The Separation of Chores & Cash

Did you receive an allowance when you were growing up?

My memory is shaky, personally. I think I did from time to time. I don’t remember if allowance was tied to chores or not though.

Then again, my mom was a stay-at-home mom, and there were only three of us kids who were gone at school all day long, five days a week. She pretty much took care of the house and did the laundry, etc.

I was called upon to wash dishes Sunday afternoons, and my brothers took out the trash. I remember dusting and vacuuming, but only occasionally. Our house was generally well-organized with little input from anyone besides Mom.

I do remember throwing a fit about having to wash Sunday dishes. I remember not liking to clean my room. I remember saying, “Why don’t the BOYS ever have to do the dishes?” And whining.

But I digress.

As a student of motivation and its causes/deterrents, I read Dan Pink’s fabulous book entitled, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. I highly recommend it. The items he discusses are relevant to education, business, and parenting ~ of all things.

At the back of Drive, Pink has a tiny little section on allowances: to give or not to give. I find his advice excellent, so I thought I would share it with my 8 dedicated blog readers.

The title of this section says it all: Give your kids an allowance and some chores–but don’t combine them.

First of all, having an allowance gives kids the opportunity to manage money. Or not manage money, and in the process learn how to manage money. Chores are good things because kids learn about responsibility, mutual obligations, and being a part of a whole.

But here’s why there’s a need to keep the two separate:

“By linking money to the completion of chores, parents turn allowance into an if-then reward. In the absence of payment, no self-respecting child would willingly set the table, empty the garbage, or make her own bed.

It converts a moral and familial obligation into just another commercial transaction–and teaches that the only reason to do a less-than-desirable task for your family is in exchange for payment.”

I find that to be a very insightful treatise on allowances. What is the purpose of an allowance? We as individual parents must decide that for ourselves. If we want to give an allowance in exchange for our children working, there will be consequences in the thought processes of our children, naturally.

I think Pink’s conclusions are quite valid. Saying, “If you want your allowance, then you have to do your chores,” sets the parents up for a struggle. What if the child doesn’t care about allowance? What if it is worth it to him to lose out on money in exchange for being lazy? Yeah, some kids will jump on that opportunity, won’t they?

So strike a balance by creating a Separation of Chores & Cash.

I give my kids an allowance in order to give them personal experience with money handling. I give them chores because there are more of them than they are of me. I can’t possibly clean up after a busload of kids each and every day. That’s how chores got started around here, anyway. My mom could physically do everything that needed to be done, and she was happy to do so.

I didn’t appreciate that at the time. (I’m sorry, Mom!) All I could see was how unfair it was that my brothers didn’t have to do “girls’ work.” I think my attitude needed some adjusting, and I would have done well to have had my clock cleaned out at a much younger age.

Some moms have the energy and ability to take care of all of the chores around the house for their family. Some families may have maid service come in and do the cleaning. I strongly urge you to hand some responsibility over to your kiddos before they are grown and leave home. Their future spouses will thank you.

I also want my kids to learn how to do stuff for themselves and for the good of others ~ those they live with, for starters. Charity does begin in the home, truly. Children who learn to respect the people they live with and treat them kindly grow up to be kind and thoughtful adults.

Raising kids with the proper attitudes about chores and cash is part of our parental responsibility.

Grab Drive from the library on your next visit, or buy your own copy if you like to highlight and refer back to your highlights later. There’s much to be highlighted!


About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


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