Let me preface this post by saying I don’t have this parenting thing figured out. I yell at my kids sometimes and I can’t get them to clean their rooms. But I do know one thing: Kids want to earn money.
Think about it. When you were a kid, do you remember how much that random check was from your aunt and uncle for Christmas? I don’t. (Checks were weird!) Do you remember that hard-earned $10. Absolutely.
When I was eight, my friend and I decided to run a weeding business. We spent a few hours in the morning making flyers. We started knocking on doors. We were surprised that we were put to work right away at the first three houses (it could have been our $2/hour rate!). By late afternoon, we had each earned $4. We declared we were out of business, and we headed to the corner store to blow our dough on giant milkshakes. It was a wonderful, memorable day.
I’ve gone into detail over at Millennial Money Man about how we handle paying our children. Short version: our kids have jobs they have to do for free. If they can do those, they can be hired on Saturdays for extra chores for pay. There is no “allowance.” Penny spent all Autumn working on Saturdays to earn enough money for her waterproof camera before our Hawaii trip. She earned the money herself and is so proud of that camera. (And look at all the fun she had!)
Why do I bring this up? Last week, I got Penny’s classroom newsletter. The teacher was working on persuasive letter writing and had each kid write a letter to their parents about something they wanted to change. The newsletter only included five examples (all signed “anonymous”), but here were two of them:
- “Please consider giving me chores I have to do every week. I wouldn’t be on the ipad and computer as much as I usually am. And your reward is being able to talk with Dad without me asking what to do.”
- “I would like some chores because sometimes people brag that they got a new toy because of the money their parents give them. I would like money for each chore. I think that if you give me chores I can finally stand up for myself. If you give me chores I will help you fold socks and make your bed.”
These quotes prove you’re doing your kids a disservice by not making them work. “If you give me chores I can finally stand up for myself.” When we keep all the jobs away from the kids, the kids are powerless. They see that. What we can interpret as shielding them from hard work is actually suppressing them. When they have no part of the work of what it takes to run the home, they feel disconnected from the home. They don’t learn consequences of their actions (mess!) and they don’t learn that their actions impact everyone in the house (mom stepped on toy in kitchen, mom is stressed, baby is crying, everyone is stressed!). And they don’t understand the value of work.
These are conversations that we should be having with our children. My kids know they are expected to help around the house. That’s part of living here. We work together because we’re a team. But if they want something, they earn it a little at a time each Saturday. If they don’t want to earn money, they can finish their jobs for the week and be done. No questions asked. They have complete power over their earning potential. When Penny realized Saturday chores weren’t going to cut it before Hawaii, she asked if she could do bigger jobs for more money. Of course!
As a parent, it’s easier to just do the work ourselves (or hire out!). Kids are great at being terrible cleaners. They’re great at pretending they’re worse than they really are (I remember doing that, hoping I’d never have to clean the bathroom again!). But they need to learn. They need to help. And they need to know they have power to be responsible and earn money when they want to do that.
I was furious and saddened and confused when I read those quotes. I talked to Penny about it. “A lot of your friends said they wanted more chores.” Her response: “I know. I guess they can’t earn a camera like I did.”
Pay your kids, but not for being alive. Pay them for a job well done.
Want to know what Penny’s said? It was anonymous, but I recognized her right away and she proudly pointed it out as hers:
“I want to stay up later, please. You get to do it, so why not me? I can’t get to sleep until 9:30, so what’s the deal with going to bed at 8:00? If you let me stay up later, I’ll give you all the money in my piggy bank.”
It’s a tempting offer, though I know it’s got less than a dollar in it after the camera purchase. I’ve also tried to explain that doing advanced acrobatics off her bed may be one of the reasons she can’t get to sleep until 9:30. See? We don’t have parenting figured out at all!