We like it when kids–especially our own–do chores around the house. One of our daughters is a master at cleaning the bathroom. The other one takes out the recycling, the trash, and does all the cat care. They both help with the dishes and setting the table.

But we don’t pay our kids for doing these chores.

We don’t have a problem with giving kids an allowance; we are “pro-allowance”. But we don’t think kids should earn an allowance for their chores.

Sound crazy?

Here’s what the research says:

Rewards don’t work in the long term.

Alfie Kohn in his book Unconditional Parenting says, “a considerable number of studies have found that children and adults alike are less successful at many tasks when they’re offered a reward for doing them–or for doing them well.” Students tend to learn better when there are no “A’s” to earn. Rewards are remarkably ineffective at improving the quality of people’s work or learning.

Rewards often only buy temporary compliance

If I gave one of my kids an allowance to scrub the toilet. She’d probably do it* but only as long as I keep paying her. Once I take that reward, she wouldn’t continue to scrub the toilet. Same with adults, we usually don’t continue to work at a job if our boss stops paying us.

*I’ve actually tried to pay my kids to do extra things around the house that are “above and beyond” their normal chores. They looked at my money, considered the amount of effort involved in the task, and they both said, “No thanks!”

The same is true of punishments. My kids would probably scrub the toilet if I took away their video games. But once I gave them access to games again, they probably wouldn’t continue to scrub the toilet.

Rewards might even be counterproductive

One study found that kids who were rewarded for being “nice” to another child, didn’t then think of themselves as “nice” people and were less likely to repeat that behavior in the future.

So, rewarding a child for a chore makes it less likely that they will do the chore in the future, and this is because…

Rewards erode intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation is the inherent joy found in doing something for it’s own sake. For example, I practice piano because I enjoy playing piano. I eat green veggie because they taste good. I’m nice to my friends because I like how it makes me feel. I scrub the toilet because it helps the family, I’m proud how it looks, and it smells good afterward!

There are scores of studies that conclude “the more that people are rewarded for doing something, the more likely they are to lose interest in whatever they had to do the get the reward.”

Maybe your kids don’t like scrubbing the toilet, we understand. Us too! However according to the research they will enjoy cleaning the toilet more, if they don’t get paid to do it.

Without payment a child is more likely to think, “I’m really a great helper. I’m a hard worker and now it’s clean. This was actually kind of fun.”

In conclusion: Give your child an allowance, it’s part of the family’s contribution TO him. AND give your kids chores it’s part of his contribution TO the family. But don’t give your kids an allowance BECAUSE they’ve earned it with their chores. Kids “earn” allowance just for being in the family, for being themselves.

Is it hard to motivate your kids to do things (chores, homework, etc) they don’t want to do? Check out this blog post about that.

Now we’re curious about you. Do your kids earn their allowance? Why or why not? Do your kids do chores? Do they get rewarded for doing them? Or not? Share below.

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