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Talking Cents: Teaching Kids Responsibility and the Value of Hard Work

Too many chores. Too many activities. Not enough time in the day. “Mom, can I have a quarter?” “Dad, can we buy this?” Sound familiar?

Recently, I realized that my kids were perfectly capable of helping out around the house and it was time we started “talking cents” with them. I’m not talking about an allowance for making their beds, keeping their rooms clean, and putting clothes away, which was expected in my house for my 7 and 4-year-old. I am talking about dusting, vacuuming, sweeping, cleaning bathrooms, emptying trash cans…all of the chores that, before now, fell under my list of responsibilities.

There are many different approaches to teaching kids responsibility. My husband and I decided that one way we could do it was to show our kids how they could find opportunities to help around the house and earn “income” that they could use to build a savings account or spend as they choose. It was important to us to help our kids understand that hard work can pay off and realize the value of working together to get something done.

The Plan

  • I used a dry erase board to write their initials each week to keep track of extra chores they completed.
  • My husband and I decided on an amount that was appropriate for their age and complexity of the chores they could complete.
  • At the end of each week, we would help them calculate their income for that week and review all of the things they did to help the family.
  • The 1st and 15th of the month would be their payday.


The chores had to be age-appropriate. For example, my 7-year-old could use the vacuum but it would be too heavy for my 4-year old. I couldn’t give my 4-year-old a bottle of Windex and ask her to clean a mirror, but I could spray it for her or help her spray it and she could wipe it off. Some chores needed assistance depending on the ages of the kids.

Did they do as thorough a job as I would have done? Of course not! But, the point is they are helping, they are learning responsibility, and now whenever they ask me if they can have a quarter for a gumball or buy something in the store I can say, “Sure! Go get your wallet.”

Now that it is their own money they are spending, they will grow a greater appreciation for the value of hard work and learn the concept of “smart spending”.

My 7-year-old is working to earn a new swim bag, my 4-year-old is happy to see her savings grow, and I am ecstatic to have extra hands to help keep our house in order. It is a win, win for all.


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