THE Right Way For Kids To Earn Their Keep

Child washing FamZoo car

Kim B. sparked the hot discussion in the parent community this month with this question:

“I’m curious how your kids earn money. I feel like dishes, bathrooms, etc. are just part of living here, so I don’t want to pay them for it. But I’m struggling to find ways for them to earn money.”

Scores of parents weighed in with a diverse set of ideas.

  • Work. No work, no money!
  • Individual chores/jobs based on fixed amounts.
  • Chores/jobs based on hourly rates.
  • Chores if done by 5pm. Not done by 5pm? No money. Not done by 11pm? No electronics the next day.
  • Chores, but only to earn screen time, not money.
  • An allowance for being part of the family.
  • An allowance with delivery contingent on completing chores.
  • An allowance delivered independent of chore performance — with the explicit purpose being to practice budgeting, investing, and philanthropy.
  • An allowance, but with claw-back deductions for any chores missed or completed by other family members.
  • A budget-based allowance to cover things that parents paid for previously (small toys, treats, book fair books, souvenirs, game subscriptions, birthday and holiday presents, vacation spending money, clothing, eating out).
  • A modest allowance with extra paid opportunities for special projects beyond everday expected chores (reorganizing the closet, weeding, raking, scrubbing the baseboards, washing windows).
  • A weekly stipend for attending school (their “job”) with monthly grade-based bonuses.
  • Odd jobs that parents wouldn’t hesitate to pay someone else to do (washing the car, mowing the lawn, babysitting, staining the deck, shoveling snow).
  • Outside-the-family odd jobs, like babysitting for neighbors.
  • Pay for helping parents perform their paid jobs — like an after-hours second job of cleaning a retail store.
  • 5 cents for each bug removed from the house — dead or alive!
  • Reselling snacks to siblings (with price gouging controls to protect the younger ones).
  • Entrepreneurial side-hustles (selling 3D printed keychains, custom T-shirts, crafts).
  • Odd jobs proactively identified by the child with pay based on negotiated business proposals.
  • Gift money from relatives. Can really add up!
  • Parent-paid interest.

And the best answer was...

All of the above!

My response?

“Sometimes I fret about having made FamZoo too complex with so many different options (probably valid criticism!). But when I read good discussions like this, I feel better about allowing so many degrees of freedom in the toolbox. I’m reminded how every family (and even each kid) has a slightly different context. Each family has different values and habits they want to encourage. We’ll keep working on making it easier to set things up, while still keeping lots of options. Fun and helpful to see what families are doing and why.”

So, what habits are you trying to form (or curtail)?

What family values are you trying to reinforce?

You might start with those questions first and tweak your system accordingly.

Remember, the “right” answer varies by family, age, and circumstance.

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