More on Allowance, Chores and Paid Work

The first part of this was here .

As usual, I thought of more details the next day.

Instead of money, the kids can earn extra TV time by doing housework. Again, it’s based on how long it would take me to do the job, agreed on in advance. Family TV time is exempt from the above. We enjoy a show most evenings as a family, regardless of what’s happened during the day.

Most of the time I have a good-enough estimate of the time. If I have an appointment at 1:00, when is too late to start the task?

I reserve the right to change the time estimate, for the next time the chore is done. The agreement for “this time” remains as negotiated.

Sometimes I record the time per task in whatever passes for our “family notes” that week. Most of the time, I create a page at the beginning of a break and it stays on the fridge for long enough. If the kids haul out an old copy, see the paragraph about reserving the right to change the time.

There’s a difference between “quick” and “thorough”. One takes longer, and is worth more. Sometimes all the furniture gets moved, sometimes it’s just the middles. Sometimes all the baseboards get done.If my schedule says “full” and they want to do quick, I try to be flexible. I can always move the furniture next week.

I try to break down big chores into 15-minute segments, with clear edges. Sweep upstairs. Mow the front lawn. That way they can stop if they get tired, and I know what’s left for me to do. Yes, in the real world you have to do everything you agreed to, but not here. It’s setting them up for failure, if they expect to do a huge job but can only manage part. Instead, they’re learning how to break up tasks and give small units of real value that add up.

We give them money each month for charity. This amount will grow as they do. It goes into an envelope and has to be emptied at least every year. Who gets it is up to them, but I use it as a chance to teach them about researching charities. Not everyone who comes to the door is legitimate. It’s not part of their allowance because I don’t want them to choose between themselves and charity at this age.

Every year we also discuss a family donation. They don’t know how much it is, but we look at the options and choose how to divided it. In addition, husband and I have our favourite charities which we don’t discuss with the kids — it’s our contribution, not theirs and not the family’s.


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