Chores, Allowance, and “Above and Beyond” Tasks

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I’m often asked about our allowance and chore policies for our children. Recently, some snow on our driveway made us carefully think about these policies and decide exactly how we wanted to handle them.

About two weeks ago, we had a snowstorm that covered our driveway with about two inches of snow. While it wasn’t really enough to require us to get out the snowblower, it did need to be cleared off so that our driveway didn’t turn into ice.

When my six year old got home from school, I handed him a snow shovel, grabbed my own, and the two of us went out there to clear it.

He’s six. He’s not as strong as I am, nor does he have the endurance of an adult. However, he stuck with me the entire time we were shoveling, then suggested that we clear the driveway of one of our neighbors that might have some difficulty clearing their own driveway.

When we were finished, I told him that he had done a good job. I also considered financially rewarding him with a dollar or two.

I decided not to.

This led into a series of discussions between Sarah and myself concerning the role of allowances and chores and how exactly we should handle “above and beyond” effort.

In the past, allowances were not tied to chores, and we’re going to keep it that way. Our children receive a trivially small allowance – $0.50 per year in their age. The reason it’s small is so that if they want an expensive toy, they have to actually save for it.

To us, allowance is not compensation; it’s a tool for teaching about money management. They learn the value of saving from it. They learn the challenge and reward of putting aside money for charity. They learn a little bit about investing, too.

What about regular chores, then? We’re already starting these, but these are things that are just expected of them due to the fact that they’re living here. If they protest, we don’t pull away allowance. We explain to them all of the things that Mom and Dad do around the house – as well as our professional work – to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table, and the things we enjoy.

Their role in that is their chores. It’s simply expected that there are certain things that they do as part of living at home. It’s not tied to allowance.

If they don’t follow through on their chores, there are non-monetary consequences. Prized toys are put away for a while. Time-outs happen. Taking away their allowance deprives them of the opportunity to learn about money management, while taking away toys or free time doesn’t deprive them of anything of significant importance.

What kind of chores do we give them? We’re talking about a six year old and a four year old here, so chores are pretty basic. They clear the table after dinner. They pick up any items that they left out. They aren’t physically strong enough or dexterous enough for many tasks, though our oldest is starting to grow into some of them.

This leads us to the “above and beyond” tasks, like the aforementioned shoveling of the entire driveway. Much like regular chores, we don’t compensate for these. They’re simply irregular chores that need to be done for the upkeep of our home. Irregular challenging tasks are part of everyone’s life, and thus they should be part of their lives, too.

In short, we don’t believe in compensating our children for regular household tasks. We aren’t compensated for those tasks, so neither should our children be. Also, compensating them sets up a precedent where they expect compensation for those tasks, which stretches out for as long as they live here and perhaps into their adult life.

The thing to keep in mind is that a parent’s goal is to raise their child to be a fully functional and independent adult, if possible. By giving them an allowance, we’re teaching them saving and basic money skills. By requiring household chores but not tying them to compensation, we’re teaching them that there are just things that a person has to do in their daily life. These are valuable money and life lessons.

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100 thoughts on “Chores, Allowance, and “Above and Beyond” Tasks

  1. “In short, we don’t believe in compensating our children for regular household tasks. We aren’t compensated for those tasks, so neither should our children be. Also, compensating them sets up a precedent where they expect compensation for those tasks, which stretches out for as long as they live here and perhaps into their adult life.”

    Simply handing the children money for no specific reasons sets a precedent that they must be paid because they simply exist. Simply giving them money in exchange for work, at least they will not expect you to compensate them for simply existing as adults. I’m quite willing to hand my adult children money for their labor because their time and energy is as valuable as mine. It’s better than them coming to me with one hand out and the other on the door.

    As adults, you ARE highly compensated for running a productive and orderly household. Take a year off from doing regular household tasks and see what happens. Few middle class children understand the compensation aspect of dependable routine unless they have been exposed to the chaos of living in squallor, in fear of child protective services, eviction, etc.

    But their parents should understand. Tie their allowance to performance, not to existance. That is how the real world operates.

  2. When I was a kid, I had to clean my room every week, and I got an allowance. The two were not tied together in my mind, and I always cleaned my room with the understanding that it was my job to do. Then, one week in my pre-teens, my mom, who was probably annoyed at how late I was waiting to start cleaning my room, said that if I didn’t clean it I wasn’t going to get my allowance. I was surprised, since I’d never thought the two were related. Suddenly I realized that I didn’t actually HAVE to clean my room. The consequence of not cleaning was that I wouldn’t get my allowance, and I was free to make that choice. I wasn’t into shopping, and didn’t feel like I needed the money, so I pretty much stopped cleaning my room altogether. I’m sure my mom was completely baffled by this. She did withhold my allowance, but she’d probably have been better off continuing to give it to me, and saying that I was expected to clean my room regardless.

  3. I had a non-chore based allowance growing up – it never led me to believe that I would be paid just for existing!

    I mean, carried to the logical extent, that argument means you shouldn’t provide your kids with food or clothing or toys, because it will make them believe that they will just magically receive them their entire life just for existing.

    (I don’t think there’s a right or a wrong answer to the allowance debate … if they should get an allowance at all, if it should be tied to anything, what it should or shouldn’t be expected to cover. It’s just what works for the individual family.]

  4. I’m a fan of a hybridized approach where there are certain chores that are expected, a certain (small) amount of money that is standard, and a list of other chores that can be chosen for extra money.

    The other thing, though, is that the compensation for those additional chores is “market”-dependent. If one chore gets chosen all the time because it’s really easy, it pays less than a chore that gets done infrequently and is harder. It doesn’t have to be some complicated, elaborate system. It may just be that if a chore isn’t done one week, the money that would have been paid for it rolls over to the next week. Then there’s a final point if none of the kids do it they have to share the cost of paying Mom or Dad to do it.

    Of course, you run the risk the parents of one of my best friends encountered. He couldn’t care less about money, so he never picked extra chores. His brother, on the other hand, loved figuring out how money works, so he’d do them all. The one who never cared about money became a friar and eventually made a vow of poverty!

  5. Yeah, kids aren’t idiots – if they develop good habits with money and with chore-doing, they’ll be fine and figure out the nuances. The specifics are a lot less important than getting the fundamentals in place.

  6. Just looking for suggestions from other commenters – our son is 5 and has started to want things that cost money. As a kid, my parents always “provided” the opportunity to earn money by doing the above and beyond chores. Does anyone have suggestions as to age appropriate above and beyond chores for a 5 year old? He’s pretty good about picking up his toys, and he already has to help set the table for dinner.

  7. #6 Telephus44 – For a 5 year old:
    (alongside a partent) put his dirty laundry where it belongs, help sort dirty laundry, help carry it to the machine & help load the clothes in, help empty the dryer, sort clean clothes by owner, help fold smaller items & help put clean items away
    help with dusting or sweeping
    help with yard work at a kid level (again, alongside a parent or older sib)
    take the dry dishes out of the dishwasher for an adult to put away (assuming you wait until they cool down) OR let the child wash nonbreakable dishes by hand
    select & set out the clothes to be worn the next day
    help with simple cooking chores – getting items out, measuring ingredients, stirring, washing produce, etc.

  8. Lindsay at #4: “Of course, you run the risk the parents of one of my best friends encountered. He couldn’t care less about money, so he never picked extra chores. His brother, on the other hand, loved figuring out how money works, so he’d do them all. The one who never cared about money became a friar and eventually made a vow of poverty!”

    Why is that “running a risk”? Is it such a terrible thing to raise so selfless a child? To me the risk would be that the child who does all the chores because he wants the money grows up to be a “workaholic” who would rather be at the office than with friends and family.

  9. I’ve been reading for a long time but it’s my first time commenting.

    We do exactly what you described so well. Allowance is to learn to deal with money. Chores are about learning to be a contributing family member.

    A side bonus is that it completely eliminates the kids asking for us to buy them stuff (think checkout counter junk, etc). We always tell them to pay for it themselves.

  10. Some food for thought regarding paying for chores:

    Household chores that are traditionally done by boys and men (shoveling snow, mowing the lawn, washing the car, etc.) are generally the ones we regard as being worth money. The chores traditionally done by girls and women (laundry, cooking, cleaning the house, etc.) generally aren’t.

    A business-minded teenager who wants to earn some extra money would have a much easier time going around to the neighbors and offering to shovel their snow or mow their lawns than offering to clean their bathrooms or do their laundry.

    Just another (possible) contributing factor to the idea that Things Women Do are worth less than Things Men Do.

  11. Apples to apples, jim. If you want me to clear your driveway without a snowblower, you can do my laundry without a washing machine.

  12. Folding laundry doesn’t require a washing machine nor dryer. I said I’d fold laundry not wash it. I don’t own a snowblower, I didn’t ahve one growing up and I ain’t buying one. But my offer still stands… you can shovel my driveway and I’ll fold your laundry. That will prove to everyone how male jobs are all easier than women jobs and how women are mistreated by society. I’ll also make you dinner if you want to fix my broken fence.

  13. Not all work is equal in difficulty. Shoveling snow (with a shovel) is a very difficult job and folding laundry is pretty trivial and easy. You can’t just lump all male jobs and all women jobs and pretend they should be equally paid. Some work is harder and demands more pay. I’d definitely rather mow your lawn than babysit a pair of fussy infants. But I’d rather watch TV with someones 10 year old than mow that lawn.

    But yeah I think traditionally mowing lawns has been higher paid per hour than babysitting. Part of that is warranted. A lot of babysitting amounts to watching TV. But I’d much rather mow most lawns than watch a screaming infant and change diapers.

  14. I don’t think it’s a “women’s job/men’s job” issue! It’s about what jobs are harder to do. Sure, I hate folding laundry and I really hate doing dishes, but I’d still rather do them than either live in a trashy/dirty house or mow the lawn. I’d rather do dishes every day than mow the lawn once a week! Besides, no one says that only men can mow the lawn (except me; please don’t make me mow my lawn), nor that only women do the house work (my hubby does a ton of the work inside our house, including the loathsome dishes sometimes). It’s not about how much we value “women’s work” it’s about how much we value our money and what our time/energies are worth. I don’t want to pay someone to do my laundry or dishes because I can do them easily enough myself.

  15. Generally one must bring their own snowblower (or shovel!) if one wants to offer their services for snow removal, although my grandmother lets the teenager she’s hired to mow her lawn user her (Granny’s) mower.

    On the other hand, she has hired an adult to come bi-weekly and help her with the housework. One presumes that the adult makes more than the teenager, but I suppose I would have to ask Grandma to be certain.

    #18: Johanna

    Ah, the old apple to bushel of apples argument. Smart question – you should definitely find out if Jim is a rancher before you agree to any “I’ll fix all of your dinners if you fix all of my fence problems” deal, even though that’s not what he offered.

    Perhaps he and I should quit beating around the bush and ask you directly: Do you think housework is as physically demanding, dangerous, or exposed to the elements as mowing or snow removal?

    I’ll tell you where I stand: working outside is awful compared to working inside, and that’s 70% of the reason that hired housekeepers often will tell you right out: “I don’t do windows”. I’ll go even further than that for you: My stepfather was in construction, and he put me to work when he and my mother married (I was 7) at a rate of $1/hour. By the time I was 15, I was making more than minimum wage, and he finally trusted me enough to let me do the ‘final cleaning’ on finished houses. Compared to mowing, picking up trash outide, sweeping up the job site, hauling sand, hauling bricks, tamping substrate, digging sump holes or post holes, or any of the other hundred things he might have me do, it was awesome. Air condiitoned in the summer, heated in the winter, out of the rain, out of the mud, nice clean bathroom to use. When I moved out at age 18, I quit doing any other work for him, but kept cleaning his completed houses until I moved away for grad school.

  16. I don’t think brain surgery is as physically demanding, dangerous, or exposed to the elements as snow shovelling. But I think brain surgeons should be paid more than snow shovellers.

  17. “I eat dinner every day. How often does your fence break?”

    1 hour of cooking for 1 hour of fence mending.

    I ain’t fixing you dinner forever just for one broken fence. We’re talking about equal pay for every job just like communist nations do it before they fail.

    If you want more fence work I do know someone with 28 acres of fence that needs a lot of mending that would keep you busy for a long time however. Its not snowing or over 90 degrees for at least 7 months out of the year.

  18. There is nothing stopping women from mowing lawns, shoveling snow or mending fences except individual desire to do so. If you think the money is so great compared to housework, have at it and hire a housekeeper for a pittance. Let me know how it works out for you.

  19. #23 David.

    As a rocket scientist, I agree with you. Since we’re discussing unskilled labor, your point isn’t really relevant.

  20. My point is simply that rewards for jobs are not necessarily based on how physically demanding they are. Nor should they be, of course. It is somewhat depressing to see that as soon as Johanna made her perfectly sensible observation, a group of people instantly felt the need to justify a social inequality instead of considering ways in which it might be addressed. A question: what did all of those people have in common?

  21. @MattJ: Do you really think that men’s overall share of household chores has traditionally been as demanding as women’s share?

    Or, of more relevance to your question: What period in history (or what part of the world) are we talking about? Without a washing machine, doing laundry is pretty darn physically demanding. That having a washing machine (or at least having access to one) is a priority for pretty much everyone who can afford it just proves how much of a labor-saving device it really is.

  22. “There is nothing stopping women from mowing lawns …”

    But I bet that if a 14 year old girl tried to get lawn mowing work that she would get turned down a lot. And a teenage boy would have a hard time finding babysitting jobs. I do know I didn’t get many offers to babysit when I was a teenage boy.

  23. @jim: Go on, prove my point even more: You really do think that men’s time is more valuable than women’s time.

  24. @jim: “A lot of babysitting amounts to watching TV.”

    First of all: Not in my experience – even though that’s what the grown-ups told me when I asked why I was being paid so little.

    Second of all: Is there any other context in which “But you’re getting paid to do nothing!” is a justification for paying less than minimum wage? Didn’t you have a job minding the computer lab (i.e., doing your homework) when you were in college? How much did that pay?

  25. I completely agree with Johanna that “women’s” work is less valued and people generally underestimate the time and attention it takes. While it is also true that yardwork and shoveling snow are physically harder they also take MUCH less time over the course of a year!

    Really what would you rather be in charge of – snow blowing or shoveling the driveway 3 months a year or cooking dinner and cleaning up 12 months a year? I’m guessing the answer would depend on the tools you own to move snow and the length of the driveway!

    Frequency of task definitely adds up! It may take my husband 2 hours to mow the lawn each weekend for six months of the year, but I spend FAR more time collecting, spotting, sorting, folding and putting away 8 loads of laundry 12 month of each year. It is just that it is done 15 minutes each am and pm and is not conducive to hiring out since there is so much “down” time while the washer and dryer run.

    The same goes for cooking dinner and cleaning dishes – could you really hire someone to come in and do those things? Not cost effectively.

    We’ve lived in South America where it is common to have a helper come in and do housework and cook lunch (the “big” meal of the day) every day. In dollars I paid someone $100 to do this per month – which was almost double what others were paying. Realistically at the time given the exchange rate, that was equivalent to about $400 of buying power – or about $6.75 per hour.

    I tried to find a similar arrangement for any amount of $$ when we returned to the States, but it simply does not exist (at least in our area) unless you are hiring illegal immigrants or you are willing to pay a full time housekeeper with benefits.

  26. #27 David:
    My point is simply that rewards for jobs are not necessarily based on how physically demanding they are.

    Indeed. Your Doogie Howser example was distraction from the topic at hand, however. My arguments are only “justify[ing] social inequality” if one accepts the idea that unskilled labor should be payed the same, regardless of how strenuous, dangerous, or exposed to the elements it is.

    A question: what did all of those people have in common?

    Please enlighten us.

  27. “Do you really think that men’s overall share of household chores has traditionally been as demanding as women’s share?”

    Thats a differnt topic. Women do more housework than men do. I totally agree with you.

    I thought we were talking about how much people are paid?

    “Go on, prove my point even more: You really do think that men’s time is more valuable than women’s time.”

    Sigh. You can argue better than that.

    No I absolutely do not think that mens time is more valuable than womens. I do think that some jobs are harder than others. TEnding screaming infants is harder than mowing a lawn. Scrubbing a shower or bathtub of soap scum or cleaning an oven is harder than trimming bushes.

    I don’t care if a man or a woman does the job. I care about how hard the actual job is.

    Of course my own personal opinion on how hard a given job is is just my opinion. Other people disagree. I don’t mind mowing a lawn at all and at least one person above hates that job.

    I think every job is different and its stupid to lump in snow shoveling and laundry folding and pretend like their equitable work deserving equal pay. I’d pay a man or a woman the same amount to do any given job. But I’m not paying someone more to fold laundry than shovel snow.

    If you think fixing fences is easier than cooking dinner then thats fine. I’m sure you can make some good money fixing fences. (when the weather is OK but with up to 20% unemployment during a recession) And I’ll make $10 an hour cooking food in a restaurant. Both jobs suck and are relatively low pay.

    Are you trying to make one of those broad ‘women are underpaid’ arguments?
    Women are often in lower paid careers and men are often in higher paid fields. There are various reasons for why any individual field is paid more or less. Its certainly not ALL about being mean to women. But yeah… traditional gender bias probably impacts wages in some fields to some degree. But you can’t just lump all jobs together and act like they should be paid the same… ask the Soviets.

  28. @Jim

    But we’re NOT talking about equal pay for equal time, we’re talking about how traditionally women’s more time-intensive work is valued less than men’s less time-intensive work.

    Or what Laurie just said as I posted this.

  29. “But I bet that if a 14 year old girl tried to get lawn mowing work that she would get turned down a lot.”

    A 14-year-old girl is also less likely than a 14-year-old boy to be taught how to mow a lawn. A lawnmower is an intimidating piece of machinery for someone who’s never used one. And if the 14-year-old girl sees that the lawn is always mowed by her father (and/or her brother and/or the neighbor boy), while she’s been assigned to help with cooking, cleaning, and laundry, she’s unlikely to ask to mow the lawn too, just for fun.

  30. Johanna.

    As far as I know, legally you should pay babysitters over minimum wage. The only exception I know of is what you pay your own children. So no, I don’t think its ‘ok’ to pay a babysitter under minimum wage and in fact I think its technically illegal to do so.

    Yes watching a computer lab was very very easy work and I heartily encourage anyone to find such a job if they can get it. I was definitely over paid. The computer lab jobs were not male dominated. There were quite a few women doing those jobs. I highly recommend the work to all men or women who are qualified. You do have to know a lot about computers to get such work.. and its a college campus job that only employs college students. Any easy & well paid job is great for the employee and should be sought after.
    If you’re asking if I ‘should’ have been paid what I was paid for that work… absolutely not. I was over paid. Thats why it was a great job.

  31. “Are you trying to make one of those broad ‘women are underpaid’ arguments?”

    I am making one of those “When girls are pushed toward ‘women’s’ chores and boys are pushed toward ‘men’s’ chores, it may be teaching the girls that their time, labor, and skills are worth less than the boys’” arguments.

  32. #28 Johanna

    Do you really think that men’s overall share of household chores has traditionally been as demanding as women’s share?

    It’s really hard to pin down those goalposts, isn’t it? I thought we were talking about jobs a teenager might take, and how much money they are worth, or whether anyone is willing to pay for them at all.

    Considering that, traditionally, women have been responsible for almost all of the household chores, of course their share has been more demanding than men’s share.

    What period in history (or what part of the world) are we talking about?

    I’m talking about within our lifetimes, in the US. Apparently you’re talking about all of human history, anywhere in the world.

    Without a washing machine, doing laundry is pretty darn physically demanding.

    No doubt. I have no idea how that’s relevant to anything I’ve said, which has to do with how much certain jobs that one might do today are worth, compared to other jobs one might do today.

    If it makes you feel better, hand-washing laundry is still a viable economic opportunity for young girls in places like India, where not everyone has a washing machine or access to a laundrymat. I’ve no idea why anyone in this country would pay any neighborhood kids to hand wash clothing, considering how easy it is to do in a washing machine.

  33. @MattJ

    I’m not sure why you’re claiming Johanna’s moving the goalposts – her FIRST statement on the matter was “Household chores that are traditionally done by boys and men (shoveling snow, mowing the lawn, washing the car, etc.) are generally the ones we regard as being worth money. The chores traditionally done by girls and women (laundry, cooking, cleaning the house, etc.) generally aren’t.”

  34. “women’s more time-intensive work is valued less than men’s less time-intensive work.”

    Was that what we were talking about?

    Who thinks that? Lazy husbands?

  35. Aaaaand MattJ and jim both admit that neither one of them can be bothered to understand what’s going on.

  36. #27 Matt:

    My arguments are only “justify[ing] social inequality” if one accepts the idea that unskilled labor should be paid the same, regardless of how strenuous, dangerous, or exposed to the elements it is.

    We were talking, I think, about rewards given to children for performing household chores. I accept wholeheartedly the idea that a girl should be paid as much for folding shirts as a boy should be paid for shovelling snow. Indeed, on productivity grounds alone the girl should actually be paid more, since if both work to the best of their abilities the girl will fold shirts almost as well as an adult, while the boy will not shovel nearly as much snow as an adult would. But a girl who folds shirts should certainly be paid as much for doing that as a boy who shovels snow should be paid for doing that. Perhaps then, a generation of children may arise who will start to question the notion of whether there is really such a thing as “women’s work”.

    Please enlighten us

    It is not for me to attempt to improve upon the handiwork of the Lord.

  37. I’m going to go teach some girls how to mow lawns. We wouldn’t want to cheat the girls of today out of a lucrative job in the glamorous field of lawn care.

  38. Now that, jim, would be a very good start. After only a few hours of exposure to reasoned argument on TSD, a dyed-in-the-wool sexist has seen the light.

  39. When I was growing up in the late 50′s/early 60′s, in our family the girls & boys all learned the same chores. We didn’t get paid for doing them, but I’m sure if there were a pay chart, it would have been by chore type, not gender of the person performing it. I taught my daughter how to do all chores too (including mowing the lawn, constructing furniture & doing minor repairs). It’s sad to see that even after the move in the ’60′s toward gender neutrality when it comes to jobs, the same old arguments are still being made on both sides.

  40. #40 Tracy

    I’m not sure why you’re claiming Johanna’s moving the goalposts.

    Because when I pointed out that a business minded teenager could find work as a babysitter, she moved the goalposts to whether the pay would be equitable, and when I pointed out that some work is harder than other work, she moved the goalposts to the history of the difficulty of household work.

    #42 Johanna

    Aaaaand MattJ and jim both admit that neither one of them can be bothered to understand what’s going on.

    And after you’ve been so clear from the beginning.

    #43 David

    We were talking, I think, about rewards given to children for performing household chores.

    I was (and am) talking about Johanna’s paragraph about what kind of side-jobs a teenager might be willing to find work doing.

    It is not for me to attempt to improve upon the handiwork of the Lord.

    Is that an insult? I remain curious what you think jim, myself, Baley and carl have in common, since you know us so well.

  41. Johanna’s goalposts have been the same throughout – you or other people wanting to address different segments of how that intersects with life doesn’t change her original statement.

  42. An observation: Out of all the people who have commented here so far, no one has claimed (even insincerely) not to know what I was talking about when I referred to “chores traditionally done by men” and “chores traditionally done by women.” Despite the advances of the 1960s (and other decades) and despite some individual families’ efforts to be more gender neutral, that division of labor is still instantly recognizable to pretty much everyone.

    That ought to say something about how far we still have to go.

  43. #43 David
    I accept wholeheartedly the idea that a girl should be paid as much for folding shirts as a boy should be paid for shovelling snow.

    One child (girl or boy) should be paid the same as another for any particular kind of work, whether the work is folding shirts or shovelling snow.

    On the other hand, folding shirts should not pay the same as shovelling snow.

  44. #50 Johanna

    That ought to say something about how far we still have to go.

    The term “tradional Chinese foot-binding” is instantly recognizable to almost everyone, but says nothing about how far Chinese society has to go.

    I agree with you that a lot of progress needs to be made to achieve gender equity, but to set as the standard that we won’t get there until people can’t even remember inequity is a little much, don’t you think?

  45. “A business-minded teenager who wants to earn some extra money would have a much easier time going around to the neighbors and offering to shovel their snow or mow their lawns than offering to clean their bathrooms or do their laundry.”

    I think this really depends on who their neighbors are. Some people would value paying a teen to clean more than paying them to mow (or shovel). My guess is that people who are interested in paying to have something done would rather have their yard mowed (or snow shoveled) for a few reasons: 1. They don’t have to get out and sweat through the job themselves; 2. They’d rather be the ones going through every nook and cranny of their house to clean (I know I wouldn’t feel so comfortable having someone all over my house cleaning my personal space or handling my clothes to wash/dry/fold them); 3. The inside chores can be done early in the morning, late at night, while the kids are napping or down for the night, or a few minutes here or there whereas mowing needs to be done at a reasonable hour and when you have a large chunk of time complete the job.

    These are just some quick thoughts, but they seem reasonable. If I lived alone I might hire a teen (male or female) to shovel or mow, but not to clean. If my spouse lived alone they wouldn’t hire anyone to mow, but might hire a teen (again, male or female) to clean the bathroom.

  46. “On the other hand, folding shirts should not pay the same as shovelling [sic] snow.”

    I sincerely hope you are talking about hour for hour – especially since the girls being asked to do laundry are doing far many more hours of it than the boys shoveling snow. (Generally, speaking!) I had friends growing up who were required to do dishes nightly whereas their brothers were to take care of the year – weekly and only during the warmer months! Not a good message :(

    I personally learned to work on cars, mow the lawn (when my dad would let any of us use his mower), paint, lay tile, use power tools and generally was taught to take on any home maintenance or handyman job as were my brother and sister. This was DESPITE the fact that my mother did none of those things. My brother was taught how to keep house and was given “girl” chores right alongside my sister and I.

    Interestingly, once married, I was very frustrated that my husband didn’t just automatically maintain the cars and house without being specifically asked about each item. He didn’t know how to do those things, but I felt like he SHOULD be taking charge of them. So even in a household where my parents actively taught us and expected us to do all types of chores, their own example (because of skill set)and watching society taught me to expect something different in my marriage.

    Interestingly, once us kids left home my dad learned to do laundry and cook and my mom took up house painting, lawn care and power tools (though not working on cars). But I suspect that this is why they’ll have been happily married forty years in a couple of weeks.

  47. This comment’s probably going to moderation hell too but hey, why not.

    The fact that chores are often still gender-divided might say something about why they are so. Men more often do the heavy-lifting chores, while women more often do the detail-work chores. That is a reasonable division in many homes.
    My mother did more of the cleaning growing up, and as far as I’m concerned, she should have done all of it, since she was the one who panicked if so much as a speck of dust settled on a shelf. My father and all the (female) children could have lived quite happily in a home that was cleaned two or three times less often.
    My husband and I now divide chores according to interest. I don’t mind cooking or doing laundry, while my husband doesn’t like them, so I do the majority of both of those, while he pitches in if I can’t. I despise most cleaning things, so my husband does most of the dishwashing and counter/bathroom/shower cleaning and such. Our rental doesn’t require many outside chores, but snow gets shoveled by whoever has the time when it snows, and the garbage goes out with whoever has a minute on the way out the door in the morning.

    Any woman who has a problem with the chores she does and doesn’t do needs to stop whining about history, recognise her own abilities and freedoms, and negotiate with her housemates as the adult she is. Women will never be equal if they can’t define what they seek or accept the gains they do make.

  48. “Any woman who has a problem with the chores she does and doesn’t do needs to stop whining about history, recognise her own abilities and freedoms, and negotiate with her housemates as the adult she is.”

    Straw man, Kai. That’s not even remotely what we’re talking about.

  49. Side question :

    Do other people have teenagers come to their home trying to do work? Are there boys/girls that actually come to you and offer to do something for money? Maybe its just my neighborhood but I haven’t had that happen a single time in the past 12 years.

  50. “Laurie @ 4:53 pm February 21st, 2012
    So even in a household where my parents actively taught us and expected us to do all types of chores, their own example (because of skill set)and watching society taught me to expect something different in my marriage.”

    So grow up and start making your own choices, instead of just blindly taking cues from ‘society’. If you know how to work on a car, great! If you don’t want to, see if your husband might be up for being taught, or pay someone else to do it.
    Women’s need to have others fix their problems is what holds them back – not the active will of men.

  51. It’s not a straw man, it’s a response to a segment of the argument. It was not intended to solve every problem in the world.

  52. Do people actually choose to pay their own kids to mow the lawn but then not pay them for other household chores?

    DO people actually pay the local teenagers to mow lawns but refuse to pay them to clean toilets?

  53. The argument is about chores that are assigned to children, so no, “negotiate like the adult that you are” does not address any of it.

  54. As for what you’re talking about, I’m as baffled as the men. It seems to be all over the place and moving as soon as someone tries to respond to something particular.

    For one, the historic difficulty of various chore is irrelevant to the question of how much different chores should be valued given their current work requirements.

    For another, Of course women historically did vastly more household chores – they were home to do them, while the men historically did vastly more out-of-the-house chores. It was a division of labour that functioned very well.
    While I’m not in favour of requiring all couples to divide according to historical traditions, modern couples who choose to have one person work in the home (house, children, etc.) and one person work out of the home (making money from a paid job of some sort) usually find it a pretty decent way to operate.

  55. “For one, the historic difficulty of various chore is irrelevant to the question of how much different chores should be valued given their current work requirements.”

    It’s not irrelevant because it makes nonsense of the argument that men are inherently more capable of doing hard, physical tasks.

    “For another, Of course women historically did vastly more household chores – they were home to do them, while the men historically did vastly more out-of-the-house chores. It was a division of labour that functioned very well.”

    Except for all the times it didn’t.

  56. As a kid, I had paying chores and non-paying chores. The non-paying chores directly benefitted the household (taking out garbage and putting away dishes). Paying chores were more like crushing aluminum cans. There’s no need to crush cans before taking them to the recycling center, but my mom liked to take more at one time and the job was too tedious for her. As a teen, there was no direct allowance. If I had earned the privilege of going put and doing something, I had also earned the ten or twenty bucks it cost, but I had to give back any change. Not so good for learning how to manage money, but I guess that’s what birthdays are for.

  57. “it makes nonsense of the argument that men are inherently more capable of doing hard, physical tasks.”

    Who was making the argument that men are inherently more capable of doing physical labor?

  58. Kai was – at least, I think that’s a reasonable reading of this:

    “The fact that chores are often still gender-divided might say something about why they are so. Men more often do the heavy-lifting chores, while women more often do the detail-work chores. That is a reasonable division in many homes.”

    But I admit it would have been better if I’d said “it makes nonsense of the argument that the gender-based division of labor has anything to do with the physical nature of particular chores”

    which is more directly relevant to what Kai actually said, as well as to what you and MattJ were arguing earlier.

  59. My point was that shoveling snow is in fact hard work whereas folding laundry is not such hard work.
    Thats my argument. My point is that shoveling snow is valued as worth more because it is HARD WORK that is worth more than easy job like folding laundry. I don’t care if men or women do one job versus the other, shoveling snow is still harder work. (per hour, I don’t pay chores on annual salary rates and I’m not offering to fold your laundry for the rest of your life for one days snow shoveling) We’re comparing the worht of one job to another job. One job is harder and therefore worth more.

    The gender of the worker is irrelevant to my point.
    Use of snowblowers or lack of washing machines in the 19th century are irrelevant to my point.

    THe division of labor in the household is just the historical traditional division dating back decades or centuries. I don’t think the way we usually split up work necessarily makes sense or is the ‘right’ way to divide labor between genders. I never said nor meant to imply such. I’d be happy to have a girl mow the lawn if she wants and I see no reason not to. I can’t imagine why a girl would necessarily feel upset if she isn’t taught how to mow a lawn or feel cheated out of such a wonderful opportunity.

  60. These comments remind me of my sister telling me that I should be the one to mow the yard if our dad didn’t want to because “I’m the boy”.

    Never quite figured out how men are better equipped to sit on a riding mower than women.

    Of course this was all a moot point because my dad was/is a perfectionist about his yard and rarely even allowed either of us to help if we actually volunteered.

  61. Men are inherently more capable of doing labor requiring great physical effort than women. In other news: water is wet, and fire is hot.

    But this does not imply that labor requiring great physical effort is, in and of itself, more deserving of reward than labor not requiring great physical effort. The notion that the “worth” of a job is proportional to the amount of physical effort required to perform it is… well, the word “Neanderthal” springs for some reason to mind.

  62. When I was a teen (this was in the 80s) I did whatever I could possibly do to make money: babysitting, cleaning roof gutters (why my mom let me do this is beyond me- seems pretty dangerous looking back), cleaning the neighbor’s bathrooms weekly (this was by far the highest paying job, by the way), mowing the lawn, painting, leaf raking, weeding. I did not feel that I was relegated to a gender-specific job as a girl.

    At home, we had expected chores that were unpaid, and others we did for payment. Unpaid: dishes, weeding, raking, vacuuming, etc. Paid: cleaning the bathrooms, mowing the lawn, cleaning the gutters, washing and painting the walls.

    With my toddler who is almost three, we haven’t started an allowance yet, but she loves to help put laundry away, and clean whatever I am cleaning, and she is very skilled at putting utensils in the utensil drawer from the dishwasher. She’s at an age where she wants to be part of it all. When she is a little older, I plan to give her an allowance that accounts for the expected chores, and give her optional add-on, extra money jobs. If she refuses chores, allowance gets taken away because that IS teaching about money. I’m responding here to Trent’s statement:
    “Taking away their allowance deprives them of the opportunity to learn about money management, while taking away toys or free time doesn’t deprive them of anything of significant importance.”
    I think taking their allowance away when they aren’t doing their expected chores totally teaches them about money management. You don’t do your part at work, you don’t get paid.

  63. I beg your pardon, jim. All this time, I thought you were trying to present a counterargument to my comment way up at #11. But if that’s not what you were doing (and instead you were just…talking to yourself? or to someone else?) I apologize for having misunderstood.

  64. Getting back to children and chores.

    My kids have chores that must be done every day (and I’m also do chores during their chore time). Some are assigned by age/size and some are rotated each day. My children are also expected to do additional chores that are assigned spur of the moment even if it is normally someone else’s job – in fact doing someone’s chores in addition to one’s own is a punishment for harming that person in some way (insult etc.)

    However, I have another set of chores for which I will pay – in minutes of computer time or in cash. They’ve always chosen computer time. Anyone who has done his/her homework and chores can ask for additional work. It’s mostly scut work – shredding documents, going through the unmatched sock basket, washing windows, picking up the toys that spontaneously leap out of storage containers onto the basement floor and putting them back in the right containers, weeding, scanning old photo albums: the things that never hit the top of my to-do list.

    I want them to learn if you want something extra, you can find a way to earn it.

  65. #54 Laurie

    I sincerely hope you are talking about hour for hour – especially since the girls being asked to do laundry are doing far many more hours of it than the boys shoveling snow.

    Of course that’s what I meant. It was a short post, was there something about the other half of it that failed to make that clear?

    Is one of the main misunderstandings in this whole post that some people are talking about what kids should get paid in a weekly allowance, and other people are talking about what kids should get paid for piece work outside of their allowance?

  66. “So grow up and start making your own choices, instead of just blindly taking cues from ‘society’…Women’s need to have others fix their problems is what holds them back – not the active will of men.”

    Kai – thanks for that lovely helpful advice.

    I am personally neither waiting on someone else to fix my problems or being held back by “the active will of men.” But to think that there are not women out there truly being held back by “the active will of men” is both ludicrous and naive.

    Clearly someone who has recognized their hidden biases and understood how they are negatively affecting their expectations would just sit back for the next decade and wring their hands rather than do something about it.

    My point was that even someone who was not raised to perform chores based on traditional gender roles can still find themselves unconsciously accepting them. Until these unwritten stereotypes end, society will continue to *blindly* associate the value of work based on gender roles rather than actual value.

    Amazingly, I somehow managed to grow up the very same day I recognized my hidden expectations, initiate a discussion about responsibilities & strengths, and come to an amicable agreement with my spouse – all without depending on him to solve the problem.

  67. #76 & #51 MattJ – I wasn’t looking at this as a one time event extra paid job, but rather chores assigned to a particular child in exchange for allowance.

    So if my son is assigned to shovel snow as needed for his chore, but my daughter is expected to wash the dishes each night things are not equitable whether they are expected to do chores as part of the family or if they are being paid the same allowance.

    That said I think that in most families this is a hidden bias and not a purposeful degradation of the girls’ efforts. I can’t imagine someone paying their son $10 to shovel snow and their daughter only $8 to shovel the same area.

    I think this is why everyone should learn all the chores on a rotating basis. No more young adults who can’t run their own lives!

  68. “Men are inherently more capable of doing labor requiring great physical effort than women. In other news: water is wet, and fire is hot.”

    I would say that more men will be able to do jobs requiring an abnormal amount of strength, but most women and men alike are able to do most tasks around the house which don’t usually require feats of strength that top out on the average woman’s capability.
    And, of course, the average means nothing to the relative distribution of a given man and woman.

    But I do see more men more often interested in doing the pure labour tasks – or rather, a surprising number of ‘modern’ women who consider themselves to delicate to lift something they’d most likely be able. More women, on the other hand, seem to care about the minor details of something like folding laundry a particular way.
    So I’m not surprised that there are commonalities in how labour is divided, but in this day and age, it’s up to every couple to divide the work as best fits the specific abilities and interests of the individuals in question.

    Yes, there are women being held back by institutionalized ideas, and by deliberate intent of men. But in this day in this country, they are few and far between.
    Women who complain about little things like that a lot of men don’t do the amount of housework the women would like make a mockery out of real change.
    I think there are places in the world in which women have real problems, and isolated places in this country where there are issues, but women do a lot better combating the actual issues when they appear than making a big deal out of little things.
    I don’t see how unconsciously assuming your husband would take care of the cars is related to how you value your relative work.
    I think as long as people who run into things like “oh, my husband doesn’t like/know how to fix cars” just go forth and find a good arrangement for the two of them, it wouldn’t matter if you realize you had a mistaken assumption. Dealing with things as they come up gets us a lot farther than shouting out every time you see something that might be related to historical sex roles.

  69. Sure it’s a “hidden bias”. What Johanna said way back is that it ought to be dragged from its hiding place and forcibly unbiased.

    But this will not happen if as soon as she says it, people start blathering that it is HARDER WORK to shovel snow than to fold shirts. Whether girls’ efforts are degraded purposefully or degraded subconsciously is irrelevant: the effect on the girls (and of course the boys) is the same either way.

  70. But we can remove those biases much more effectively but doing what works on an individual level until it turns out that boys don’t mind folding shirts any more than girls do.
    I didn’t grow up believing that sewing was women’s work – my father did all the sewing, because he had learned how and my mother never had. When I took sewing classes, it seemed a useful life skill – not girls’ work or anything else.
    much more useful than screaming about biases until girls see everything through that lens.

  71. Some jobs are paid more because of the nature of the job. Shoveling snow is paid more because its physically demanding and freezing cold outside. If you all think that folding clothes and snow shoveling should be equal pay then I would respectfully volunteer to do the folding inside and you can get teh same pay to shovel snow in the freezing cold. Its not always about men being put above women. Sometimes its cause the job sucks a lot more and thats why people pay more to do it.

    Another example is how Elyn said : “), cleaning the neighbor’s bathrooms weekly (this was by far the highest paying job, by the way” Cleaning bathrooms is probably going to fall into the traditionally female jobs right? Yet its “by far the highest paying” in Elyn’s experience.

    I will say that babysitting is unfairly paid versus lawn mowing. I totally agree on that and its likely a gender bias issue to some extent.

  72. Great post and some great comments (err, at least I enjoyed the more on-topic ones earlier on…)

    I think the key thing is that you have a thoughtful, consistent system that fits with your family’s values and that you take the time to communicate your rationale to your kids.

    We use a hybrid model – modest regular allowances, expected unpaid chores, and some occasional paid “extra jobs” for unusual stuff. We do ding the kids’ accounts though when they blow off expected chores. I don’t think that doing so “deprives them of the opportunity to learn money management” – they simply reach their various savings goals more slowly as a result – a lesson my wife and I are OK with. But, again, I think the most important thing is that the system matches your family’s unique values and financial situation.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

  73. A good maid and a good handyman cost about the same around here, so I don’t know what you all are talking about. Indoor and outdoor maintenance chores are about equal in difficulty and worth.

  74. I think this post goes to show that everyone thinks they’re an expert at raising kids. And I think today’s society is proof that they’re not :)

  75. I don’t have children, but overall, the system you describe makes sense to me. That said, it seems you raised a thoughtful kid and you can be proud of your parenting. My impulse would be to give him a small, non-money treat for thinking of the neighbour – a recognition of his kindness and consideration. I don’t think I ever considered the neighbours in anything when I was six years old.

  76. #28 Johanna

    “Do you really think that men’s overall share of household chores has traditionally been as demanding as women’s share?”
    In my life experience I would say they are equal. I also actively engaged in finding a husband/mate who had values the same as mine…We are considered equals and that I would not be expected to do laundry, cook, clean, wash dishes just because I have boobs.
    HOwever, I do know ALOT of women who have a passion to do just that.. 100% of the laundry, ironing, cook, clean, wash dishes, raise kids while the husband is employed outside of the house.
    In this day and age in the United States I do not think any women is forced to provide these household chores. If they do find themselves in a situation were there husband/mate is demanding them to provide these services when they do not wish too they have a choice to say no and move on to an environment that is more compatible to there desires.

  77. My thought on the folding laundry/ fence repair for one hour of time …
    I would choose the fence repair because to ME it is a job I am physically capable of doing and is more rewarding to me. However, the Mennonite stay at home, home schooling mother that lives down the street proclaims that she LOVES folding laundry, it makes her feel needed and loves the smell and feel of clean clothes… I think she is nuts.. but to each his own.

  78. I think that Trent has outlined an interesting system in regards to allowances.

    And shoveling snow is not that hard. I do it from time to time, with a shovel (no snow blower here), and although it is physically demanding, provided that you dress appropriately and use your tools appropriately, it is not. that. bad. More physically demanding than folding one load of laundry? Absolutely. But I think it is perceived as being more demanding than it really is.

  79. #81 Jim..”I will say that babysitting is unfairly paid versus lawn mowing. I totally agree on that and its likely a gender bias issue to some extent.”

    I have two grown very successful children that I LOVE ( and raised properly), however I sometimes feel like I had them because that is what society expected, not because “I had a yearning in my female sole to reproduce and If I didn’t I would not feel complete” kind of thing. In hind site I do believe I could have had a complete, fulfilling and wonderful life if I did not have children.
    Anyway, I would have to say that if someone offered me $20 bucks to babysit for the evening or cut their (average size,subdivision!) lawn, I would be happier cutting the lawn even though it is more physical work. If babysitting was soooo underpaid way are so many teenagers begging to provide this service?? Have you ever tried to get a teenager to do something they didn’t want to do..even for ALOT money?

  80. @Maria: “If babysitting was soooo underpaid way are so many teenagers begging to provide this service??”

    In my case, it was because it appeared to be the only opportunity that was available to me to earn extra money (this was at age 14-15, before I could drive). I wanted the money because there was a summer camp I wanted to go to, and my parents said I could go if I paid for it myself.

    But it soon became clear to me that chasing after hyperactive kids for four hours on a Saturday night, and walking away with $12, was NOT worth it. (And I wasn’t even changing any diapers!) And even if I did this every single Saturday night for the whole year, I still wasn’t going to have enough money to go to camp. So I gave up.

    The lesson I learned was that my time and skills were worth too little for me to bother working. Is that a good lesson to teach a teenager?

  81. I babysat because it seemed grown-up and I was raised that you shouldn’t turn down work (and actually, I more or less enjoyed it most of the time). But the pay was pretty ridiculous – often I’d get $1.50/hr in the ’90s. Ludicrous.

    I understand that it tends to be better paid now in large part because it’s no longer considered acceptable to have 12-year-olds watch your kids, so people are forced to hire older teens who have other options to earn money.

  82. 89 johanna
    What you should have learned is that your expectations of earning enough money to go to camp was either too high with your time frame and skill set or you should have looked for work that was more desirable to you and worth your time to pursue every single Saturday night. Babysitting is not the only option to a 14-15 year old.
    Or maybe camp truly wasn’t worth any type of work EVERY SINGLE SATURDAY NIGHT.
    Giving up is for losers.Even a 14-15 year old is capable of adjusting to solve a problem or create a better situation.

  83. Children are not born with an innate knowledge of what things they can do to earn money. It’s up to the adults in their lives to teach them these things.

    Or maybe it’s just “losers” like me who need to be taught, eh?

  84. My husband and I used to teasingly argue about who was lucky enough to go outside and shovel 2 feet of snow as compared to watching two toddlers and doing “inside” chores in the nice, warm house. Believe me, the winner got to go outside. Raising kids and doing household chores, a.k.a., “woman’s work”, is much harder than physical work.

  85. At least 14 jobs a 14-15 year old can do: Are you try to tell me at 15 you could not think of any of these options or that your parents could not have suggested them to you?
    Sell Ice Cream,Sell something homemade (cookies, cakes, paintings),Do chores for old people (groceries or vacuuming),Become someones tutor (math, science, reading, spelling), Deliver newspapers, Make/sell cold drinks, Clean peoples homes or Wash Windows,Mail Pick-Up Service: When people travel, people need someone to pick up their mail and newspapers,Pet Sitter/Doggy walking, Household chores,Iron clothes,Ask all neighbors if they need any hired help for odd jobs.

  86. I do not pay an allowance and my children are expected to do chores but I do have an extensive list of extra work that can be done for cash. This list took awhile to put together and is very thoughtout with jobs that older and younger kids can do, with no regards for what girls or boys “jobs” are. I have 5 children, 4 girls and 1 boy ages 2-13 and they are free to do any of these things at any time. I am very happy to pay my 11 year old $5 to clean up the dog yard and my 5 year old $0.50 to clean the mirrors in the house. They of course have tried to do the same work more than once in a day to earn even more money but they know I won’t allow it and use common sense. This system makes my life so much easier and even though I have never specifically said that they have to use their own money for purchases they get a lot of pride out of using their own money, plus they take better care of the things they buy.

  87. Maria, most of the things you suggest would have been either impossible or ridiculously unprofitable for a teenager with no car in my semi-rural neighborhood (with no sidewalks, no foot traffic and very little car traffic, and almost nothing within walking or biking distance). And the rest fall into the category of things that were Just Not Done.

    Tutoring was done – at school, for free – as part of my responsibility for being a smartypants braniac. Chores were done – at home, for free – as part of my responsibility for being part of the family. (I think I was aware of the concept of paying other people to do your household chores, but it was something that only rich people did.) Newspapers were delivered by adults in cars. I didn’t know how to do most “odd jobs.” Selling things door to door – to the few neighbors whose houses I could walk to – was for Girl Scout cookies and school fundraisers, and anything else was verboten. Selling things on the street…well, who was I going to sell to? The one person who drives past every 20 minutes?

  88. A most entertaining and enlightening discussion! Kudos to all.

    If anyone has a teenager who wants to help out, please send her/him my way!

    Sigh.

  89. While I think you have some great ideas here, I think you are missing teaching your children another valuable lesson: the harder you work, the more money you get. After all, your income isn’t handed to you on a silver platter. I think paying for some of the extra above-and-beyond chores is a good way to teach this, while maintaining all the things you are striving for with your regular allowance and chore policies.

  90. I like that you did not reward your son for helping shovel the neighbor’s driveway. First, praise from a parent goes a long way. He won’t forget that you thought his little hands did a great job. And second, your son learned the meaning of charity that is not associated with giving away money or property, but giving away time. Doing good deeds for others, helping where none is expected, looking out for the other people in the world–these are all charitable endeavors.

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