By the time most of you read this, my kids will be back in school. I always approach the start of the school year with a mixture of dread and relief. Dread because I know I will miss my children. Relief because Dan and Monika are starting to get on each other's nerves and the bickering drives me crazy.

This year, my conflicting thoughts are dwelling on another realization: We're losing our helpers.

This summer, we gave Dan and Monika their first real farm chores. They've been helping with a variety of chores since they could walk, but this summer, we turned responsibility over to them for some of our daily barn chores.

Their jobs were relatively small - scraping the walk, cleaning stalls and putting fresh shavings down - but their help was definitely noticed. And the responsibility did a lot to improve their work ethic.

There were days when it would have been quicker to do the chores ourselves. But, we want our kids to understand the importance of finishing the job and doing it well. We also want our kids to learn how to communicate and work together in a work environment.

I was chatting with a couple of farmers recently about kids and chores when the topic of payment came up.

"So, do you pay your kids?" one of the farmers asked.

"We do not pay our kids," I said.

My parents didn't pay me for working on our farm. I grew up with the understanding that farm kids worked on the farm, because that's what farm kids do. Payment was never even discussed. I earned spending money by babysitting.

Glen wasn't paid either. He did chores on his farm and earned spending money by doing relief milking for other farmers in the area.

When we first talked with Dan and Monika about helping with chores this summer, we never even considered paying them. I basically extended our family rule for household chores to barn chores. When it comes to household chores, everyone pitches in because that's what families do. When it comes to farm chores, everyone helps because that's what farm families do.

But after that conversation, I've definitely been giving the idea more thought.

The other farmers in the conversation all pay their kids (or did when they were at home). Their explanations of why they chose to pay their children made sense to me.

Their kids earned set amounts for different chores - not an hourly rate. They were expected to save a certain percentage of their earnings for the future and to tithe a certain percentage. The remaining earnings were theirs to spend. But they were expected to use their own money for everything from new clothes and school supplies to fun and recreation. All capital purchases required pre-approval by a parent.

In theory, this sounds like a great way to help kids learn money management skills. Perhaps that's why the idea appeals to me. I left for college with very little experience in money management, especially budgeting.

However, it also sounds a little scary to let kids be in charge of their own finances. But, I guess it's better for them to make mistakes and learn the hard way while we can still guide them, as opposed to letting them learn once they're on their own.

And, I still wonder if paying kids affects their work ethic or changes the experience of growing up on a family farm.

So, I'm going to extend my questions to you. I'd love to hear about your thoughts and experiences.

Do you pay your kids for farm chores? Why or why not?

If you do pay your kids, how do you pay them? Hourly or by the job? How often? Are they on official payroll, or do you pay them cash? How do you keep track of their hours or the work they've done? At what age did you start paying them?

What stipulations do you enforce regarding spending, saving, and tithing?

Were you paid for working on the farm when you were a kid? Either way, what effect did it have on you?

Can paying kids for farm work help them develop good work ethic and become financially savvy?

References available upon request.

Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 75 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have three children - Dan, 9, Monika, 7, and Daphne, 3. Sadie also writes a blog at She can be reached at