“Stop giving me money! You are not helping me become financially responsible. Give me work instead to earn money!”

Last August, when I was teaching financial literacy class at the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) Annual Youth Academy in Long Beach, California, this was what I asked all my students to say to their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles when they went back home that afternoon. At first they were shocked at the idea of not getting free money anymore, but later, many of them were excited about working hard to earn their own money and feel proud of it.

Money is earned, not given

Parents know that most people have to work to earn money, but many kids don’t understand this basic reality – largely because things have been simply handed to them by their parents or other family members. These kids take things for granted and make entitled demands.

The most common cause of childhood entitlement is the lack of education surrounding money, and parents of every income bracket are guilty of this. They give their children money without making them work for it, and the children spend it (almost immediately!) without any understanding of where it came from, what it took to get it, and how to use it properly. In doing so, they can become money monsters.

Some parents are afraid of the idea of having their children work hard; they treat their children like delicate flowers in a greenhouse, or even worse, put them on a pedestal and almost worship them. It’s no wonder those children never grow up to be responsible men and women – they never learn how to. It’s time to teach your children about this important money principle: “No work, no money!”

Give your children age-appropriate chores and rewards

There are many things that your children, young or old, can do to earn money either in or outside the house. Be creative and work together to come up with a list of achievable goals. This will set your kids up to accomplish what you need them to and they’ll feel proud of their own efforts.

Then reward their work. When we reward small accomplishments or actions, it drives kids to do even more – to set bigger goals.

If this is your first time implementing this kind of concept with your young children, maybe you have to begin with just a couple of chores. Make the reward small but inspiring. As the days or weeks go by and your kids get better at doing this, gradually increase what they need to get done so they can earn more. Later, when they’re older or just wanting to earn more money, you can add more chores that they can do in the morning or after school.

Chores you can let your kids do to earn money right away:

  • Emptying the trash
  • Sweeping, vacuuming, mopping the floor
  • Dusting
  • Putting toys and books away
  • Bringing in the mail
  • Watering plants and flowers
  • Raking leaves
  • Dishwashing
  • Sorting laundry
  • Setting the table
  • Pet walking
  • Washing the car
  • Babysitting 

Be consistent with your reward system

It’s very important that you use the reward system all the time. I’ve created a simple reward system chart that you can start using for your little children (download it for free from my website.

Put the chart in the place that gets the most traffic in your home. In ours, that’s the dining room area, where we gather to eat, do homework, and have family meetings. Having the chart in this room means that everybody can see it all the time, and it reinforces their progress. Kids begin to feel good about watching the chart fill up with check-off times, signatures, and the chores they accomplish every week.

In life, we usually start small to win big. We begin at the beginner’s level to become masters of our goals, our values, our finances, and our lives. Learning at a young age that effort produces rewards teaches us to become responsible with our time, energy, and money management to become money masters.