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February 26, 2008


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Having kids EARN their pocket money is a great idea! As a matter of personal preference, I would prefer NOT to pay my children to learn.

Whether you pay them to work, pay them to read/learn, or just give a hand-out, what IS important is how they deal with that money.

For example: we give each child TWICE their age in pocket money every month (others do once their age a week), but they must SAVE half (not for cars, toys, or anything else ... JUST for future investments) and we encourage them to SPEND the other half (saving it up until they have enough for the 'good stuff'). Loose change is thrown in a bucket by all for CHARITY ...

So far, my 13 y.o. son who supplements his 'income' with an e-Bay business (the spend half / save half policy also applies to his e-Bay profits AFTER funding inventory) has bought himself an iPod touch, an Apple Mac, AND an IBM laptop - all this year (he has invested his entire savings in my Scottrade account ... he accounts for 0.001% of my protfolio from memory).

Great post ... thanks!

If I paid my first grade twins to read books, I'd be broke!

Good idea, about 10 years ago before the Internet made it easy to read a well written, thorough summary of just about any book written, especially the classics. I think a better approach is to encourage a love of reading from a young age.


I'm not a fan...I think that if you tie a tangible reward to the action, the kids learn to do it for the reward, and then diminishing returns set in, and it can turn learning into another chore. The kid ends up thinking "it's not worth it", just like anyone does when wondering if the money's enough to justify working at something they dislike.

I think that kids go through phases in their reading: they might want to read everything about a particular topic, or by an author they really like, and that's not a bad thing. The key is to get them to enjoy reading just for reading's sake.

To get them to read things that are more difficult, it can be helpful to find books that are well-written and geared to your child's age range. Sometimes kids get intimidated by the size of the book, or think they won't be interested because it's a different topic than what they're into. So sometimes it takes a little bit of a "sell" to make the topic interesting or less intimidating. A children's librarian, another parent, or a person who sells books can give you some excellent suggestions. It also helps to read the books your kid is reading, or even take turns reading to each other.

I probably wouldn't do this for young kids (under 12 or so) - would rather have them learn to enjoy reading without the incentive. However, my parents used to pay us when we were teenagers if we read certain books and wrote reports on them. They chose the books and they were mostly self-help type (Dale Carnegie and some money management books as well). It exposed us to some great concepts on how to deal with people, money etc. early in our lives.

I'll agree with the people who say that the idea of paying children to read doesn't sound like a good plan. You run the risk that as soon as you stop paying, they'll stop reading. Reading should never be a job or a chore. It should be fun.

However I've always liked the idea of paying for "extra" chores. There is a list of chores you are expected to do as a member of the family, and then there is a second list of chores that the child can choose to take on. Depending on age, this can be things like washing the car, doing laundry, or other such things. Things that free up time for you (ie you are paying them for a service). This way the family chores teach responsibility while the extra chores help them associate hard work with reward.

Wow, this is an awesome idea!

I only wish I had heard when my youngest was younger. He's the only one that doesn't read.

Interesting... A great idea until the kids break out their Spark notes before the parental review session! :-)

One point that covers both the ideas in this post (paying to read and not paying for chores): Never pay for a behavior that you wish to develop because one day you'll stop paying for it. And they'll stop doing it.

It's ironic that the original idea came from a person who wouldn't pay for chores but would pay for reading. Just what behavior is he trying to instill?

It seems that the one thing we ought to do as parents is provide consistency for our children (i.e., play the game by the same rules each and every time). Want a behavior? Provide the proper incentive.

I agree that one should not pay for chores because they are things that have to be done. Reading should be thought of in the same way. You have to read. We've been reading to our two year old and 5 month old from day one. Whether they grow to be avid readers remains to be seen.

However, we don't put a carrot in front of them, only to take it away at some other time. Reading should be fun and it should be something they want to do regardless of a monetary payoff.

Teach your kids to enjoy whatever it is they're doing. Don't teach them that they have to be paid to do anything.

Finally, give kids an allowance but don't make it contingent upon any "work" they have to do. Teach them that "work" is fun and maybe they won't ever have a job, but rather they'll do what they love. The money will follow.

As an teacher at the elementary level I have to say "Don't do it!" Providing external motivation for something that is already enjoyable and thus a source of intrinsic motivation is the fastest way to destroy intrinsic motivation. If you do this your children will begin choosing books based on how long they will take to read, how easily they can convince you that they read them carefully, etc rather than choosing a book they enjoy or find interesting. This is the big problem that we have with programs like Accelerated Reader and Book-It (a program where kids earn pizzas for reading books). If your children dislike reading, then rewarding them to read can work as last resort. However, if reading is something they enjoy at all, I would definitely advise against doing this.

Having recently read several books on motivation and the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, I would not pay my children to read. I love to read but if someone was paying me by the book I'd be too stressed out to read them for fun. I'd be trying to get the money, especially if that was the only way for me to make money. In our family everyone gets an allowance, just a little bit of spending money every two weeks to do with what we want. My kids are 7, 2, and 7 months so this really only applies to my husband, myself and my oldest. The way we figured out what his allowance should be was by adding up all the extras we were already buying him each month. Sometimes we gave him a dollar for video games at a pizza place, a toy at the dollar store, or even a frozen yogurt while we were out. Since he's pretty young it only worked out to about $10 a month and we give him $5 every two weeks. Once his money is gone, that's it until the next payday but it's his to do with what he wants. Sometimes he saves it, sometimes he gives it to his sister, and sometimes he blows it immediately. We put some limits on what he can spend it on though, no junk food and no soda. I'm considering offering to match 100% whatever he decides to put into savings as an incentive to get him to save more. Now if we are going somewhere and the whole family is going to get something like a souvenir or a treat then that comes out of a family budget but anything above and beyond has to come from our allowance money.

I am not so sure of this idea.

Our school system teaches our National language, and standards of English have really gone down.

I have an arrangement with the children where they write 2 or 3 pages from an English book and then read it to me. So far, so good. I am giving the elder children a motivational book, whilst the youngest reads / writes from Enid Blyton.

The issue of being paid for this duty has not been raised.

But one of the children asked for an increase in allowance and I have told her she can do additional chores. And she did and got paid some money.

I will have to disagree with this move as well. I am not a fan of allowances either based on number one from John Maxwell's points.

Money earned by children should fall in line with how it will be in real life. There should be some labor involved that places a value on the dollar above and beyond normal household chores. In some homes this might be something like washing mom's car when it is not a normal chore. Kids need to learn that money does not grow on trees. They should also not be rewarded for something that they are going to be required to do with or without the money incentive.

I agree with a lot of the comments that the kids might stop reading when you stop paying. But I think that's only true if you pay a lot per book, say $10.

If you only pay $1 per book, it seems less likely they'd read just for the money. The dollar is just greasing the wheels.

It's funny you are thinking about allowance. I was thinking about it the other day. A friend told me about a family that pays allowance for chores, but with a twist: the kids bid on the chores. It's capitalism for housework.

Maybe instead of an allowance say you will purchase them a book a month as long as every 4th book is something that you wish for him to read.

I loved reading as a kid and read voraciously. My parents would never have paid me to read. But my sister was dyslexic and I think they did give her incentives to read - not sure if they actually paid her. She also became an avid reader as a result of their efforts. I guess what I'm saying is it's not a one size fits all type of issue. It might work for some kids, but for others it could actually be counterproductive. when I went to college and reading became more like "work" than "fun," I started to hate reading. It took me years after college to regain my joy of reading just for its own sake - and not for a predetermined goal. I think if I had been paid to read as a child, I would have been motivated to read primarily for the payoff rather than for pleasure.

I loved reading as a kid and read voraciously. My parents would never have paid me to read. But my sister was dyslexic and I think they did give her incentives to read - not sure if they actually paid her. She also became an avid reader as a result of their efforts. I guess what I'm saying is it's not a one size fits all type of issue. It might work for some kids, but for others it could actually be counterproductive. when I went to college and reading became more like "work" than "fun," I started to hate reading. It took me years after college to regain my joy of reading just for its own sake - and not for a predetermined goal. I think if I had been paid to read as a child, I would have been motivated to read primarily for the payoff rather than for pleasure.

I have a very unique system that I want to share for all who are looking for an allowance idea. I was not born in the US and had no allowance system in my childhood, so I was thinking about making a system with a clean fresh slate! You'll see!

My idea of allowance for the 1st 10 years of my kids being born was to give them what they wanted, if the need was identified. This had many disadvantages so I abandoned the idea one day. I invented a new one, and you will know why I say, I invented it:

1. Give the kids $5 (that's my number) per week regardless of what happens.

2. Make a note of all the activities that they need to do during the week and it could change with seasons or years. Those are the duties of the house (more later)

3. As they do not perform some of those duties, we cut 25c off for small items and 50c for other items.

4. What this does is that it is motivational since they have the $5, and now they are paying back for not doing certain things.

5. On the top of the payback, they still have to perform that activity, and still have their 25c cut.

6. My kids LATCHED ON to this idea in a HUGE way. Their rooms are 90% more clean than it used to be. They help with cutting grass, cleaning snow, vacuuming the house, helping with the dishes etc.

7. Duties: I define whatever is the right thing to do in the house that LIFE THROWS AT A FAMILY, and those items are game to be listed on the refrigerator. It is a spreadsheet that we have made 50 copies, and we put up that spreadsheet on Sun for each child. As they do not do activities, they see 25c cut + the date + the activity. I have 22 activities listed there, and when they do the math at the end of the week, their behaviour changed.

8. Pysch behind this is the "IT WAS THEIR MONEY" and they had to pay-back. This is a HUGE DIFFERENCE. In addition, remember, they will never say "Pay me 50c and I will put the garbage out", since I can change the activity listing at anytime.

9. Reality is that the activity list is so good, that I have not had to change it. And, there are some general items in there like the "Project Of The Month", which could be bringing mulch and putting it in the garden, or, Cleaning the garage inside out.

10. This is NOT a task master listing, but it is motivational since they now realize and learn that 'life will bring these things into their lives at some point in time'. And, I bring those things up as they move into their teen years.

No matter what you may or may not pay your child an allowance for, what is most important is how they manage that money. Teaching your child financial responsibility is a stepping-stone to a healthy debt-free life once they are old enough to begin earning their own credit. One way to teach them is by using a reloadable prepaid card like the UPside Visa card. Unlike a debit card from your bank (which many allow overdrafts, teaching your kids that overspending is ok), you are only able to spend what you put on the card. You are able to fund the card periodically or automatically with allowance schedules, from family, friends and employers. And with multiple plans to choose from, you can find a card that fits you and/or your family's lifestyle, as you can get the card for yourself or one for family members that are either already in need of debt-help or you would like to teach healthy financial living to, like your kids (as young as 13 years of age).

I don't think you should directly pay kids to read; it sends the message that reading is like a chore or job--something you would/should only do for a certain (and high enough) reward. Reading is a habit that will stick forever once developed; you don't need to pay them.

Both my parents loved to read, and I learned by their example to love reading. My father used to take me to the bookstore every time we were in town, on Sundays after church. He was a very frugal man, but he never denied my request for a new book. Rather than paying them to read, I'd suggest a slightly different tactic; buy them books. Kids are consumers too--if you put them in the right environment (bookstores, libraries, snuggled in bed with you and a good book), they'll dive right in.

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