Is It Okay To Make Your Kids Work for Money?

Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, and a member of the Wholly Loved Ministries team. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog HERE

My husband and I are part of a “blended family,” which I think is a pretty neat name for stepfamilies these days. Basically, it means we’re a home comprising both my husband’s kids and my kids.

At first I thought the only issues we’d have when we started this “blending journey” would be adjusting to routines or different parenting styles. But what was the most surprising thing to work out was what we would do when it came to chores.

See, my daughter and son (ages 11 and 13) live with us all the time, while my stepson and stepdaughter (ages 10 and 12) live with us every other weekend. And in our house, we decided our kids need to earn commission for chores done rather than simply earn an allowance simply because they live there. We’re trying to teach them financial responsibility and work ethic.

Is it Okay to Make Your Kids Work for Their Money?

Painful admission: despite our best efforts, at first the whole chores/commission thing didn’t go super well. For my kids, it seemed OK, but we wanted my stepkids to earn spending money so that when we went on trips or made Target runs they could buy toys with their own money.

The trouble had to do with “fairness.” We didn’t want my stepkids to spend their entire time with us working just to earn a few bucks. And on the flip side, my kids thought it was super unfair that they were expected to do chores throughout the week as well as on the weekend, yet earn roughly the same amount as their stepsibs.

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Eventually, we were able to come up with a system that seems equitable for everybody. Of course, keep in mind that our kids are older elementary age and early middle school, so they are able to do more than they could when they were six years old. What works for our family might not work for yours (yet). But here’s what we do.

What’s Our Plan?

Our plan stemmed from me, as a working mom who also has multiple “side hustles,” feeling like I was constantly doing dishes, scooping cat litter, and other mundane (but desperately needed) tasks because everyone else was conveniently too busy that day, whether that meant homework, gymnastics, or a meeting.

I decided there were four major chores we needed to do every single day in order to stay on top of life: doing the dishes, taking out trash and recycling, cleaning the cat litter, and wiping down the kitchen counters. The rest of the chores (like cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, and dusting) could wait for the weekend.

We each got assigned our own special Chore Day. Mine is Monday, my daughter is Tuesday, my husband is Wednesday, my son is Thursday, my stepdaughter is Friday, and my stepson is Saturday. On Sundays we all pitch in.

Every other weekend my stepkids aren’t there, and my kids are with their dad, so those days my hubby and I tag-team and do the chores together.

It’s all pretty fair and makes the load really even for everyone—and no one (ahem, me!) is stuck with the lions’ share. Plus I never have to “nag.” If I walk into the kitchen to make dinner and I can’t find a pan because it’s still in the dishwasher from the night before, all I need to do is eye the chart, figure out whose day it is, and give a friendly little reminder. Easy peasy!

When things get off-kilter

There are weeks when things go awry, naturally.

For example, last Wednesday my hubby was out of town for work, so I stepped in and did his chores. Last Friday, we decided to go out for the evening as a family, so my stepdaughter didn’t get any chores done, so the next day she and her brother did theirs together. One week my daughter didn’t use her time wisely, so she couldn’t do hers and, therefore, didn’t earn commission that week.

We try to stay flexible. Everyone is happiest that way.

Am I being mean?

I do have some friends who completely disagree with what our family does when it comes to chores. One family I’m close with believes everyone should pitch in at all times and constantly work for the collective good of the home, and they should not expect to get paid for it. In return, they receive common blessings, such as dinner, new clothing, family vacations, etc.

Another family I know thinks chores are a bad idea for their kids. They believe that kids today have way too much pressure and activity, and schools assign too much homework, so their kids should be excused from chores altogether. Their “job” is school and extracurriculars, and any free time they have should be spent being a carefree kid—after all, they have the rest of their lives to be a responsible adult.

We all have different philosophies. But in our home, we believe we have an obligation to train our kids about what it means to be a responsible adult so that when they turn eighteen they’ll have the skills to go out into the world and make a difference (and know how to run a home when the time comes).

I love this advice from the Bible: “Train children in the way they should go; when they grow old, they won’t depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6 CEB).

Your Turn

How do you handle chores and commission with your kids? Do yours get allowance or commission (or neither)? How does this differ form when you were young?

If you’d like to connect further with Jessica, feel free to check out her read her faith blog HERE