Dr. Laura Jana, chores and self esteem, chores and allowance

Why Chores Build Self Esteem

The Importance of Chores for Kids

If students learn that they can make their own socks (grow their own food, build their own computers, etc.), they also have learned that there isn’t much that they cannot do. In learning of this kind, students self-produce self-esteem.

In an article in the Huffington Post, a medical anthropologist studies the Waldorf System. It wasn’t like he wasn’t prepared: “If you’ve heard anything about Waldorf schools, it might be that Waldorf students play outside a lot even in the rain, or that classrooms have chalk boards still, and hardly any computers. You may know, too, that academic lessons don’t start until children are seven. I knew all that when my study began. What shocked me instead was a palpable lack of recognizable ‘positive reinforcement.’ It surprised me not to hear the teachers say ‘good job.'”

One task 5th graders are given is, as a team of two students, to knit a pair of socks. Not an easy task! “The main point is not learning to knit per se, but the sense of accomplishment that comes with it. If students learn that they can make their own socks (grow their own food, build their own computers, etc.), they also have learned that there isn’t much that they cannot do. In learning of this kind, students self-produce self-esteem.”

We don’t have a Waldorf school near me, but I started thinking that doing chores can provide the same skills that build self-esteem, not to mention help out with the crush of housework that is overwhelming for just me and my husband. At BlogHer, I was fortunate to meet with Dr. Laura Jana at the Lysol booth, and she preaches the same gospel.

It happened for her when her sons started to expect their cleaning lady to clean up their messes. This expectation that “cleaning is what others do for me” really bothered Dr. Jana so she implemented some changes:

  • Money needs to have value. She no longer buys her kids what they want. She buys basics but if her kids want, say, a fancier sneaker, they must pay the difference. Her kids also are expected to pay for their own entertainment like going to the movies.
  • She pays allowance for chores. Using the cost of a cleaning person as a rubric, she pays $25-30/week for each child who contributes 2-3 hours of cleaning each week.
  • She taught each child very systematically how to do their cleaning job. One son is responsible for cleaning the kitchen including loading and unloading the dishwasher and cleaning the counters and floors. She demonstrated how to clean the counter items to the island, and then wipe down the counter.

And does she think that chores build self-esteem? Absolutely. It pays other dividends like personal finance, time management, and life skills for living independently.

As for me, I am slowly training my kids on doing chores. We started about six months ago with just one task per child. They get paid for doing their chores in the form of allowance. I pay by their age. $1/year. My 12-year-old makes $12 when she does her chores which currently consist of just loading the dishwasher each night. I unload it for her. I have added in laundry  (sort, wash, dry but not fold) recently thinking that she would have to do her own laundry at sleep away camp which turned out not to be necessary.. She is also expected to put her clean and folded clothes away in her room, bring her dirty dishes to the sink and clean her room.

My 10-year-old makes $10 a week and puts away the leftover food after dinner.  We also taught her to do laundry. She is also expected to put her clean and folded clothes away in her room, bring her dirty dishes to the sink and clean her room.

My 7-year-old son feeds the dog twice a day and picks up the TV room. He has the same expectation, uncompensated, to put away his clothes, clear his dishes, and tidy his room.

Our recent conundrums are:

  • Do you get a raise if you now have to do more chores? Answer: No.
  • What does the kid pay for versus the parent? Their allowance is small to expect them to pay for upgrades and still have money to save or donate. I don’t want them to think money is just to be spent. Answer: So far, I pay for style upgrades but I grumble about it.
  • If you have to remind constantly (i.e. nag), does doing the work still count? Answer: Yes.

What about you? Do you pay allowance? Is it tied to chores? What are your kids’ chores?

p.s. Here are some great books by Dr. Laura Jana for kids and parents!

It’s You and Me Against the Pee … and the Poop Too! by Julia Cook and Dr. Laura Jana, illustrated by Anita DuFalla

Another take on potty training, especially for boys, is to make this into a competitive potty game pitting the young potty trainer against the pee and the poo! My son, even after potty trained for years, would still sometimes poop in his pants when he was deeply preoccupied with playing. Competitive games just somehow appeal more to boys than girls. The idea of pee and poo tricking the young potty trainer is also a clever way of making failure not something to feel badly about. Most potty training books books stress listening to your body with lots of unproductive sitting around. I like this more active take on potty training.

Melvin the Magnificent Molar by Julia Cook and Dr. Jana, illustrated by Allison Valentine

It’s true that the baby molars stay in kids’ mouths longest, yet are the hardest to keep clean and this story gives the molar the starring role it deserves! I also like how the dental instruments are introduced with kid-friendly descriptions that our pediatric dentist also uses: Mister Thirty (suction), Miss Tickles (polisher), Squirt Gun (water from dental instrument), Scaler (scaler described as “broom for teeth”), and Magic String (dental floss). I wonder why pediatric dentists don’t all have this book in their waiting rooms?!

Food Fights by Laura Jana and Jennifer Shu

Food can be an epic battleground between parents and children of all ages and this parenting guide helps keep food issues in perspective by offering sane and realistic advice on how to deal with food battles from juice boxes to snacking to food allergies.

Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality by Laura Jana and Jennifer Shu

If you are not lucky enough to have Dr. Jana as your pediatrician for your first baby, then this is the next best thing! She offers practical advice that supports both mother and child in this comprehensive guide.

Dr. Laura Jana, chores and self esteem, chores and allowance

Dr. Jana thinks that kids should earn allowance by doing chores. This also builds self-esteem, personal finance skills, and independence.

Click on image of book to view at Amazon, or click below to purchase at Barnes and Noble.


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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. I think I’m still on the fence about allowance, but I agree with giving kids chores to do. Even at 3 years old, I have my little girl try to help with some of our daily tasks.
    Emily recently posted…How my cleaners measure up to the new EWG Guide to Healthy CleaningMy Profile

  2. Nat

    Just saw this: empower.me — for parents and teens — a site that lets parents reward their teens for doing chores, getting good grades, watching educational videos and generally preparing themselves for adult life.

    Will check it out!

  3. Asianmommy

    My kids set the table, clear the table, make their beds, put their clothes away, water the plants, and clean up their toys. I’ve started having the older one put the dishes in the dishwasher, too. This is their contribution to the household. They do get an allowance, but it’s not tied to doing their chores. I buy them necessary clothes & supplies, plus occasional souvenirs. If they want extras, they pay for it themselves. Seems to be working–they’re very careful with their money and like to save it.
    Asianmommy recently posted…Cornfest at Graue MillMy Profile

    • Hi Asian Mommy,
      I do think it’s so important for kids to have some income so that they learn to manage their money whether or not it’s tied to allowance. Your kids sound like they are getting the lesson! Well done mom!

  4. I guess I am one who would train children in everyday life responsibilities as “this is the way life is and we all work together to do what needs to be done.” We all pick up after ourselves, when everyone leaves the table after the meal we all pick up our plate and another item and put it where it is suppose to be put, we put our dirty clothes in a certain spot, we straighten our bed covers in the morning, etc.
    We prepare our children for when they will be gone from home and on their own. No one else will then be doing the everyday items for them or paying them to do it.Children need structure; let them be part of it.
    I found that it worked for our family. All 3 of my girls knew how to take care of themselves and their lodging when they were redy to leave home. They learned responsibilities to negotiate their future

    • Hi Florence,
      It’s great that your kids are independent and learned life skills like household chores. It is important to teach them, I agree! It’s also great you were able to teach them and get them to do it without a financial incentive! You are right that no one will pay for them to do it in their homes!

  5. Ann

    I did a parent child class with my kids at a Waldorf school and I enjoyed it!

    I haven’t started allowance yet. I want my kids to contribute around the house without expecting money. But I know that allowance is a good way to teach children to be responsible with money. Hmm!!!
    Ann recently posted…The Letter WMy Profile

    • Hi Ann,
      What kind of class did you take at Waldorf? Sounds like an interesting place. I’d love to learn more about your allowance philosophy when you finalize your position. It is a lot to decide and implement!

  6. It was great to meet with Laura Jana, talk about a busy woman! Great ideas and take aways. We do have allowance and the girls are expected to help out around the house, too. They are great at pitching in. Our family wants to encourage saving, so we match – like a 401(k) only better, any money that they put into the bank. Some they keep to spend, some for the bank and some for charity.
    Nancy recently posted…First Things First…Yahoo! Women Who ShineMy Profile

    • Hi CapabilityMom,
      Your savings incentive is a useful tool to get kids to save. It worked with my middle kid who is the most money savvy but now the match isn’t incentivizing my other two kids. What now?!

      • After reading we iteintutsd allowances for our 7-year old ($1/week) and 5-year old ($.25/week). It’s been about one year since doing and we’ll probably make an adjustment soon but haven’t decided how much.The allowance is not based on chores (they have to do those regardless) but we will pay for extra chores.We do not require savings or charity because enforced savings or charity is not teaching the correct principle of either. However our 5% interest per month (~70% annualized) helps solve the issue of savings as they quickly see how getting their money to work for them is exciting. We do weekly allowances (Monday when FHE is) and the first Monday of a new month we count up what’s in the jar and compute interest (helps teach math and basic counting).They can pretty much spend it on whatever as long as it doesn’t break family rules so no TV in their room for us.My take on Rich Dad, Poor Dad is that it’s tightly coupled with the MLM crowd. Do you feel the same about RDPD as MLMs?

        • Hi Pooja,
          I like your idea of calculating interest! You give better returns that anything out there 🙂 but it’s perfect to teach how savings and interest works in the real world, and, as you say, a great way to incorporate math!!! LOVE IT!!

          I don’t know what MLMs is … is that another personal finance book?

          I also give money for extra chores. Sometimes my kids jump on it but not always.

  7. I think Nancy has a great idea with the 401k match, plus training them to divide the money into important areas. This training will help when older and they have various expenses. I’m glad she also included an area for charity as well. Good thoughts here.
    Florence Simmons recently posted…A New Level of ConsciousnessMy Profile

    • Hi Florence,
      The match is great, but like all incentive programs, doesn’t always have longevity in terms of motivation or at least that is my experience. My middle is somewhat motivated to save because of the match, but my other two are not tempted anymore. I need to try something else. They are better at Spend and even Donate but I want them to improve their Save.

  8. We also give allowance for chores. They are similar to the above chores: making the bed, putting clothes away, turning off lights, clearing dishes and putting them in the dishwasher (still working on this!) our 4 year old has less and we haven’t given her allowance yet.

    Very quickly stopped buying the kids things outside of birthdays and christmas for the most part. When I travel I usually bring back a small gift though 🙂

    I know the point was motivating them but I also liked the Waldorf idea of asking them to do things on their own. Has inspired me on working on a project with my son. I want him to believe that he can achieve anything he wants. Now I have tools to provide the environment.

    Expatdoctormom recently posted…Don’t get caught with your pants down, the next time you travel.My Profile

    • Hi Expat Doctor Mom,
      I should add turning off the lights because my kids are very bad at that. I love the idea of Waldorf and, I suppose, Montessori as well, about asking kids to do things on their own. I’m going to work on that more; thanks for your great example. My middle child is quite capable but she likes to ask for help for EVERYTHING even when she has the time and the ability to do it herself. I’m not sure if she wants all her stuff to be a group project or a way of asking for attention. It’s always at the most inopportune times too, like this morning, when we are rushing to get to school. Ugh!

      My son needs to be asked VERY nicely. He will have a melt down if my tone is harsh. I have no idea why he’s so sensitive; I suspect he’s very tired today. (Late night due to Curriculum Night at school).

      My oldest will do more things on her own but not necessarily the things I want her to.

      OK, clearly I have work to do!

  9. With Josh 6 yrs.old.,he has a star chart of things he needs to do, not a ccinioudence they are things he has trouble with, so this motivates him. Such as, putting dishes on counter,making bed, doing homework with no complaining, etc. He gets a star for each task done, if he gets all the stars for the day then he gets a nickle in his money jar that night. He doesn’t have a concept for money amounts, so a nickle will sufice for now. When he has saved enough he can buy a treat of his choice.

    • Hi Peter,
      I love the orderliness of a star chart. Does Josh find it motivating over a longer period of time such as a few months? My kids don’t always stay motivated though I wish they would. What kind of treats does Josh save for?

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