Chores for kids – Chores wars: Do you pay for chores and good grades?
Can’t motivate your children to make their beds? Are you tempted to just say, “I’ll give you a dollar if you do”? After all, most kids would jump at the chance to get money.
If it works for motivating them to make their bed, what else might money motivate them to do? Make good grades? How about money for sinking a jump shot at their basketball game?
Reward or manipulation?
But ask yourself this: What if they study and study and improve their mark from 68 to 79, but don’t get that A. Ouch. No money for you! That doesn’t seem right, does it? And it sure isn’t motivating. Actually, it feels like punishment and manipulation. Who are they doing all this work for anyway? You? Or themselves?
You’ll really start to see the shortcomings of this system when you ask the kids to please give you a hand bringing the groceries in from the car and they quip, “What will you pay me? After all, you pay me to make my bed, why should I do this work for free. Remember – pay for services.”Ugh!
The next morning you notice their bed is NOT made and so you remind them there is no money if they don’t hustle upstairs and get it done. Instead of springing into action, they continue to slouch on the couch and say, “That’s okay – Grandma gave me $50 for my birthday. I don’t need the money.”
Hey – this isn’t working!
The motivation equation
Motivation has been researched for decades. The most recent review of motivation research is well presented in Daniel Pink’s latest book Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. It’s a fun, easy read if you’re interested, but for now, let me share what Daniel knows to be scientifically true. When we reward children for managing their responsibilities, it hinders their performance of these tasks in the long run. Money as an incentive is actually demotivating.
While motivation has many facets, let me simply say that:
- When we reward for tasks such as these, they will soon be perceived as work instead of pleasure, and lose their desirability.
- Economic rules pertain to economic systems, but they don’t apply to social systems, which is what family and school life is all about .
- We want to motivate our children to be co-operative and helpful for the intrinsic reward of being a good person to others. Motivating kids to “be good” using money sends the message, “I don’t believe you would act properly on your own.” This way, the child can’t even feel good about behaving well, since they now feel they really only did it for greedy purposes.
If we want to truly motivate kids, we have to do so with other parenting techniques – such as communication, support and encouragement for good behavior – rather than simple financial bribery.