– Positive reinforcement (i.e., rewards for behaviors you want to see happen again) always goes a long way for developing good habits. It’s important to provide some kind of reinforcement for children doing chores, whether it’s money, a chance to do something fun on the weekend, or a high five or “Nice work on the dishes!”
– Just as positive reinforcement is important, so are consequences for not completing responsibilities. Whether the consequence for not completing chores is not earning money, losing privileges, or being grounded, it is important to be consistent and for both children and parents to be on the same page about what the expectations (and consequences) will be.
– The reward should be proportionate to the chore and age-appropriate. Paying children lots of money for daily tasks is unreasonable, and for most families financially not possible. If you choose to pay children for chores, it should be reasonable for your families finances and the difficulty of the chore.
– The “right” reward varies from family to family, and sometimes from child to child. Some children are very motivated by verbal praise, and it’s enough just to know they have made their parents proud by completing a chore. Other children are more motivated by activities (e.g., earning a chance to ride a bike, play a game, or go to the park), and others are more motivated by money. To maximize the chance your child will do chores with minimal complaining, get your child’s input on what he or she would like to work toward.
– Every family has “house rules” and expectations for responsibilities. Of course, we would like our kids to do everything we want them to do with smiles on their faces, but this doesn’t always happen! If your child is having trouble getting chores done, it might be time to add in a more motivating reward. Or, if you’re adding a new responsibility to the lineup, providing a little incentive might help get the new routine to become a habit; you can always increase expectations to get the reward down the road.
– Bottom line. As one of my college psychology professors liked to say, the answer to almost every question is “it depends”! Ultimately, parents must be in tune to what motivates their child and what the balance of rewards and responsibilities will be for their family.