chores ahead of time, have set times that they happen or that they must happen by. You might like to read more about developmentally appropriate chores for children here (look under ‘Tips 4 Parents – Chores for Children).
I think we can all agree that parenting is a tough gig. So, having a system for encouraging, rewarding and requiring smooths those bumps along the journey. Becoming a slave to every demand of your child, to having to pay to motivate any effort and contribution is a terribly slippery slope – for family happiness and for long term shaping of your child ready for the rigours of adult life. Getting your system right saves time, tears and is the glue of family life. You can read more over at BEST Programs 4 Kids – where we are the children’s wellbeing experts.