Can’t Buy Me Love? Not For Chores Anyway.

by | Jan 25, 2013 | Parenting, Parenting Advice | 10 comments


This post is fourth in a series on chores for kids . . . see also here and here and here.

So, if we don’t usually do chore charts, how do chores get done around here?  The answer is: they get done FIRST THING IN THE MORNING.  We get up, we do chores.  Sometimes before breakfast, sometimes right after breakfast.


Anita (3) puts away shoes,
and unloads clean silverware.
Gus (5) empties all the little trash cans
in the house into the kitchen trashcan.
Bobby (7) unloads the dishwasher.
Betty (8) takes out the trash and recycling,
sorts the recyclables,
tidies up the girls’ room,
and gets out clothes for the girls.
Jack (10) feeds and waters the chickens,
brings in the eggs
(we are attempting some suburban pioneering,
more on that another time),
tidies up the boys’ room,
and gets out clothes for the boys.

Each kid is also supposed to make his own bed, put his pajamas away, and clear his breakfast dishes.  The rest of the day, I assign chores as they come up.  If I see you, you’re probably getting a chore. This has the added bonus of making them want to stay outside, out of sight.  And, honestly, if there are no kids underfoot, I’m pretty likely to just do whatever it was myself.

Setting the table, running the stick vac, taking a dirty diaper to the stinky diaper can, cleaning up a particular area, getting little ones ready for naps or buckled into the car . . . all of these are assigned on an ad hoc basis to the nearest kid.  I do try to be fair.  But no complaining is tolerated.  The only acceptable response is, “O-kay Mama.”

For our big afternoon cleanup before dinner, everyone gets an assignment and we all tidy at once.  Usually to the tune of Irish folk music.  Or Gene Autry.

Snow White was right: “It won’t take long if there’s a song to help you set the pace.”  But also, bunnies do her dishes.  So that saves some time too.   

We do try to have fun.  And setting an example of chore-doing myself helps avoid resentment.  But we don’t give kids any kind of reward for the accomplishment of everyday chores, nor do we give our kids an allowance.  We do sometimes pay our kids for non-essential bigger tasks like washing the car or major yard work.  I also think compensation is appropriate for babysitting siblings, especially to underscore the importance of the job.  I am all for kids’ learning to handle money.  But I am against just giving it to them to accomplish that purpose.  

When Jack was six years old, we asked him to bring in the empty curbside trash cans of our elderly neighbor (since he was already out there doing ours).  She insisted on giving him a dollar for his trouble, and since then he has grown his little business, until now he has seven customers and probably makes $10 a week since some of his customers believe a 100% tip is appropriate.

This is his flyer:

Betty, who is in charge of sorting the recycling each day, gets to go with dad to the recycling center and turn it all in.  And she gets to keep the money they make.  

It’s harder than it used to be for a kid to find a job (I’m pretty sure paper boys and match girls don’t exist anymore, at least not in the greater Los Angeles area) but our kids have managed to find a way to make some money on their own, so they can now commence learning to be responsible with it.  Or just keep buying LEGOs.  One of the two.


  1. Sarah Marie

    such a great series of posts! I'm the oldest of five and didn't an allowance or adulation for everyday chores, either. my dad would tell us "keeping our home clean is part of being in a family! we all work together." period.

    question: you mention that complaining isn't tolerated, only a simple "okay mama". what would your response be to a kid who backtalks or *does* complain/sulk? I'm a former sassy kid and fear the day when my kids turn lip to me…. hahaha. I'm only pregnant with my first but I'm already stockpiling parental wisdom like it's going out of style.


    • Kendra Tierney

      That is an important question Sarah, and, as you might have guessed, I have a technique for it. I call it parenting with authority and I think it's going to need a whole post, so check back for that in a week or so. And I'm doing a post Monday on baby gear, that you might find useful!

  2. Kris

    I thought I would chime in on chores…. we have 5 kids (one grown and out of the house and 4 at home). They all had/have chores. We have basic daily ones like making your bed, keeping your room clean, etc. And each child has weekly chores. They all clean a bathroom once a week. One handles the recycling, one does the common area vaccuuming, one dusts, etc. The big boys take care of the lawn mowing. We do give a small, monthly allowance to each of them but not tied to chores. It's a minimal amount, out of which they have to tithe, and save for "big" purchases. My older ones have also managed to find jobs here and there – one was a soccer referee, they have worked the snack bar at our pool, they have put out flyers to rake leaves, one babysits, etc. The older ones have all learned the value of saving, and my 16 year old just bought his first car, after saving since he was 11. He pays all his expenses for the car, including his car insurance.

    • Kendra Tierney

      We've been doing that too, 10% off the top, then half goes off to uncle Bill to be invested then half gets spent on ice cream and toys. I'm not sure how I feel about their spending lately. Just because they earned it doesn't mean they should get to waste it! I LOVE that your son bought his own car. That's inspirational.

    • Kris

      Yes – for me, too! I do try and moderate their spending a little, and encourage saving. They aren't allowed (especially the younger ones) to buy "whatever" they want. It has to be something worthwhile, like a new lego set or a special game or something like that. We're trying to work on the whole "delayed gratification" virtue!

  3. Monica @ Equipping Catholic Families

    I love the Trash Can Jack flyer! It's so great to see little entrepreneurs! $10/week is pretty good! My 11 year old son makes a little more than that…to collate and deliver 72 newspapers, 2x a week! =)

  4. Kendra Tierney

    You guys still have paper boys?! Hooray for Canada! We get our papers winged out a car window at us. (sigh)

  5. kellyduffy532

    I sent a message not sure what happened, did you get it? About how I was goggling clip art for a visual chore chart and Betty's pic came up?

  6. April

    Great article, thank you! We are working on chores with our five under five and it is tough, but a worthwhile endeavor!

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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