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Should your kids be completing chores? If so, how many? Should they get paid pocket money?

I do a lot of parent presentations and this is often a great topic of discussion between parents. For me, it really highlights the fact that there are a lot of different ways to parent, and one is not necessarily more right than the other. One of the things I’m always interested in helping parents with, is understanding the mechanisms behind a thing, so that way they can use it more consciously.

What I mean by this, is that there is nothing inherently powerful or magical about chores. But the WHY of doing chores – that’s where the magic is. There are certainly a number of parents I’ve worked with who don’t give their children chores (be they kids or teens) – they probably aren’t going to find this blog very interesting!

For those who do, or perhaps are thinking about it, below are some things to consider:

• What is the WHY for completing chores in your house? Is it about taking responsibility, contributing to community, doing your share, being helpful. Whatever it is, make sure that is the main thing you want to communicate. One of the biggest fights I have had with my best mate (who share-housed with me for a few years), was over doing the dishes. We weren’t fighting about the dishes. It was about doing your share and respecting other people’s time

• How many things should they do? Who knows! But maybe more importantly, who cares about the ‘right’ answer? If you can get your young child doing one task, that’s great. Build it up over time. If you are starting with your teenager, they might be quite capable of being asked to do a few things

• What are the biggest barriers to your child completing chores? Probably you. In a series of presentations I used to do, we asked parents how comfortable they were with waiting for their child to complete the chore before they did it. Reliably, it was the case that most parents couldn’t tolerate waiting for their child to complete the task and so did it for them (see previous post about shortening the timeline of issue and intervention – you have just trained them to know that you will do it in the end). So pick a task you can tolerate being undone for a bit, and commit to that being their responsibility

• How will you set up the discussion about doing chores? What are the rewards and what are the consequences for their completion or lack thereof? How will you monitor this completion?

• Should they get paid pocket money? This really comes down to a family-values thing. There are pros and cons either way. One thing I would suggest is making sure the money isn’t the WHY of completing the chores.

A bit like the scaffolding post previously, over time, you might want to phase out the monitoring and the rewards for doing chores they are capable of doing, and which you now expect them to do. And perhaps look at adding some additional tasks in that can benefit from those structures

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At ConnectEd Counselling and Consultancy, we believe that all families, and the communities they belong to, benefit from a little extra care and support. Whether the problems are big or small, we want to make sure everyone has the chance to feel connected – to themselves, to others and to their community. We offer counselling services to young people and families and have immediate availability. If you need some support, get in touch here:

(Written by: Dr Matt O’Connor)

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