There is a topic debated over the years by many moms. And it’s one we struggled with as we raised our five children.
I have found it helpful to separate chores from allowances. Why? Because having a chore is simply part of being a family. Everyone in the family needs to pitch in to help. One day your child will need to pitch in to do her share in an apartment she shares with friends. A son should be prepared to share the workload of keeping a household in order with his wife. It’s simply part of living in community. You don’t get paid for this. So in order to prepare them for the future we give our children chores now. The earlier you begin the better. A 2-year-old can help pick up toys. A 6-year-old can set the table. Kids can help cook, clean, take out the trash, and watch siblings.
Once our kids began to read we began a weekly chore chart. As they got older they did it on the computer and posted it weekly on the refrigerator. Because there were seven of us we had seven sections of the house that needed to be cleaned.
Chores could be done any time between Friday and 6:00 p.m. on Saturday night. You could trade chores with another sibling. Bathrooms were a dreaded job. Of course the kids complained. But today my two daughters-in-law are pleased their husbands know how to scrub toilets! Chores are a valuable tool in training in thoughtfulness.
Allowances are also a useful training tool. Once your child reaches the age of 5 it’s wise to begin an allowance, albeit a small one. Give the child three envelopes: one for giving (tithe), one for saving, and one for spending (now or later). Teach them to put at least 10% in their “give” and 10% in their “save” envelopes and the rest in their spend envelope. It may be only nickles, but you are training them in wise budgeting with an emphasis on giving first. As the kids get older you will adjust the amounts.
Allowances should not cover all their “wants.” That is a bottomless well. And granting all their desires will simply promote selfishness. However, there will be times when they need extra money for that “special something.”
I keep a running list of extra chores for pay. Cleaning out the garage, scrubbing and cleaning out closets, polishing brass or silver, etc., are some of those extras I never seem to get to and need help with so these go on my extra chore list.
When a child gets desperate for money, point her to this list. She can begin to earn the money to buy the item she desires but it may take her longer than she wants. This can be a good thing as she’s learning to wait and to persevere. And sometimes that thing she just “had to have” doesn’t seem so important after a few days.
Be on the lookout for opportunities that present themselves to your family to teach your children that life isn’t all about gaining money or possessions.
When there is devastation somewhere due to weather is an example. This is an opportunity for us to declare a “family work day.” A day in which we as a family can do a project—a bake sale, car wash, yard work, etc., with all donations going to a relief project. Working together as a family purely to give can be transforming for us and for our kids.
What if every family (or several families working together) set aside one day in the next month to do this for others? Not only would a nation be helped, but a family—ours—would be changed.
And a culture just might begin to turn from being “me-centered” to becoming “other-centered.”
Susan Yates has written thirteen books and has spoken nationally and internationally on the subject of marriage, parenting and women’s issues for many years. For 11 years she was a regular columnist on parenting for Today’s Christian Woman magazine. Susan is the mother of five and has 21 grandchildren, including a set of quads. She is devoted to sharing her wisdom and experience with moms and wives and is selflessly available to those in need. Susan has been a mom for 40 years, she and John have been married for 43 years.