Paid vs Unpaid Chores - What Parents Think and What Experts Say


To pay kids for chores or not is a topic of much debate between parents. Some make the case that paying for chores gives kids an incentive to learn about responsibility and money management. Other parents argue that chores should be done without the expectation of payment and as part of contributing to the family. 

As research advances and experts weigh in, it is becoming increasingly evident that both paid and unpaid chores offer unique benefits. Here's a look at why each works and how they might work together in harmony.

Why Paid chores are important

Paid chores teach kids essential money management skills

Giving kids a financial incentive for completing their chores is a practical, hands-on way to help them understand concepts like earning money, budgeting, and saving from a young age1, especially when they are entrusted with the responsibility of handling their own earnings).

It helps them develop a strong work ethic
According to a study by Marty Rossmann2, a professor at the University of Minnesota, children who earn money for their chores are more likely to develop a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility.

By associating chores with financial incentives, children learn the value of hard work and the importance of contributing to the household.

It also helps them develop a sense of responsibility, self-discipline, and motivation, essential qualities for success in life.

It keeps them motivated and engaged

Research has shown that monetary incentives can boost motivation and engagement in kids, leading to the more effective completion of chores3. Not only does this mean a more organised and cleaner household, but it also helps them develop other great habits such as better time management, multitasking, prioritisation and planning. 

They learn goal setting

When children earn money for chores, they can set financial goals for themselves, such as saving for a specific toy or outing. This helps them learn the value of delayed gratification and the importance of working towards a goal.

See how Spriggy can help you set up paid or unpaid chores.

Why unpaid chores matter

It helps foster a sense of family responsibility

Experts say that unpaid chores can foster a sense of family responsibility, as children learn the importance of contributing to the household without expecting immediate rewards4. This helps instil values of cooperation and selflessness. In addition, they start to develop a mindset of contributing to the common good, which helps reinforce the idea that family members should work together and support each other, promoting a sense of unity and teamwork.

It helps prevent entitlement

By not paying for chores, parents can help prevent the development of entitlement in their children5. This approach teaches them that some tasks need to be done as a part of daily life without expecting rewards. Over time it also helps kids foster a sense of gratitude and humility.

Encouraging Intrinsic Motivation

Research suggests that self-motivation is a more sustainable driver for long-term behaviour change than external motivation6 (such as expecting a reward for effort). Therefore, by not paying children for certain chores, parents can help cultivate intrinsic motivation, which may lead to more consistent engagement in tasks and overall personal growth.

Teaches non-material values

Unpaid chores can allow parents to emphasise the importance of non-material values, such as gratitude, kindness, empathy, and responsibility7.

Read about more ways chores benefit kids.

How and when to strike a balance 

A balanced approach incorporating paid and unpaid chores can provide kids the best of both worlds. 

Parents can assign a mix of tasks, with some being compensated and others not. For example, children might receive payment for tasks beyond their regular responsibilities, such as washing the car or assisting with a home improvement project, while everyday chores like making their bed or setting the table could remain unpaid. This hybrid approach can help children understand the difference between contributing to the family and earning money for extra effort.

Communication is vital when establishing a balance between paid and unpaid chores. Ensure that children understand the expectations associated with each type of chore and regularly discuss the importance of both contributing to the household and developing a solid work ethic8.

See how Spriggy can help you set up paid or unpaid chores.

Both paid and unpaid chores offer unique benefits for children, teaching them essential life skills and values. Ultimately, the choice between paid and unpaid chores or a combination of both depends on your family's values and priorities. However, a thoughtful combination of the two could give your kids the best foundation for success.

1. Gudmunson, C. G., & Danes, S. M. (2011). Family financial socialisation: Theory and critical review. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 32(4), 644-667.
2. *Rossmann, M. M. (2011). Longitudinal Study of the Effects of Early Chores on Adolescent Achievement, Self-Concept, and Locus of Control. Journal of Family Issues, 32(10), 1379-1396.
3. Lim, V. K. G., Rickwood, C. J., & Brennan, M. A. (2015). Adolescent financial literacy in Australia: A mixed-methods study of knowledge, behaviour and influencing factors. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 36(1), 139-152. doi: 10.1007/s10834-014-9414-4
4. Apter, T. (2013). The Myth of Maturity: What Teenagers Need from Parents to Become Adults. W. W. Norton & Company
5. Padilla-Walker, L. M., & Carlo, G. (2014). Prosocial development: A multidimensional approach. Oxford University Press.
6. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The "what" and "why" of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behaviour. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227-268.
7. Brooks, R. (2018). Raising resilient children. New York: McGraw-Hill.
8. Graziano, P. A., Decarli, K. J., & Hart, K. C. (2016). Parents' relationships with children and involvement in children's household tasks: A correlational study. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 25(7), 2244-2254. doi: 10.1007/s10826-016-0416-7.

The information in this post is provided for general information only. The information does not take into consideration your or anyone else’s objectives, needs or financial situation and does not constitute financial advice or a recommendation of any kind. Before acting on any information consider its appropriateness and, where appropriate, seek professional advice. Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of the information as at the date of publication, Spriggy its officers, employees and agents disclaim all liability (except for any liability which by law cannot be excluded), for any error, inaccuracy, or omission from the information for any reason, including due to the passage of time, or any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.

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