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Two parents, two views: Paying for chores

There’s not one way to parent, so we asked a new mom and a new dad to weigh in on whether to reward kids for doing chores

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Original story published in Toronto Star on Oct. 22, 2015. Read online here


Why I won’t reward my kids to do chores — Kristen Thompson

The extent of my daughter’s chore list is simple: help tidy the toys before bed. At two, that’s the most we can ask of her (and she’s never thrilled to do it). But as she gets older, she will be expected to take on more jobs around the house, and I don’t plan on giving her rewards for that work.

Yes, my kids will get an allowance, which I think is an important tool in teaching financial responsibility. But I don’t think that allowance – or any reward – should be used as leverage for getting them to pitch in. That’s something they should do as members of the family and contributors to the family’s collective mess.

Paying kids to be helpful or responsible is tantamount to bribing them to be good, and I expect them to make the right choice without incentive. I also have no interest in placing a monetary value on an empty dishwasher or haggling over the worth of a mowed lawn. I don’t get paid for doing laundry — nor should they.

I know this won’t be easy. I had unpaid chores, and, oh, how I fought them. I remember yelling things like, “Why did you have kids if you expected THEM to do all your work?!” at my two working parents who were raising four kids.

But what I learned, eventually, was that my parents’ job was to take care of me, not to cater to me. I learned that I needed to contribute because a family is a team. And I learned to apply those same values in my own home when I moved out.

I know — as my daughter yells “Mama DO!” when presented with a cloth to clean her spilled yogurt — that it won’t be easy. But I think it’ll be worth the battle.


Why I will reward my kids to do chores — Tim Lai

My two-year-old daughter will scarf down her dinner — rice, protein, veggie and all — for what amounts to a teaspoon or less of ice cream. This doesn’t happen every night at the dinner table, but when there’s a challenging or fussy day, we drop those two sweet, delectable words and it feels like a light bulb turns on, powered by swift munching motions of our toddler.

Some will call this bribing, or rewarding. Some will call it incentivizing and some just call it toddler relief. It’s all of those things, but a reward here and there can’t hurt with lessons in motivation.

Besides, how different is it from the real (see: adult) world? How do you get a raise at a job? Well, work harder and deliver more results.

We don’t offer physical rewards for everything. We are instilling the importance of internal rewards as well, whether that’s feeling good about doing a good job or simply not being hungry, but we’re also teaching her some basics about motivation and incentives.

Will we do this with chores and homework in the future? It’s very likely that we’ll do it in some shape or form. Nothing extravagant, but perhaps extra TV privileges or an excursion out of the house. Growing up, my wife and I got to where we are today with sticks and carrots and we’re doing all right. We’ll impart those to our kids in the coming years.

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