There is a great debate among parents and grandparents about whether or not kids should get paid for doing chores.

Some say doing chores is part of what kids must do as contributing members of the household. Others say you should pay your kids and use it as a chance to start teaching them how to be responsible with money from a young age.

I say both. But it wasn’t always that way. In our house, we’ve had a lot of systems over the years.

We used to pay our kids for every day they did chores. But then they started doing a horrible job. They constantly needed to be reminded and it wasn’t working out anymore. So we stopped paying them.

That was okay for a while. Honestly, we pay for basically everything so why do they need money anyway?

Then summer rolled around. The pool opened and suddenly they wanted money almost every day for snacks. It seemed like a waste of money to me. I told them to just eat the “free” food at home before they left, then eat a snack when they got home. We didn't have a concession stand at the pool when I was young. I knew they could survive such hardships. But their friends were snacking. They were hungry because, let’s be honest, swimming makes you hungry. So I could understand where they were coming from.

So we came up with yet another system. This one is a hybrid system — a combination of new and old.

There are some chores they are expected to do every day without getting paid — simply because they live here and are members of our family. These are fairly simple but important and include cleaning their room, cleaning the bathroom and scooping out the kitty litter.

Then I made a list of extra chores they can do for money, such as take out the trash, mow the yard, vacuum a vehicle or mop the floors.

I was originally going to assign different dollar amounts to each job — more money for harder jobs — but my youngest son implored, “Mom, I can’t do those hard jobs. Why does my brother get more money?”

His point was legit. He was too young to mow the yard or do some of the other jobs that required more height or strength. So I decided to make all the jobs pay one dollar.

In order to get paid when they do a job, they have to write the job down on a list and include the price, the name of the job and the date they completed the job. This helps keep them honest and helps me keep a record of how much I owe them.

In the past, if we had a set day of the week I was supposed to pay them, I would start out well. But as the months went by, I’d forget to pay them for weeks, which meant I'd have to go back and try to figure out what I owed them.

So with this system they can “cash out” and ask to get paid for the jobs they’ve done whenever they want. Then we’ll mark it paid on our sheet. Now they have money for the pool and a dollar to give at church on Sundays.

This system seems to be the best of both worlds. They are expected to contribute without being paid but also have the opportunity to take responsibility for earning the money they want.

Of course, no system is perfect. I need to think of more jobs to add to their list of options. Also, so far they’ve done a good job choosing a variety of jobs rather than just trying to earn a quick buck with the easier ones. But I have a feeling this might change over time. So I’m still debating whether to add different values for harder or more time-consuming jobs.

I used to be embarrassed about all the systems we have tried and failed at over the years. But now I realize that, as kids grow and change, so do the systems we use to teach them. We’re all still learning what works best for our family.


Jenni DeWitt is married and has two sons, the youngest of whom battled childhood leukemia — and won. Jenni writes weekly for She is the author of “Forty Days” and “Why Won’t God Talk to Me?” You can read more about Jenni here.

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