Why Paying Children To Do Chores Undermines Their Intrinsic Motivation

There are healthier alternatives that involve being a true member of the family.

Sean Kernan
6 min readJun 12, 2024
Pexels via Cottonbro Studios

Back in 1998, my family was stationed in Fayetteville, a small city in North Carolina, which earned its nickname “Fayettenam” due to its huge military population.

I’d enrolled in a local private school, where I was one of the only military brats — and often felt out of place. There was a memorable moment after school on the soccer field, as we milled about before practice. The coach was sitting on the ground, fumbling with one of the sprinklers that was leaking as we looked on. The players around me were talking about how much their parents paid them for chores.

“My parents give me $15 to mow the lawn,” one kid said.

“Ah dang, my parents only give me $10,” said another.

Coach Maloney, who was a working class man, scoffed and said, “You guys need to learn how to do real work.”

I said, “Well, if it counts for anything, I mow the lawn or else.”

Coach gave me an uncharacteristic smile and said, “Sean knows what real work is.”

I wasn’t trying to appease him by any means — but it did feel good to be acknowledged. Many of…

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Sean Kernan

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