I previously wrote a post about teaching kids financial responsibility.  You can read it here.

While this method worked well for quite some time, we began noticing some issues with the children beginning to expect that allowance, despite any inputs they offered into the family.  Because the allowance was not necessarily based on performance, this did not come as much of a surprise.  Rather, the surprise came from the selfish and greedy attitude with which they expected that allowance.  So, S and I talked, and we decided things had to change before the attitudes got too out of hand.  Because our last method of providing allowance was based on the financial teaching resources we had, this time we consulted the Bible for guidance.  We soon found verses that made us realize exactly what we should do….

Jeremiah 17:10 states, “I, the Lord, search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”  Proverbs 31:31 supports this idea when it states, “Give her the reward she has earned…”  1 Corinthians 3:8 further states, “The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.”

The answer was crystal clear.  Rewards SHOULD be based on performance–to a degree.  While work is a good, wholesome, even God-given fact of life, God promises to reward a job whole-heartedly and well done.  Thus, we should do the same for our children.  The issue then became figuring out how to balance teaching the life lessons that work is expected and fulfilling in itself, while also rewarding for a job well-done.

After some thought, prayer, and discussion, S and I agreed to discontinue our former way of giving a weekly allowance.  Then, we agreed the children would continue to have Chorepacks which guided them through their daily, expected, just-because-you-are-part-of-the-family chores (i.e. make their beds, feed their bunnies, put their clothes away, clean their rooms, set the table, etc.).  They do not get paid for those chores.  In addition, though, so they could begin to relate monetary reward with their labors, we developed the “extra-chore list.”  These are chores which are normally done by S or myself.  Some pose a bit of difficulty for the children, and some are relatively easy.  Because M cannot yet read, and JR is just beginning to read, I formatted it as follows:

  • In the first column, there is a tiny picture that hints at the chore.  We discussed each item with the children so they would understand what the picture instructed them to do.  For example, for the chore that states “Make A’s bed,” there is a picture of a bed; for the chore that states “vaccuum dining room,” there is a picture of a vaccuum.  The kids figure it out pretty quickly!
  • In the second column, the actual chore is written out.  For example, I have some that are similiar such as “Vaccuum dining room,” Vaccuum kitchen,” and “Vaccum downstairs hallway.”  Each of these has a picture of a vaccuum beside it, but they do quite well remembering the difference!
  • In the third column, I list the monetary reward for that chore.  In most cases, it is worth $.25 (a lot to a 5 and 3 year old!)  Some harder or more time-intensive ones (like cleaning out the litter box or cleaning out the van) are worth $.50 or even $1. 
  • The fourth column tells how often that chore may be done.  It contains either a “D” for daily or a “W” for weekly.  this prevents really simple chores that don’t need done frequently from being performed needlessly.  For example, my list has “Wipe off front of dishwasher.”  This just doesn’t need to be done every day, so it is listed as a weekly chore.
  • The remaining columns are divided into days of the week and labeled at the top (S,M,T,W,T,F,S). 

The list is then inserted into a plastic page-protector so I can use a dry-erase marker on it.  A requirement for this chart is that the children must ask before doing anything on it.  Becasue most of them are part of my normal chores anyway, I may have already accomplished the task, in which case, I don’t want them to just do it for money.  Once they have permission to do a task, they complete it, and I go inspect.  If it passes inspection, I write their initial in the day of the week it was performed.  At the end of the week, we add up all their chore values, and pay them accordingly.

This system is working beautifully so far.  I find they need the occasional reminder, so when they have free-time, I might mention it casually, “Ok, it’s free-time.  You may go outside and play, play with your bunnies, look at the scrapbooks, or use this time to do some extra chores.”  While they don’t often think about the list on their own, this little reminder is often all it takes to get them excited about helping and earning some money.  Over time, this list will certainly change somewhat as their expected chores change.  Some chores may be divided among age groups, some may be taken off and others added to it.  As it is, though, they are already realizing that if they want to buy something but have no money, they can’t blame anyone but themselves.  And that is a crucial life lesson in itself!

Caught in the act! JR and M doing some extra chores during the pre-bed free-time. Mom can't help but be put in a good mood when faced with ending her day with such help!