Many moms say they are inundated with housework and little help from their family. Offering allowance to your children as positive reinforcement for completion of chores is a great way to get them motivated to help out at home while teaching them an important life skill. Be clear - this is not a bribe to clean the house or behave. The same way you or your spouse go to work and collect a paycheck, your children will learn the value of hard work and a dollar. Allowance offers the opportunity for your child to practice math skills while learning responsibility. There are a few ways to utilize allowance in a positive and productive way.
First, be clear and fair about your expectations. Using a chore chart and assigning tasks to each child in the family ensures the workload is shared and a timeline for completion is set. Typically, families assign tasks on a weekly basis. Make sure tasks are age-appropriate. Setting the table, making the bed, or putting dirty clothes in the hamper are great for younger children between five and eight years old. Children between nine and twelve can take out the recyclables, dust, or put away clean clothes. Children thirteen and older can take on some of the bigger chores, such as helping make dinner or doing a load of laundry. Be sure to rotate tasks so one person isn't always stuck taking out the trash!
Provide your child with a piggy bank, a wallet, or a bank account to store their money. This sends the message that money earned does not have to be spent right away. Encourage your child to save for a big purchase or use that money to buy gifts for family members. Model for your children how to budget for a big purchase by including them in family discussions about buying a new vehicle, saving for a vacation, or choosing a new television.
When you first introduce the concept of chores and allowance, you may need to remind your child frequently to complete her tasks. Gradually pull back on your reminders. The idea is that you want your child to become responsible for her chores and complete them independently. Remember- true independence means absolutely no reminders from you!
The key to making chores and allowance a positive experience is to follow through on your agreement. If your child completes her chores on time, she gets her allowance. If she doesn't do her chores, she doesn't get paid. Do not bend! She will learn quickly that she has to honor her end of the agreement. Remind her that you and your spouse would not get paid if you didn't go to work and complete your assignments each day.
It's important to pair the monetary reward with your verbal praise. Children value your pride more than a dollar- whether they show it or not. Also acknowledge their own feelings about completing their chores. For example, say, "You should be proud of yourself! You worked so hard!" Guiding children to be intrinsically motivated to complete tasks will carry them in their academic and personal lives.
Jennifer Cerbasi teaches at a public school for children on the autism spectrum in New Jersey. As a coordinator of Applied Behavioral Analysis programs in the home, she works with parents to create and implement behavioral plans for their children in an environment that fosters both academic and social growth. In addition to her work both in the classroom and at home, she is also a member of the National Association of Special Education Teachers and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.