told to Pamela Gerloff
Should I pay my parents for childcare? Should
I pay my children for doing household chores? How do my
decisions about this affect our family relationships? These
are questions I have yet to fully resolve, but they present
themselves every day.
How might paying family members influence family
relationships? Professor Bernard Lietaer offers some
"We used to live in extended families. In fact, we
can still observe such extended families in southern
Italy and South America, where a familia typically
consists of 70 or 80 people. But, gradually, there
has been a systematic worldwide trend toward replacing
extended families with nuclear families. Why? Part
of the answer, I believe, is that we now have money
exchanges within the extended family. When Granddad
moves in, we expect him to pay for his housing with
his pension. When our children do household chores,
we pay them for their work. Such monetized exchanges
fail to create relationships of reciprocity. The parents
have given their children the gift of life, the gift
of education, and so many other things. If the children
don't have the opportunity to give back to their parents
[by contributing to the family system without expecting
payment in return], they are unable to participate
in an essential aspect of true community."
-Bernard Lietaer, "Creating a Giving Culture: An Interview
with Bernard Lietaer,"
More Than Money,
often help my husband and me take care of our children. Since
I believe people should get paid for a service they're providing
and I can well afford to pay them, I've tried to do so- but
they won't let me. They don't feel it's right to take payments
from us. They feel it's just something you do for your family;
it's part of your responsibility as grandparents.
time I have realized that there are other ways to compensate
my parents besides giving them money. For instance, I bought
them tickets to the U.S. Open. Or, if we go on vacation
together, my husband and I will pick up some of their expenses.
My husband helps them around the house quite a bit and I
do their taxes and give them financial advice when they
want my opinion. I think this arrangement has a positive
effect on our relationship with them. They are extremely
appreciative of the things we do for them, and we are similarly
appreciative of all they do for us. At the end of the day,
no monies are being exchanged directly. It's more an exchange
of our family's values, and that's hard to put a price on.
issue of paying family members for services has also presented
a dilemma for me in terms of paying my children an allowance.
give children an allowance in
exchange for chores; the reason for an allowance, she says,
is to help kids learn how to manage money. This is a concept
I struggle with. When I first started giving my kids a weekly
allowance, it had no connection to their responsibilities
around the house, such as keeping their rooms clean, putting
games away, or taking out garbage. However, when they were
not keeping up with those responsibilities and developed
a sense of entitlement about getting paid, I stopped the
allowances. I want my children to understand that they have
responsibilities as members of our family and that those
responsibilities need to be met without expecting payment.
reflection, I find it interesting that I want to compensate
my parents for their work for the family, yet I believe
that children should learn to give to the family without
expecting monetary reward. And even though my dad won't
accept money from me when he does things for the family,
he pays my children whenever they help him. In fact, he
does that a lot. Just recently, my eldest son, who actually
likes to shovel snow, cleared my parents' walkway. My father
gave him a few bucks. I'm not sure if my son asked for the
money or not, but he had such a sense of pride about earning
paying my parents or my children is ultimately good or bad,
I can't really say. I still wish I could compensate my parents
more-but right now, things seem to be working fine. As for
the children's allowance, we've never revisited the issue
and I haven't figured out the best way to do it. The question
remains: What should we pay for and what should be given
and received just because we're part of a family? And what
messages are we giving our children by the choices we're
making in these areas?
Joline Godfrey is the author of
Raising Financially Fit
(Ten Speed Press, 2005). Her interview with
"Raising Financially Fit Children: Tips
from Joline Godfrey," appeared in Issue 39, 2005,
Money and Children
for Reflection and Conversation
Did you receive an allowance as a child? If so, were
you expected to do anything in exchange for the allowance?
What did you learn from the experience of either having
or not having an allowance?
2. Do your children or other children
you know receive an allowance? What do you imagine
it might be teaching them? How do you think it is
influencing the family's relationships?
3. Do you pay other family members
for doing things for you or your family? How do
you decide when to pay and when not to pay? How
has that affected any of your family relationships?
The author works at a large professional services firm and has
three children, ages nine, eight, and six.
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