Here’s the dirt on paying kids for chores

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Lori Borgman | Monday, March 20, 2017

A lot of depressing press releases fill my inbox, but the one announcing that spring cleaning is around the corner is among the worst. As if the husband writing “Feed Me” in the dust on the coffee table isn’t reminder enough.

This particular press release was littered with awful phrases like “dusting baseboards, washing windows, cleaning behind and under appliances, vacuuming air vents, freshening up the yard.”  Who are these people?

And then I saw something intriguing. “These people” was a man by the name of Gregg Murset who advocates children help do chores, especially spring cleaning. Murset references the claim that science shows children who do chores are more likely to be successful at, well, pretty much everything.

Being that this was a man after my own heart, I picked up the phone and called him.

“Gregg, does science say anything about men doing chores?”

“Hmmm,” he said. “Science says we’re supposed to do more than we do.”

Smart guy. We had a connection. Sure, it was a connection born of furniture polish, brooms and toilet cleaners, but it was a connection.

“Are you a pretty helpful guy around the house?” I asked.

“I’m a breakfast guy. I mix it up; we never have cold cereal. I do French toast, eggs, bacon, pancakes, waffles, cream of rice and—what’s the other one?”

“Wheat.”

“Yeah, cream of wheat.”

The man has serious cred – and a wife and six kids.

“Let me get to the heart of things, Gregg. Do you find a lot of men are afraid of vacuum cleaners?”

“Yes, and they’re stupid. The best way to make your wife happy is to vacuum.”

I agreed. But then we disagreed. It’s a disagreement parents have had for ages – paying kids for chores or not paying kids for chores.

Murset believes you should pay kids for doing chores, while I am of the “I’ll Pay Kids for Chores When I See a Twenty Dollar Bill at the Bottom of the Ironing Basket” school.

He said he understood the school I was coming from (and graduated from), but thinks paying kids for chores motivates them, instills a work ethic and is a great way to teach about money and investing. He’s even developed Busykid, an online system that helps families chart chores and sends parents a text reminding them it’s time to transfer money from their account into the kids’ accounts.

When our son turned 18, he had nearly 30 lawn-mowing clients and knew the money in his bank account would soon flow to our bank account to help pay for college. Same transfer of money, different directions.

Yet, Murset’s system works, too. When one of his sons turned 18 and was asked what he wanted for his birthday, he said an IRA. I am warming to Murset’s school of thought. It has possibilities we may have missed.

He also suggests that after kids have reached a work or savings goal, the family should have a celebratory meal. Good idea, but one more question — who’s on cleanup?