07/26/2013 03:20 pm ET Updated Sep 25, 2013

Teens' Chores: What Are They Worth?


For Women & Co., by Lisa Kaplan Gordon, As Seen on TV

All year, we give and give and give to our kids. Teens, with their growing sense of independence, are looking for ways to make some money. So, when they help around the house during summer break, should they get paid?

Chores were an unpaid fact of life when I was a kid. But that was then. A recent British survey found that alarmingly few UK teens (arguably not unlike American teens) perform household chores. Most kids age 11 to 16 have never loaded a washing machine, ironed clothes or shopped for groceries; 30% have never cooked a meal. (Insert gasp here!)

Is Paying for Chores a Good Idea?

Some parents pay kids for chores via a weekly allowance, or on a chore-by-chore basis. They reason that adult labor is rewarded with a weekly paycheck, so a child's work should be compensated, too. These wages instill a work ethic and teach money management, a skill we all need to be successful adults.

Other parents gag at the thought of paying their little freeloaders for work that keeps the family afloat. In return for free room and board, not to mention designer jeans and video games, teens are expected to pitch in. When these teens grow up, their roommates or spouses won't pay them for performing their fair share of housework -- a lesson it's best they learn young.

In my house, we pay only for work that goes above and beyond routine chores. When our 17-year-old son vacuums his room, he gets zilch; when he weeds my out-of-control garden, I pay him $5 per bag of green debris.

The NASP Center (National Association of School Psychologists) lists the following as "appropriate chores for teens":

Eating & Food Preparation: planning meals, including budgeting and shopping; cooking/food preparation; setting and clearing the table; serving and clean-up.

House Cleaning: cleaning their own room; other public areas the teen uses, especially the bathroom. This includes straightening up after using the space as well as regular periodic cleaning (dusting, vacuuming, etc.).

Laundry: Sorting for color and cleaning requirements; washing and drying clothes without shrinking them; folding and putting away.

House Maintenance: yardwork; housepainting; simple home maintenance and repair; car maintenance (wash/wax, change tire, change oil and filter).

Making Chores Fun (Yeah, right!)

Paying your child is probably a lot easier than persuading him or her to do a little work around the house. Here are some tips that may help reduce eye-rolling and increase teen compliance.

1. Make a list of must-do chores and let your kids take turns choosing. They'll feel more empowered and invested if they think their chore was their idea.

2. Don't pay too much for above-and-beyond chores. Figure out how much you'd pay an adult for the same work, then apply a hefty family discount.

3. Avoid gender stereotyping: Your son is just as capable of loading a dishwasher as your daughter.

4. Demonstrate -- once! -- how you want the chore done, then lower your expectations. Teen chores aren't about perfection; they're about participation.

5. Set a chore deadline, sometime later than "Now!" Then plan on offering a few friendly reminders.

6. Every worker performs better with praise. When your teen completes the chore, offer kudos for a job well done. He'll appreciate the praise much more than he'll let on.

Women & Co., a service of Citi, is the go-to personal finance source for women. By providing financial content, commentary and community, Women & Co.'s mission is to get women thinking and talking about personal finance. Founded in 2000, Women & Co. is one of the longest running personal finance websites dedicated to helping women strengthen their financial futures.