Ever since my oldest child saved enough for a TV in her room, my younger two have discovered the power of money and their ability to earn it. Thus I instituted some new money-making opportunities this week: chores and summer homework. My hope is to show them that real work pays off in a tangible way. I believe American kids are pretty dang spoiled (including my own), and I am hoping this will squash their sense of entitlement.
Kid version of entitlement
We have all heard about the crazy lawsuits, like the woman suing McDonalds because she spilled their coffee on her lap and then complained it was too hot. That is an example of an adult form of entitlement. She felt she deserved money for something that, really, she didn't do anything to earn. I believe there are lots of valid court cases, but the get-rich-quick ones like this really irritate me. Coffee is hot. Consume it at your risk.
For kids, it looks a little different. I have done enough traveling and ministry work to know that my kids have it way better than most. Even when my husband and I were broke, they had it better than most because we never had to worry about where a meal would come from, there was always a roof over our heads (though sometimes leaky) and there was always a way to get from Point A to Point B.
I can explain to my kids all day what the orphanages look like in Russia, what the homeless look like in New York or how hungry the kids are when they come to the local food pantry, but when they can shut that out and head to the back porch with a pretty new piece of sidewalk chalk, they don't really get it. In my opinion, they are just too young (4, 6 and 8 years old) to see it first-hand yet, either. I'd rather keep their innocence as long as possible. On the other hand, I don't want them naive or spoiled. I don't want my kids to believe that because they got out of bed they deserve new toys, eating out at restaurants or a movie night. In reality, because they got out of bed they deserve food, clothing, shelter and love... but that's all.
Just like the rest of us, they should earn the fun stuff.
Show me the money
No, I'm not being crazy with chores and homework. It is working out pretty well, actually. I have a list of things that need to be done like folding laundry, gathering towels, setting the table, cleaning your room,and helping with the dishwasher. Each child has five chores each day of the work week. If they complete all the tasks, they get $5. Each thing they neglect knocks off a quarter on payday.
In addition to that, I'm paying a quarter per 15 minutes of homework. This can be flash cards, work books or reading out loud to me. They have each opted for about 30 minutes a day. All said, they are earning about $7.50 per week at this rate. This is a great incentive for them to work, a great connection between saving and earning and a great help for me. I believe chores are an excellent way to teach responsibility, and I'd like to start that as young as possible.
My older kids each know what they are saving for. My daughter wants a new guitar and my oldest son wants a new video game. Truth be told, we could easily go buy those things for them for working so hard this summer, but the correlation between saving and buying is a much more powerful tool than me paying for it. Considering that money management is a HUGE problem in most families that I know, I love the idea of instilling the value of money in them this young.
What do you think?
Do your kids have chores, or do you think they are an out-of-date idea? Is paying for hard work a good incentive, or is it a blatant disregard for child labor laws?