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Angela Oswalt Morelli , MSW, edited by Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

During middle-childhood, children are increasingly expected and required to complete assignments at school and at home. Teachers expect children to complete age-appropriate homework tasks that reinforce school learning and develop responsibility. Chores accomplish the same goals at home. Giving children age-appropriate tasks is an important way to increase their self-esteem, pride, responsibility, and independence.

As they mature and become more capable, it will make sense for children to take on different chores that require varying levels of maturity to accomplish. At the beginning of middle-childhood, children are generally capable of cleaning their own bedroom or play area by picking up trash, putting away toys and books, and putting dirty clothes in the hamper. By the end of this stage, children may be capable of doing more; make their beds, put away clean laundry, and maybe even vacuuming the rug. Children may also be assigned to dry dishes or to unload the dishwasher, to take out the trash, or to help Dad bring groceries in from the car. Caring for a pet (e.g., walking the dog, filling the water bowl, cleaning up after any accidents, etc.) can help teach children how to care for the needs of another living being.

Allowance and Teaching Children about Money

3D figure shaking piggy bankMany parents choose to provide children an allowance (e.g., a small amount of money) for completing certain chores. Some caregivers give children an automatic allowance they do not have to earn in order to further their learning about how to manage money. Either way, children can benefit from learning how to spend and to save money at a relatively early age. Even if parents cannot afford to give their children a regular allowance, they can still help children learn about spending and saving by modeling appropriate saving behavior and having discussions focused on this topic.

By middle-childhood most children are mature enough to understand basic money concepts. Parents can help children to become more sophisticated and thoughtful about money by introducing them to important money-related concepts such as the importance of saving or banking money, distinguishing between needs and wants, learning budgeting skills, and learning to pay bills responsibly, all of which help children gain perspective on how to use money wisely to accomplish important goals. Many parents and caregivers also are interested in teaching children about the importance of sharing money with valued causes (e.g., charities, religious organizations) in an altruistic or selfless manner so as to support the greater good.

Children are most likely to learn and take to heart these important money-related skills and values when they see their parents actually doing these things rather than just talking about them. Therefore, it is useful if parents can let their children see them paying bills and going to the bank to save money, and setting up and following a budget, rather than hiding these activities from children's view. Parents should also have open and honest conversations with their children about money so that children learn otherwise non-obvious facts such as how the family gets money, and how that money is spent (to provide food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, etc.). By showing children how much work goes into obtaining money, and how much money must be budgeted just to provide for the basics of life, parents can help children to better appreciate the value of money so that they are less likely to waste it on frivolous purchases.

As children remain self-centered at this stage of their lives, it may be hard for them to appreciate what adults go through to provide food and shelter. It may be easier for children to understand if money discussions are put into concrete terms children are more familiar with, such as, for instance, whether it is more important to spend money on a video game or new shoes. The video game is likely to be more fun than new shoes, but the shoes are ultimately more necessary and more basically important than the video game. Parents can assist children in understanding concepts like budgets by helping them to set up their own budget. The cost of shoes and the cost of a video game can be entered into the budget, and children can have a concrete demonstration of how far their money will go.