I know what you’re thinking. You shouldn’t pay your children to take out the garbage or set the table. It just spoils them. They should do that automatically (and preferably without complaint) as part of the family.
I felt the same way for several years. I grew up in a house where the kids did a lot of housework and money never changed hands. And I agree that every member of a household should pitch in to keep things running smoothly and even the youngest kids can pick up their toys or “help” their parents to rake leaves. In fact, there’s a list of “House Rules” on my refrigerator door that applies to every member of our family. The list include things like: hang up your coat when you get home, put your laundry in the hamper, don’t put the empty milk jug back in the fridge, and so on.
And for a while, I also expected my middle-school-aged sons to load the dishwasher and help with laundry for “free” but a few months ago I had a change of heart and here’s why. The world they will graduate into is much more complex and unpredictable than the one I grew up in so I’ve been doing my best to teach them the basics of financial literacy and the importance of long-term thinking when it comes to personal finance.
They both have “big boy” bank accounts, they understand how interest works and I have shared their education savings accounts statements with them so they know we are planning ahead for their postsecondary education.
During one of these discussions, my older son lamented that the rules where we live prevent him from getting a real job until he is 15. And that’s when I got the brilliant idea of hiring them to do bigger jobs around the house. My enthusiasm tied mostly to taking the pressure off myself, I drew up descriptions for several jobs including Breakfast Clean-up Specialist and Chief Floor Sweeper. The job descriptions include details you might find on a regular job posting such as hours of employment, start and end times, salary, guidelines, performance review, etc.
Each child chose one job and attended a training session where I outlined the tasks involved and my expectations. I had them sign contracts and they started the following Monday. They’ve been doing their jobs faithfully for a few months now and the results have exceeded my expectations. They used to do their chores half-heartedly and I didn’t feel that I could harp on the quality since they were just kids. But now that they have “real” jobs they get paid for, they are excited, responsible and their attention to detail is quite impressive.
Even though they’re too young to work in a restaurant or community center, they are starting to make the connection between hard work and payment and they love to watch their earnings grow and save up for things they want. And I get a bit of a break from endless housework. It’s a win-win!