There is no such thing as a free lunch in the Beck household.
Belinda Beck’s children each receive $20 a week, which they are free to spend.
“They all have to put a basket of clothes away once a week,” Ms Beck said. “They all have to clean their rooms once a week.”
But Kate Huppatz, a lecturer in sociology at Western Sydney University, said the expectation that children should receive money for chores socialises them to see activities and co-operation as having monetary value.
“There is therefore a danger that it encourages children to reduce everything to an exchange value,” she said.
However, Dr Huppatz began paying her children $5 a week for chores when they expressed an interest in buying certain items and saving money for an overseas trip.
“We thought it might teach them about the importance of working, saving and appreciating their purchases,” she said. “We realised pretty quickly that we needed to remind them that even though they are paid for certain chores they still need to contribute to the running of the household in other ways and without payment.”
Dr Huppatz’s comments echo the argument made by Heather Beth Johnson, a sociologist from Lehigh University in the United States, who said paying for chores may encourage a sense of entitlement among kids.
A 2001 study of children’s attitude to household work found teenagers in the United States, Australia and Sweden were more likely to expect payment for household chores compared with adolescents in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Hungary.
A survey conducted by pocket money app Rooster Money found the top-paid chores for children were washing the car ($5.55) followed by vacuuming ($3.26), gardening ($3.03) and mopping the floor ($2.86).
But Ms Beck said household chores encouraged a work ethic in her children as well as teaching them the value of money: “I think it’s nicer as a family for them to understand that all this stuff isn’t done for them.”
Cameron, 14, prepares and cooks vegetables for family meals twice a week, while his younger brother Indy, 11, is in charge of barbecuing meat “because he does quite a nice steak,” Ms Beck said.
Eight in 10 Australians said children should do chores to earn pocket money, according to the 50 Years of Pocket Money report. In comparison, about two out of three adults said they had to do chores to earn pocket money growing up.
In contrast, only 56 per cent of parents in the United States required children to do chores, according to theNew York Times, even though the vast majority said they believed regular chores made kids “more responsible” and 63 per cent said chores taught children “important life lessons”.
David Lancy, a former professor of anthropology at Utah State University, suggested American parents rebuff children’s early efforts to assist with household chores, which extinguishes their kids’ “helping instinct”.
“It is important to note that this is a white, middle-class issue,” she said. “The white middle-classes have the resources to both invest in [extracurricular activities] and to remunerate children for chores.”
Terry Bowles, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Melbourne, said paying for chores may offer children a sense of independence “but it may not be ideal for helping people identify how they can contribute generously to the group they are working with”.
“It is possible some families emphasise money and don’t emphasise personal contribution sufficiently,” he added.
Professor Bowles also pointed out some chores performed in the past no longer exist because of technology, outsourcing of household tasks or because families have fewer children.
“If there are one or two kids in a family with helicopter parents, everything is pretty much done and there’s no one to do things for,” he said.
Ms Beck said she had more chores to do when she was growing up because her mother worked full-time.
“Mum stopped making lunch by the time I was in year 4,” she said. “By year 6 I was washing and ironing clothes. Then in high school I was paid to do the housework and cook dinner once a week.”
She said her children sometimes grumbled about unpacking the dishwasher and cleaning their rooms.