Should parents pay their kids to do chores?

  • Article by: PAMELA KNUDSON , Grand Forks Herald
  • Updated: March 11, 2014 - 3:23 PM

Debate continues over paying kids to do household tasks.

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Lily Cherry, 8, cleaned her bathroom as her 6-year-old brother, Aiden, put out a new roll of toilet paper at their home in Kingwood, Texas.

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Lexi and Nick Schneider, 8-year-old twins, are used to doing chores around their Grand Forks, N.D., home — they’ve been doing them for half of their lives.

Nick takes out the trash and recycling, and Lexi helps with laundry, said their mom, Kristine Schneider. They both vacuum-clean.

“They don’t always readily do their chores,” she said, “but they know it has to be done. They just know it’s expected of them.”

When the twins were about 4, Schneider posted a list of daily tasks the twins were supposed to do, such as picking up their toys and clearing their plates from the table.

For each completed “job,” they earned a star on the “chore chart.” To motivate them, she kept a basket of “prizes,” including toys and books.

How parents approach the idea of having kids do chores varies with each family and may be changing in American households, said Dawnita Nilles, a doctoral student in the University of North Dakota’s Department of Teaching and Learning.

It raises questions about which tasks, if any, children should do and whether payment or other rewards should be given.

When raising kids, some parents follow the example they grew up with, Nilles said. Others do, too, but with modification. Some don’t require their kids to do chores at all.

Schneider said she “absolutely” did chores growing up. “But I was never compensated for it.”

Her husband, Joe, was compensated for mowing the lawn and taking out the trash.

Unlike parents of the past, parents today may have different expectations about chores, Schneider said. “It’s not so much that kids today [are required] to do less chores but that kids are busier. My kids are involved in more activities than I was at their age.”

Generally, child development experts confirm that “chores are definitely a benefit to young kids,” Nilles said. “I haven’t come across any drawbacks.”

Parents can introduce this concept of chores even at 16 months old, for example, “by helping them put all their blocks away,” she said. “You can start as soon as they begin asking questions and wanting to help. I’m a big believer in following cues from the child.”

Doing chores gives children “a sense of responsibility, of being a member of a family,” she said, “and it’s an authentic way of learning how a household runs.”

Jennifer Dame’s three daughters — ages 3 to 10 — have been doing chores since they were old enough to start putting toys away. Her daughters are responsible for tasks such as doing dishes, putting away their laundered clothes, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms and taking out garbage.

She and her husband, Patrick, do not pay their children for doing chores, she said. “We tell them, ‘These are things we have to do to live in the house.’ ”

Among the lessons to be learned is seeing things through to completion, Nilles said. “It’s not as fun to put toys away, but [doing so] goes a long way to developing lifelong habits. Putting toys away completes the act of playing — that’s what you’re teaching.”

With these lessons, children learn “there’s value to work, to a job well done. They have a sense of fulfillment. They’re proud of that,” she said. “It’s a huge piece when you think about labor in life.”

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