So many people tell me they want to get paid to do what they love. But if you need to be paid to do it, you probably don’t really love it. People do what they love whether or not they get paid, which is why highly rewarding jobs don’t have rewarding salaries. This makes sense. It would be a really sad world if we all had to get paid before we would do what we love.

Which means that most of us do work that is not our very favorite thing to do, but it’s our favorite thing to do that someone will pay us to do. That arrangement seems rational and reasonable and fair.

Money is a good motivator to get adults to do things they don’t really like to do. For example, actors are able to totally transform their bodies to get a part in a movie. People work 60-hour weeks in order to take care of their families. Every service job I ever had I did because I needed the money—even the jobs in bookstores I would not have done for no pay.

Scotland experimented with paying moms to stop smoking during pregnancy. Without money, smoke cessation programs had a 9% success rate. With payment the success rate increased to 23%. (Interesting note about the US: 1% of college-educated moms smoke while pregnant and 17% of high school dropouts smoke while pregnant.)

So we have a lot of data to show that people do things they don’t like when they are paid. And we accept, as a society, that payment is a fair expectation if we are doing something we don’t want to do.

So then, why do we expect kids to do things they don’t want to do without paying them? Adults who don’t ask for fair wages look like doormats. Adults who don’t understand how to ask to be paid look like they can’t take care of themselves. Why is it okay to train kids to be like this?

So every time my kids want money to buy a Minecraft skin or a game upgrade or a song or anything else that is a relatively small amount of money, I tell them they have to do work. Sometimes I have work to do. Like I had my son help with fencing so I didn’t have to. And sometimes I just sort of make something up, out of commitment to making them work when they want money.

Then I realized that I could make them do stuff that I wanted them to learn. I could treat that as a job as well. So I had my son memorize the poem Young and Old by Charles Kingsley. (I let him count a stanza for one job.)

I haven’t always been this way. I used to buy them what they want because I want to encourage them to explore the world as a self-directed learning. But I’m realizing that I can teach them how they get to do whatever they want. Until they want money. Then they have to compromise.

You might think this is splitting hairs, but paying kids to compromise seems much more productive and realistic than telling kids they need to compromise and learn whatever the teacher tells them to learn. Later in life they will get paid to compromise. It makes no sense for anyone to not be paid for compromises until after they grow up.

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49 replies
  1. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    I’ve taken the other approach: I just give my kids modest spending money. When I get paid, so do they.

    I came down on the side of, “I don’t get paid to do stuff around this house, and so therefore neither will you.”

    When I was a kid, I had lots of elderly neighbors who needed chores done: lawn mowing, snow shoveling, leaf raking, occasionally house-sitting, and once staining a new privacy fence. I made a pretty good kid-living doing that.

    Out here in Greater Suburbia, however, it’s all different, and there just aren’t jobs the neighbors hire kids to do. Those who pay to have their lawn mowed hire a professional service.

    • liz mom of 5 under 10
      liz mom of 5 under 10 says:

      Isn’t that the truth. My oldest who is 10 is a budding entrepreneur. He loves anything that has to do with lawn mowing, raking, all the things you described. He has made business cards and signs for his bike and has bought weed whackers,blowers,loan mowers and rakes fore YEARS! The problem is we also live in the suburbs and lawn services are ubiquitous.This year however he made over $200 in 3 weeks just in mowing lawns and raking for the elderly and helping our landscaper as our leaves are still falling and the weather was still warm. The lawn services are pretty much done until the snow here.Last year he was able to make money when we had ice storms and not necessarily enough snow for removers to come. I love seeing him hustle and take advantage of these opportunities. I don’t usually pay for work around the home either. Seeing him grow his business and getting paid for what he loves gives me great pleasure.

  2. Rayne of Terror
    Rayne of Terror says:

    I do this and I always ask them what they think the job is worth and they always give me a lower number than I had in mind. I pay a lot of quarters! But also I pay 5% on their savings on the first of every month and so those quarters add up into real money pretty fast.

  3. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    I think this is an absolutely phenomenal lesson. First, it teaches kids the connection between work and money, and second it teaches kids how to find their market. My parents would pay me a few dollars to cut the grass or to babysit my younger siblings, but I quickly learned that I could earn 10-15X their rate waiting tables, or 5X their rate teaching tennis lessons.

    Learning to work is critical for kids; it’s one of the best things you can teach them.

  4. Jeff Till
    Jeff Till says:

    This is very interesting.

    I could see this as a good tactic for when our kids have an especially uninspired day of doing nothing. Although we do our best at unschooling, this might be a nice way to have them try out reading or activities that aren’t appealing on their surface.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Yeah. I agree. I think most parents think of paying kids for chores. But we have this crazy idea that kids should do homework for free. So I’m going to start keeping a list of stuff I wish my kids would try and when they ask me for money I’ll pick one of those things off my list.

      And, come to think of it, this is actually a great way to compromise between parent-led schooling and unschooling. I am an unschooling parent, but I still get to cram my educational preferences down their throats a little at a time :)


      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        So I’m really embarrassed to admit this here because I’m an unschooling parent too, but when my daughter was 7 I told her I would pay her $20 to memorize her multiplication tables to 10. So, she did. But, it wasn’t something she *hated* because she is good at math. At the time no math was being done in our house and I felt a sense of urgency that creeps up every once in awhile.

        • Rayne of Terror
          Rayne of Terror says:

          The first year of kid-pitch baseball my son was spooked about getting hit by a pitch. He saw every kid on his team get hit and so he was jumping out of the batters box with every pitch. Some dads suggested I take him out in the yard and pelt him with baseballs so he could see it wouldn’t hurt that bad. INSTEAD, I offered to pay him for 3 consecutive games, $1 for every pitch he stayed in the box, $5 for every time he was hit with a ball, and $10 for every fair hit he made. He got up to bat 2 or 3 times per game and he made 2 hits and stopped jumping out of the batters box. I think he earned $32 in 3 games. Paying him gave him the motivation to get past the fear.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            Take him out to the yard and pelt him with baseballs?!?! Holy moly guacamole!!! Thank goodness you are his parent and not them!

            Thank you for making me feel less embarrassed for paying for learning challenging things or getting over fears. I think you are right in that by offering money as a goal, it can help kids reframe the situation in their minds to something that they can control. :)

          • Rayne of Terror
            Rayne of Terror says:

            He was on the fence about whether to keep playing baseball when kid pitch started. It’s scary to face/observe wild pitches, lets say 6 hours a week for 9 weeks, and about half the kids drop out after machine pitch. Ultimately, he got over his fear of being hit and kept playing a sport he is naturally good at with his friends in a small town without many options for things to do. I can see how important it is to be involved in one of the main sports in a very small town and wanted to keep him going. Three/four years later he’s still playing and enjoying baseball.

        • Bostonian
          Bostonian says:

          One of my earliest memories is learning to write because my mother offered me five dollars if I would write out Little Bear’s Visit word for word. I was four.

          No, I haven’t repeated the experiment on my own children. My daughter is four now and is learning her letters from the iPad at her own pace. I think the iPad itself is a significantly bigger bribe than any amount of money my mother might have had in 1971.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      No. Because I only teach them what I like teaching them. But we pay tutors to teach them.


  5. sarah
    sarah says:

    We totally do this. It reminds me of that book I cant remember the title. Sometimes I have to ask the kids for help because I dont have the cash, but mostly we pay for chores you dont have to do because you are alive.

  6. Jana Miller
    Jana Miller says:

    Brilliant…again! I used to pay my kids to babysit themselves….basically we called it self sitter. Get along with your siblings-you are old enough to stay home alone. And we won’t have to pay someone to referee you two. Worked perfectly.

  7. Gena
    Gena says:

    I think the point is that we don’t do anything for nothing – intrinsic or extrinsic, you have to know your levers for you kids and for yourself. Will you do something because your curiosity will be satisfied (binge learning), or you’ll feel warm and fuzzy inside (helping someone) or you’re looking forward to having better energy flow in your home (cleaning). If you know the prize, you can create a game for it and not feel like a loser. Do we create these levers (money or whatever) for kids so they do what WE WANT and keep it a secret or teach them how to use this wisely for their life?

  8. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    I don’t like doing anything except read. So I am all right doing less work for more time to read. I can also help people if it simply involves reading.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      No. I don’t understand the point. We don’t teach kids how to manage money if we don’t teach kids how to earn money. An intrinsic part of knowing how to spend money is knowing how much work you want to be doing.

      Like, if you feel fulfilled working 100-hour weeks, you probably don’t have to be that good at managing money because a) you will make a lot and b) you won’t have a lot of time to spend money.


  9. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    This sounds like a bad idea to me in the long run. If I was your kid I’d just figure out how to get you to pay me for stuff I was already doing (like: “Mom, I’ve thought about it and I’m giving up the cello, that is unless you’d like to make an investment…).

    So, it has to be long-term sustainable and reward the right things. My kids are still young so only at the beginning of the wanting money. I’ve tried saying they can have money if they help me make it or save it. So far this has consisted of: splitting the savings on going to the barber instead of hairdresser & splitting the profits for help on selling old baby goods.

    I like what my mother did, I wish I could pull it off but I can’t. She had us kids convinced we were poor and there was no disposable money, so we stopped asking. I could not wait until I was out in the world earning my own money – I loved it & haven’t stopped loving it since.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      This doesn’t make sense to me.

      First, my son does cello because he wants to. He knows he’d never get me to pay him to practice.

      Second, if you tell your kids they are poor and there’s a finite amount of money then you teach them they are not the locus of control. Google that. It’s hugely important to teach kids that they control their lives. So if they want more money they can earn more money. That’s how the adult world is. We make decisions about our money. It doesn’t just happen to us.


      • Tracy
        Tracy says:

        Parents don’t need to be an infinite fountain of money to teach their kids they are in control of their lives. It’s ok to say no, – we’re not talking about earning for basic needs here.

        The whole idea of paying for learning stuff you don’t like is absurd to me. There will be things a kid loves to learn and things a kid hates to learn and a whole spectrum between. You are drawing a line in that spectrum and paying for things behind that line, encouraging that line to move in the wrong direction.

        It’s not teaching kids to earn money in the real world – this is teaching kids to make money of valueless things. If a kid doesn’t want to learn that thing, then it is valueless (hence part of the problem with schools). Well in this case, memorizing that poem has no value to anyone other than you. In my book it’s no different from smiling while your crazy, rich aunt pinches your cheek at a family gathering in the knowledge that that means you get extra birthday money. So really you are teaching them to do pointless things for the whims of people with deep pockets. May that is one way of earning money in the real world, but not a meaningful or sustainable way.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      When my husband was being raised by his very wealthy father and step-mother from age 11-18, they never wanted to spend money or buy anything for him. He had to duct tape his shoes that were falling apart and have his hair overgrown, while going to one of the wealthiest public schools (at the time) in orange county. He is still a very damaged person from being raised this way, and as a result does the exact opposite with our kids. I have to beg him to stop buying stuff for them, or that they don’t need EVERYTHING to be a collection. There are healthier ways to teach kids the responsibility of a dollar without depriving them and they don’t need to be given the entire world to boost their self-esteem either. Raising kids, regardless of one’s income, to have the mindset that they are being raised with plenty and not feeling deprived is the way to go. We are in the midst of Operation Purge in our house. It is turning out to be a very long, and cluttered process.

      • Leonie
        Leonie says:

        YMKAS, this resonates so much with me. When I was growing up, I was convinced that my family was super poor. I loved my parents so I tried to be considerate and not ask for a lot. Imagine my surprise when I filled out my fafsa and not only did I not qualify for any aid, but I also found out my parents were quite wealthy.

        This led to a huge sense of betrayal. I spent all my time as a teen working minimum wage jobs while my peers were taking dance lessons or going to volleyball camp. I remember the embarrassment of not being to afford any extracurriculars while attending an affluent school. And worst of all, when it was time to apply to college, I only applied to one state school because I didn’t want to burden my parents with paying for the application fees.

        Lying to your kids about being poor also creates a very adversarial family dynamic – because sooner or later they do find out that you’re not. It breaks down trust. Why not just be honest with your children? If you need to say no to something, explain that you do not agree with a purchase and move on. Don’t teach your children to live a lie just because it’s easier for you.

        • Bostonian
          Bostonian says:

          I’ve heard so many recommendations for how to teach kids about money over the years. You can see many here: chores, bribes, allowances… I suspect it’s just my inherent laziness, but I’ll try to pass it off as wisdom on a longer time frame that I don’t do any of these things. What I do is talk about money with my son. I talk to him about how much mom earns, how much dad earned, how compound interest works, what a mortgage is, how much college costs, how much private school costs, how much home repairs cost. He listened in the other day when I had a financial discussion with a contractor about overages. We are also open with him about charitable choices we make and organizations we support.

          I don’t think he needs to know how to budget. I don’t think he needs to know how to make ten bucks here or there. Some kids do, others don’t. I think he needs to understand that it’s expensive to keep himself in oysters and ski boots and there are professions that won’t cut it and professions that will.

          I have a slightly similar story to YMKAS’ about her husband’s duct tape shoes. My mom is … frugal. She raised two boys by herself in the seventies as an assistant professor. She got good jobs later on, as she moved into academic IT, but those first years were tight. We got one pair of shoes a year, in the fall. After they wore out we went around in flip-flops. We got one outfit of new clothes a year (the rest were hand-me-downs). My mother fretted about money and how much things cost. Some years we got nice things (cross-country skis!), some years not. In all years we were conscious that we were not among the more prosperous families in our crappy rural public schools. Sometimes the places we lived were horrendous (no heat, rats, etc.) We never went out to eat, we never watched movies, we didn’t even own a TV, we drove around in junky, ancient cars, we did not have new clothes or nice vacations…

          My brother and I internalized this in different ways. Sometime in the early eighties, my brother developed a strong desire to go to computer camp in the summer. He nurtured this desire with brochures hidden in his desk drawer, but he never shared it with my mother because he thought we were so poor she could never afford it – or worse, would pay for it and suffer from the cost. He never asked, he never went, and it became one of those nasty regrets that adults nurture for the rest of their lives, saying “everything would be different if…”

          I was always more ambitious and more impulsive than my brother. I didn’t internalize poverty into sacrifice, I internalized it into resentment and drive. I made damn sure I wasn’t going to be as poor as I was as a child when I became an adult. And I was going to travel everywhere.

          When I told my mother, in 10th grade, that I didn’t want to go to school anymore, she talked to me about other options. Among those options were prep schools – we toured some fine, sports-obsessed northeastern schools – and the option I much preferred, going directly to college at 16. My brother, who had swallowed his desire to go to computer camp, has never forgiven me for, basically, asking.

          Of course, my mother retired a millionaire, timing the stock market and fixed annuity rates perfectly on her way out. She doesn’t want for anything.

          I guess the point of all this seedy family history is that I agree with you very much, Leonie. Don’t hide things from your kids. They can get very much the wrong idea, and such inaccuracies can hurt us in the long run. My mother would have sent my brother to computer camp in a flash if he had just asked, and maybe it would have made things different for him. But she was not open with us about money, just complained about it, and his ideas were way off. It’s much better to tell your kids that you have the money, you just don’t want to pay for whatever is at question, if that’s the truth of the matter.

          • Leonie
            Leonie says:

            I think a lot about how to talk to my children about money. My parents are immigrants so that adds an entire extra layer to the story. There was always a lot of guilt and sense of responsibility to send money back home. Latinos are like that. Even as a kid I felt that sense of responsibility.

            What I don’t think I articulated well in my first post, is that I took a lot of pride in all the things that I did to help my parents. I didn’t ask for a lot of things, true – but even when I did ask, they often said no because they couldn’t afford it. That made sense to me. After I got my first job in High School there were even a couple times when my parents asked to borrow a few hundred dollars so that our electricity wouldn’t get shut off. They always payed me back, but it reinforced the idea that they were struggling.

            When I found out that they made well into the six figures it felt like a betrayal. The sense of pride that was a big part of my identity evaporated and it really affected my self esteem. Now that I’m older I can see more nuance. My parents are terrible with money. (I still think it would have been better to be upfront about this than to frame it as being poor.)

            In fact, part of the reason that I’m drawn to Penelope’s blog is that she’s so open about making a high salary and having problems with money. Until I found this blog, I thought this kind of stuff had only happened to my family. None of my friends had these types of problems.

            On the other hand, despite all the missed opportunities growing up, I still ended up in a similar economic bracket as my parents. Penelope shares a lot of research about how this is the norm, but it’s still perplexing because I wasn’t raised like a typical well-off kid. As I write this I’m starting to think that reading this blog is a little bit like therapy for me.

          • Aquinas Heard
            Aquinas Heard says:


            Thanks for sharing some of your childhood experiences. Your son is fortunate to have such an introspective parent.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            My spouses’s situation was different in that he knew his dad and step-mom had money and could easily afford things. They would refuse to buy him basic things, forced him into extreme manual labor on their rental properties without paying him, and wouldn’t let him get a job during high school. After high school, his dad offered to pay for college if he would stay living at home to which he refused and moved to live with his mom 400 miles away. They ended up having kids of their own and they have provided a very different childhood for his half-siblings than what he experienced. These are very eccentric and odd people, who are also millionaires. For example, they asked us if we could have my kids call them aunt and uncle because they didn’t want to be called grandparents, to which we refused.

            Leonie, you make several good points. My father is also an immigrant, from Poland. We grew up upper middle class and he has always sent money back to his family which meant that instead of grand family vacations we would go tent camping at state parks. I never felt poor even though I knew we only got school clothes once a year instead of whenever we wanted, I also had a huge sense of independence and didn’t ask for much. My twin siblings asked for quite a bit more than I did, so they did get more things, but I would get an allowance instead of things which was nice for me. My parents could have been more open about money with me, but my dad is a very private person and I didn’t know his income until I filled out fafsa paperwork too. I didn’t feel a sense of betrayal, but I remember experiencing a very puzzled feeling when I found out. Like, maybe I should have asked for new clothes more often.

            Without realizing there is a such thing as a birth lottery until this blog, we have surpassed where my family was growing up and are on track to where his dad is. We did get help from all our parents (including the oddballs) at different times in the beginning, especially when my husband decided to go to college for a second career. We had lots of help then and when we started our family as well, but since he graduated we are entirely self-made. There really is something to it, for the most part.

            We talk about money with our kids as well, how much we spend on basic living expenses, how much my husband makes, our different investments both good and bad. We are not frugal but I do try to budget responsibly. We don’t say yes to everything, but we do say yes often and my kids aren’t afraid to ask or talk about money.

            There are so many similarities we can find between us, and I am finding it interesting reading what other people do that I don’t do. We all believe that we are doing the right thing for our kids, some are very frugal and force their kids to get jobs, some give their kids allowance, some pay their kids to do things they hate to teach them a lesson they believe to be valuable. Very interesting, to me.

  10. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    This is such an interesting discussion. I have tried this approach and it simply doesn’t work for my kids. I have offered as much as $200 to help clean up the house and my kids refuse, because there isn’t any amount of money or other type of bribe I can give them to do something they hate. It leads to frustration, tears, and sometimes meltdowns. So, I don’t do this method.

    I’m not suggesting that others shouldn’t try this, just that this payment system is useless in the ymkas household.

    Here is what we do. My kids get an allowance for free so that they can learn how to spend, save, and give to charity. Basic economics and learning how to manage their money has been learned this way. I also squirrel away money into savings accounts that don’t get touched, for each of them. Sometimes Savannah, my oldest, will say something like “Mom will you pay me $xx if I do this?” and I will negotiate a payment with her for whatever that is, if I feel it makes sense.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      We do this too. They have an allowance and they manage what it is spent on and what is saved. I don’t bribe them with chores, they are expected to help around and take care of what they have ultimate control over (their beds, rooms (with help here) and self care). My goal is to raise children that can take care of themselves.

      As for income- when my eldest chooses to earn extra on the side via outside resources (say stands, online, etc) we match it dollar for dollar and put it into a savings account that he also has control over. We go to the bank together. He has asked to do things for extra money and we have negotiated.

      We expect them to work outside the house in some context as they age and become teenagers.

      I won’t pay the kids to do things I don’t want to do. I view my household as my responsibility and I figure it out (outsource, just do it, or whatever).
      Life as an adult is full of things we ‘don’t want to do’ but have to be done. It’s part of growing up. My theory- give the kids a good foundation and those things won’t be a big deal.

    • Moms on the Sidelines
      Moms on the Sidelines says:

      My older two (13 and 14) often passed up multiple opportunities to earn money. I realized they had no incentive. Once my husband and I stopped buying non-essentials, they suddenly had incentive to work. If they want to go to the movies with their friends, they pay. If they want something at the mall, they buy it. It’s amazing how their spending habits, and desire to work, changed when it was my money vs theirs.

  11. redrock
    redrock says:

    I have never understood the argument why something you like to do does not deserve the same payment as something you dislike to do.

    Exhibit 1: someone says: my salary is really low. Answer: but you like what you do. Why should this be an argument to accept a lower salary?

    Exhibit 2: you want to hire someone to weed the garden. One person loves to pull weeds, the other person hates it. According to the logic presented here you should pay more to the person who hates to weed the garden.

    Don’t the kids learn after a while that the stuff they love to do don’t come with tangible rewards? That it is not the work you do which counts but your feelings about the work you do?

    • liz mom of 5 under 10
      liz mom of 5 under 10 says:

      I agree. My son who I have mentioned multiple times LOVES to cut the lawn,weed whack,blow, rake etc. Since there is not much opportunity in the suburbs for him to make a job of it (lawn services) he jumps at any opportunity to use new equipment/learn new techniques etc.. He had been hanging out with our lawn service guy for maybe 5 years. First on the deck with us and now progressing to where the guy lets him use the back pack blower and other equipment. This has been a wonderful learning experience for my 10 year old but what was a free and great “mentorship”/learning experience turned into him getting taken for granted (some may say advantage of). Because my son loves it so much he wasn’t worried about getting paid. I pointed out he was helping for hours on end weekly to do a job that Sean was getting paid for and he was not. Our cul de sac is very small and the guy doesn’t have any workers as they are not reliable.He also in the last year started his own company as the other company dissolved. My son ended up doing a lot of the gopher work/clean up for this guy as I watched from the house. It got to the point where my son now negotiates a price up front after I explained he was being “taken for granted”. My son really would have gone on thinking “i love it so much he is doing me a favor” type of mentality if we had not stepped in.

  12. Moms on the Sidelines
    Moms on the Sidelines says:

    I paid my kids each a quarter to try sushi. Multiple times. Now they love it, and sushi night for our family of 5 costs a small fortune. I’m not sure what the lesson is in this, but there you have it.

    • Bostonian
      Bostonian says:

      Worst investment ever.

      I’ve never paid my kids to do anything, let alone eat anything. My son started eating sushi when he was still in diapers.

      We’ve been talking lately about intrinsic versus extrinsic motivations and rewards. It seems to me that homeschooled kids can hang on to the former a bit longer. I’m in no hurry to mess with that.

  13. liz mom of 5 under 10
    liz mom of 5 under 10 says:

    We don’t give allowances either.My husband is a physician and makes well over 6 figures. We are pretty frugal and our kids don’t live anything like my husbands colleagues kids do. No designer labels,no private school,no fancy vacations,no private computers. They wear hand me downs and work for money. They are learning that with 7 people in the household it takes a lot of help to keep it running smoothly. We don’t have assigned chores, but a natural rhythm to our day and different kids help with different needs different days. They also learn that if you make enough money that you can outsource things that would not be worth the time. For instance, for my husband to cut the front and back grass(we have a lot) with all the interruptions from kids would take him several hours. To pay a lawn guy to do the whole season my husband would have to work less than 2 hours(he’s an ER Dr). I think its important for them to value their time as well. I have seen my son pay his younger sister to be a “gopher” when he cuts grass/raking for money or is working on a project in the backyard. Could he run to the garage 20 times sure…but paying his sister $2 to do it works out for him. He took her to his last 2 jobs cutting/raking and gave her a cut. This also helps her with negotiating.I think this is a huge starting point for when he one day has employees if all works out as he hopes.

  14. Elizabeth des Roches
    Elizabeth des Roches says:

    I, too have a budding entrepreneur on my hands – started his own tool-rental company at the ripe age of 6 (in our woodshed) & spent hours this summer chopping wood so he could buy some chickens & a coop.

    At 11 – he has an amazing grip on what it means to be self-motivated – something which I don’t see in the schooled kids around town. Since both my husband & I have been entrepreneurs for the last several decades, we’re thrilled.

    Penelope, I agree with you that it CAN make sense to pay kids to do stuff they don’t want to do – but I also feel there’s a certain division line between stuff they SHOULD do as an active member of our family (unpaid) & “extra” stuff I WANT them to do (usually so I don’t have to!) which I’ll pay them for.

    It’s teaching them where that line between familial duty & paid chores lies – that is the hard part !

    Thanks for yet another mind-stretching post – you have NO idea how often I forward your posts to people !!

    Best Elizabeth

  15. homeschool crafters
    homeschool crafters says:

    I am in total agreement with you! I actually have a “Star Board”, where my kids will earn a star for every act of kindness, chore they complete, or subject they do well on in school. For every ten stars they get paid $1. This helps them learn to earn their own money as well as save up for items they want to buy. I also got tired of buying everything for them (and how quickly do kids get bored with their new toys). Now they can see the value of the toys they purchase……Great Post!

  16. Sharon
    Sharon says:

    When my children were little I used to pay them to try a new food. Foods that I knew they would probably like if they just tried. Several foods were added to their diets that they may not have tried until they were much older.

  17. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Being creative can involve quite a bit of work and time. Persistence is valuable for creativity as described from research results in this HBR article – . Applicable to this post is this paragraph from the article where money was used as a means to motivate participants in creative thought –

    “In another study, we asked participants to work on a creative challenge, and we paid them a small sum of money for each idea they generated. Then we told them they could continue generating ideas (and make more money) if they first paid a small fee to go on. We included the fee to simulate how the decision to persist always has an opportunity cost: persisting on one task means having fewer resources to invest in other tasks. Even though nearly all participants were expected to profit from persisting (based on the results of pretesting), only 54% of participants chose to continue, and as we expected, those who chose not to generated fewer creative ideas and made less money.”

    Using money to reward children for doing certain things is fine. I think it can be tricky, though, as the reward should have a clear purpose and be understood by the recipient as to why the reward was received. I’m thinking the reward should be delivered for those things which rise above the ordinary.

    • Bostonian
      Bostonian says:

      That’s a bad study design, Mark, and it doesn’t necessarily demonstrate what the Lucas and Nordgren theorize it must.

      Maybe instead of demonstrating that people underestimate their own creativity it demonstrates that people are happy to play along with surveys and studies until you ask them to give you money and then they don’t want to talk to you anymore.

      Perhaps it’s not giving up, but just caution in the face of ubiquitous scams. If I were in the middle of a study and the pencil pushers said okay now’s the point you have to give us money I might say okaythanksbye too.

      • Mark W.
        Mark W. says:

        It may be a bad study design. I don’t know that as a certainty because the study, unfortunately, requires a Harvard Key login. I read the excerpted paragraph I posted above several times before I posted it and to be honest, I’m not sure when the money was disbursed to the participants. So I gave them the benefit of the doubt when I read “In another study, we asked participants to work on a creative challenge, and we paid them a small sum of money for each idea they generated. Then we told them they could continue generating ideas (and make more money) if they first paid a small fee to go on.” and made the assumption they were paid first before they were given the opportunity to press on. However, I’m not sure how the ending of the paragraph “Even though nearly all participants were expected to profit from persisting (based on the results of pretesting), only 54% of participants chose to continue, and as we expected, those who chose not to generated fewer creative ideas and made less money.” works with the beginning and my above assumption when they’re able to come up with “54% of participants”. I do like the article , though, and the idea of opportunity cost.

  18. Erika Hayes
    Erika Hayes says:

    Having successfully raised four children/homeschooled several years and seen them thrive in college (one graduating Magna Cum Laude in a few days from ASU). Here is the deal, DON’T PAY YOUR KIDS TO DO CHORES THEY DISLIKE! I think perhaps you have forgotten that life is filled with things we don’t like to do!
    We do some things simply because they need done. Rewarding a child for an unpleasant chore with money is setting your child up for entitlement. We have plenty of entitled individuals already, breeding more entitlement will not improve our society.
    Our children did chores that were unpleasant and were rewarded with a gratitude and a sense of accomplishment. It has also taught them to tackle the jobs they don’t like first and get them done. Children need to know that unpleasant is a part of life.

    I cannot disagree with your reasoning more additionally I find the supporting research flawed. Mothers that are quitting smoking that are given money. I believe the ones that successfully quit have the unborn child’s health in a higher esteem.
    Finally, paying your children to do family chores breaks down the family unit. I do believe and have passed on to my children that a family works together for the betterment of the family. We do the chores we don’t like and that is so our family’s needs are met.

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