Personal responsibility Money for small chores?

Does it make sense to reward our kids for pitching in with the housework? Jacqueline debates with her son, Samir.

The paper for recycling hasn’t been bundled up, the living room hasn’t been tidied and mom and dad have to unload the dishwasher – again. The “family chore chart” only works half of the time, if at all. Would giving the kids a financial incentive solve the problem? We let Jacqueline (graphic designer, 45) and her son (school student, 13) have their say.

 


In some families, kids are paid to help out in the home. But do you really think our house would be tidier if you and your sister were paid for your chores?


Of course! Mom, look, if I could increase my pocket money with two francs for emptying the compost bin or five francs for vacuuming, then we’d both benefit: I would be totally motivated to do my chores and you would save yourself the stress of reminding me to do them all the time. You say yourself that we waste more time talking about them than it’d take for you to do the chores yourself.


Sounds like a good idea (laughs). But there’s one tiny thing you’re forgetting: your dad and I don’t get paid for doing our chores. Every family member has their chores and does their bit at home. That’s how families should be; we help each other out. Or would you be willing to pay us to take you to football practice – out of your pocket money?

 

I get your point, but I don’t mean our daily chores. I mean the bigger jobs like cleaning the windows or mowing the lawn for like 20 francs an hour? After all, I’d be doing it on top of my normal tasks while my sister only does the minimum. 


But for 20 francs per hour, your sister would probably be willing to do the same. So which of you should I give the job to? How about this: we clean the windows together twice a year and I put some money into our family savings jar. Then we can pay ourselves back as a family with a trip to Europa-Park. Deal?

 

To be honest, I’d rather go to Europa-Park with my friends (laughs), but OK, deal. I still think, though, that we would be more willing to help out if we got money in return.


Yes, that's obvious. But what about later on? When you're doing your apprenticeship, you won’t need this extra income from housework anymore. Does that mean you won’t help around the house anymore?  And on top of that, I don’t want our relationship to be based on money. The point is that, at home, we should want to help each other out.

 

 

You always want to have the last word – but I love you anyway.


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Our tips

  • The majority of parents in Switzerland don’t link housework with financial incentives. Yet practically all parents expect their kids to help out around the house to a certain degree. It can make sense to do bigger chores together and to put money into the family savings jar for it.
  • If you really want to have a chore chart, let your kids vote on what they want to do. If everyone agrees with the chart, it's more likely to be a success.
  • Ideally, get the kids involved from an early age. When they're young, kids are more curious and find learning about different chores fun.
  • The fact that teenagers want to work to increase their pocket money or youth wage is a good thing. If your child wants to do this, help them find a suitable job. Young people aged 13 and over are allowed to perform light work for money.

UBS’s educational principles

This article was written in collaboration with educator Marianne Heller, who has years of experience in teaching financial education and debt prevention programs for children and young people.

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