Question: A parenting group I’m in just finished with Chapter 7 of Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp, which is titled "Discarding Unbiblical Methods." I'm not exactly sure how we got on the topic, but chores and earning money for chores came up. I think we were talking about bribery and rewarding good behavior, and not getting stuck in the rut as the "name in the jar" example (page 64) and we were sharing examples of things and this topic came up.
One mommy has three jars: one for spending, one for giving, and one for saving. Her daughter is only three, but she has specific chores that she is to do each week and then they give her money for each jar so she can learn the responsibility and the importance of giving and saving, etc.
Another mommy gives money if there is something in particular that her 6-year-old wants but needs to earn. Her example was a stuffed animal at the grocery store that the little girl wanted and mommy said no, but maybe she could earn it. So she was given specific chores to do to earn the stuffed animal.
Someone also questioned whether it's beneficial to use a chore chart to hang on the frig so the child can see what their regular chores are. Then we questioned whether they should get paid for those chores or not.
My personal input was that there are certain chores that are to be done in our home that will not ever be paid for as they need to help contribute to the running of our home. I actually liked the idea from the mommy that gave extra chores to "earn" something the child wanted. And I also really liked the idea of the three jars for them to learn the value of money, but I am also very concerned that our children will fall into that mode of being self-serving, and they won't do the "extra" chores unless it benefits them.
So ultimately, we are not sure what the right approach is to this situation and would gladly welcome your input.
By the way, the oldest of our children in this group is six.
I’m not sure what the ‘right’ approach to the situation is, as I don’t see this as a right and wrong issue. However, I can tell you what we do.
Our kids do lots of chores—lots and lots of chores. Even a six-year-old can help with laundry, do dishes, sweep, pick-up, and contribute in many ways. In our family there is much to do of each of those chores, and practically speaking, we cannot afford to hire our kids to help in these ways. Not only that, but tracking and managing who did what for what sounds like a nightmare. So in our house chores are just part of being in our family. If a six-year-old wants a dollar she needs to lose a tooth and hope the tooth fairy remembers to put a little something under the pillow. (She seems to be getting forgetful in her old age.)
At such young ages we are not concerned at all about teaching our kids the value of money. We give them what they need and grandmas give them what they want, and there just doesn’t seem to be much use for money for our young ones.
As our kids get to be eight or nine, they might earn a few bucks here and there by doing something above and beyond the call of duty, but we never give them anything for chores.
So that’s the practice of our family. Much of that is driven by practicality in our home, but here are some biblical guidelines you may want to consider.
Rewards are okay. God uses rewards all the time to motivate us. Consider the following verse as just one clear example.
Matthew 6:19-20 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (NIV)
I think God uses rewards with us because they work so well as motivators. However, we do need to be careful about over-using rewards. On the page you referred to, Tedd Tripp (I wonder if his middle name is Tomm) gave the example of a family that over-used rewards. Then he asked how it worked, and answered his own question saying, “Great. It was an effective tool for teaching the children. It taught them to be selfish. It taught them to do things for improper motives. It taught them how to earn parental approbation and therefore, a name in the jar…” Obviously, that is not the impact we want from using rewards.
We also need to consider that children need to obey their parents (Colossians 3:20). I do not want to wheel and deal with my kids whenever I ask them to do something. I just want them to obey. I never want to hear, “How much will you give me for it?” I just want them to obey. I don’t want to have to bribe them; I just want them to obey. Simply put, that is what God has called them to do.
Ultimately the question is not whether or not I should give a quarter here or a quarter there, but the question is whether a child is motivated to do right, or if a child is motivated just to get a Smartie (one of our rewards of choice). There are many times in life that our deeds will go unnoticed and unrewarded. A child who only performs for a reward is not going to be very well positioned for real life, but a child who chooses right because it is right is in a good place.
I think you could take it a step further and say that we choose right when we look to God as an ever present observer and rewarder. He will reward our faith (Hebrews 11:6) and our labors (1 Corinthians 3:8). He will reward us for whatever good we do (Ephesians 6:8), and even for the good things we do that no one else sees (Matthew 6:1-8). We are extremely motivated by rewards, and one could even question if there is anything at all that we do that is not somehow associated with a belief that we will be rewarded in some way for it. It is not wrong for our kids to be motivated by rewards; it is wrong if that is their only motivation, and it is wrong if they do not look to God as the ultimate rewarder.
So in short, make sure you develop a spirit of helpfulness and obedience in your child. It’s perfectly fine to bless your child here and there with a reward, but don’t over do it. Make sure she does chores because that is the right thing for her to do, and not just because she is looking for some sort of earthly payback.
A little parenting tip (for no extra charge): When you can’t find your car keys, glasses, or check book, just gather the kids and say, “The first one to find my car keys gets a quarter.” It works like a charm every time, and as a way of earning a little spending money it’s much less painful than losing a tooth.