The Backwoods

Where we teeter between our love of modern convenience and the yearning for something long past; a world where neighbors knew your name and a “Friend Request” was eye contact and a smile.

Mommy, Where Does Money Come From?

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I’m standing in front of the candy rack, neck kinked upwards, staring at the boxes in the top row. I can’t see inside them…they are too tall and I am too small.  But I know what’s in there.  And I know it’s out of reach in more ways than one.   The twenty-five cent rack…might as well have been the Hope Diamond.  I slowly drop my gaze to the bottom rack, just beyond my Smurf sneakers, and pick out a two cent Jolly Rancher, give one last longing look at the Hershey’s box far above, and slowly walk away. 

Now, as a parent, I see my kids doing the same thing.  Only the top rack is two bucks and there is no such thing as a two cent treat.  My kids scour the rack, which is much larger than it was when I was perusing the selection, and they know how to look at the price first.

My kids shop according to what they have, not what they want, just like I did.  And they don’t like it, any more than I did. But that is life.  In life, we don’t always get what we want…unless we work for it.

Here’s my theory on teaching kids to do just that…work for it.

I’m not an ATM…

If my kid wants something that costs 2.28 and they only have a buck fifty, then they had better go back to the shelf and come back with something they can afford.  I’m not Bank of Mommy and don’t give out loans.  If I did, the interest would be more than they could afford.  On a rare occasion I will budge this rule.  But ONLY if I’ve not given them warning that we were going to town and I KNOW they have that 78 cents safely tucked away in their moose bank at the bottom of the toy box.  And if we are in the door more than two minutes and that money’s not in my hand, they know I won’t do it twice.  It’s not about the 78 cents.  I’ll probably shove it into my jeans pocket and it’ll end up in the lint trap.  It’s about being financially responsible.

Finders is NOT keepers…

If I walked into your house and spotted a hundred dollar bill on the floor, I’d pick it up and hand it to you.  I expect my kids to do the same, whether it’s a hundred dollar bill or a nickel.  Therefore, at HOME, if you find it, it is NOT yours.  How am I to impart rules of the world without making the same rules within these walls?  It’s not about the nickel…it’s about a life lesson. 

A coin on top of the dryer is not fair game; a quarter between the couch cushions is handed over immediately and wet, torn dollar bills in the washing machine are laid out to dry until the owner is found.  Period.  Chances are, if the kid brings me a handful of change they scrounged from inside the seat of the truck, I’ll say, “I’m not sure who it belongs to…so you can keep it.”  But we can usually track down who left a five dollar bill in the pocket of jeans in that load of wash.  And because I do this, when any one of my kids finds a ten dollar bill while folding clothes, they don’t hesitate to hand it over.  Ever. 

Money For Nothing and Chicklets For Free

Allowance is just a fancy name for welfare.  My kids don’t get six cents without doing something to earn it.  Not to say I don’t treat them to an ice cream at the store on a sunny day; I just don’t hand them unearned money.  Ever.  

Every day, every kid in this house does chores.  I am their mother, not their slave or their maid.  They do dishes, clean the bathroom, sweep, vacuum, do laundry, mow, feed animals…and much more (there are a lot of them…it works great).  And every single day, they do it without pay.  That’s just what we do as a family…we take care of our house.  But there are “above and beyond” things they can do to EARN money.  Scooping dog poo…changing the litter box…washing a truck…washing the dog…cleaning the garage…big jobs.  These are things that a kid does on their own…to make a buck.  

If they don’t work, they are broke.  That’s just life.

I used to assign dollar amounts to each chore and for a long time we kept a chart.  Every day each child was assigned an ‘area’ of the house and it was worth a certain amount.  They wrote it down and at the end of the week we had payday.  But it got to a point where I would say, “Hey, put those clothes away.” and the kid would say, “How much do I get?”

Wrong Answer.  So now they just do it for nothing and I reap the child-labor benefits of having lots of kids. 

And when they grow up, and do these things for their own family, they will not expect anything in return…it’s just what we do.

People say, “But how do you get them to DO it?”, and I’m not really sure what to say.  My kids do what I say.  Period.  I’m not really sure how to teach this…

An eye for an eye…

Stealing, in my house, is not tolerated. Ever.  Stealing can be anything from ‘borrowing without asking’ to flat out taking something from someone behind their back.  We’ve gone through streaks of both…and continue to struggle with this one.  

A few years ago Mya created her own little theft ring. She was the only member, and we were all the victims.  It started with a piece of Almond Rocha and within a few weeks, she’d moved on to hundred dollar bills.  The final straw was when my teen foster daughters four hundred dollars disappeared from her bedside table.  We searched the house, frisked the kids, and found the money in Mya’s blankets.  We figured she was saving up for a plane ticket outta here.   For retribution, every kid in the house got to go into Mya’s room, in front of her, and pick anything they wanted.  Anything.  Robin scored an Easy Bake Oven.  Anthony grabbed the guitar.  I put NO limits on it.  The lesson was too valuable…she needed to see what it was like to have something stolen.  It worked. 

Save A Life
And the most important point I can possibly make.  Every penny my kids make gets divided.  Fifty percent goes into savings.  If they make ten bucks off  a neighbors lawn, or they make six thousand working all summer on a fishing boat…half of it goes into savings for their future.  No exceptions. 

20 Responses to "Mommy, Where Does Money Come From?"
  1. Humor News says:

    Wow Excellent blog!

  2. HistorianMom says:

    We don’t do “finders keepers,” but I did have a rule that if I have to empty out your pockets before I do laundry, the money goes in the common kitty and the “stuff” goes in my drawer and you have to “ransom” it out.  I used to charge a quarter for small stuff when they were small, and a couple of dollars for I-Pods and Cell Phones when they were older.   We have a change pot in our house and we all empty our pockets into it at the end of the day so there is always somewhere around ten to fifteen bucks in the change drawer.  You can also take it out for unexpected needs.  Like when the Girl Scout comes to the door with thin mints and Mom didn’t have time to go to the ATM last night……

  3. Chaelismommy says:

    Well said (& done), Mom! We have the same rules in our home… and my now 12yo (the youngest) knows exactly why we have those rules.

  4. Shirley says:

    When my boys did dishes, I would put the ones they left greasy back into the stack to be washed again.  My husband, who didn’t think boys should be doing dishes anyway, thought I was being too “picky”, so the next time the dishes were done, I refrained myself, and when we sat down to eat dinner, everyone said, “Ooh, these dishes are greasy!”  I said, “Mine aren’t”.  I had rewashed mine and let them all, including Dad, eat from greasy ones.  That was the last time I heard complaints against my rule.  I also told Dad that #1, washing dishes is living work, not female work, and besides he didn’t give me any girls.  #2, they might have to work in a kitchen some day, or decide on bachelorhood, and they needed to learn.  All three of my boys worked in a restaurant as teens, and one as a married man while he went to school.  One is a bachelor and one is the chief cook and dish washer in his house.  So….Mom was right after all.

    • Mom is always right…that is where your husband went wrong. haha I don’t differentiate either, between male and female roles, when it comes to basic chores. Of course I have Billy do the heavy things and sometimes when we go get firewood I have Destini stay home if she will cook dinner and clean…because she is totally useless in the woods. Or with an physical labor at all. haha

  5. Amy Tuggey says:

    Ok – I just printed this and it is going on my fridge – Thanks!  On another note, do your kids know what the Hope Diamond is? Just curious, hadn’t heard that one mentioned in years!

    Love the blog – keep it coming!

    • Ha, I doubt it. I saw the Hope Diamond in D.C. a few years ago….from a distance…through a very crowded room. Oh, wait…they may know what it is because of some Nicholas Cage type movie perhaps. haha

  6. Heather says:

    Wow I love how you put this on paper! It makes me feel that I am not the only stickler in this world about doing chores because I said so not because your going to get something out of it!! I like the above and beyond chores idea we may try that! As always your amazing and inspirational!

    • People in my community hire Billy to do work and they pay him well because he has good work ethic. Once in a while I tell them….and Billy…this one is just a favor, don’t pay him. And nobody argues. It keeps his head on straight.

  7. LSF says:

    love it!  I’m the same with my kids.  i’ve always said that i will make sure they have what they need but they take care of what they want.    no allowances here.  things are done as part of living in the house.    like you, when they go the extra mile, of course they get something for that.   they have to learn the money lesson and respect for others.  mine all do their own laundry so they grab their finds.    for loose change, we use the money jar, unless it is theirs for sure, we all just throw it in the money jar and all get to use it on our upcoming trip .  

  8. jeannie says:

    I love these ideas.  My oldest daughter is 20, has a full ride to ASU, works at a bank & is working towards law school.  I believe 1 of the reasons she has this amazing work ethic started when she was in 1st grade & wanted in-line skates. Of course I’d buy her & her little sister  a pair if she got all A’s. She wanted to know if her littlle sis still got them if she didn’t get A’s. Nope, little sis wasn’t able to go to school to earn her own yet.  A lot of pressure? Yes, but she earned both pairs and was so proud.  I never gave them money for good grades, what I did do was take them to the book store and let them buy a book.  Money meant nothing to them, but a gift card for $5 to Barnes N Noble meant 1 new book. I also have the – no finders keepers. I don’t care where it is found…the park…the store…there is almost always someone to turn it into & if not, maybe they will come back for it.  If it’s not ours, don’t touch it.   My youngest is 4.  So far, all 5 of my kids are very good people.

  9. Justin D says:

    This is kind of a ridiculous idea, let your kids be kids, when they’re adult they can be adults. don’t make your kid an adult, that’s how you end up with a person with considerable mental issues due to growing up too fast.

    • Christy says:

      Justin, I couldn’t disagree with you more:(.

    • ValerieB says:

      And how do kids know how to be resonsible adults if they aren’t taught from the beginning?! I think there is way too much entitlement attitude among kids these day and it’s because everything gets handed to them without having to earn it. That means they don’t know how to save, work, or appreciate what they have and it sure won’t change just because they turn 18!

    • Liz says:

      Justin, your post makes me wonder if you have kids yet. Simply put, the responsibility of being a parent is to raise healthy kids that grow up to be responsible, productive members of society. Teaching them lessons like the ones Keri has listed results in learned values and beliefs. 

      Also, because these were foster kids (except Destini), they may have never come across or heard these lessons prior to living with Keri and her husband. As a parent, your home should be reflective of your values and belief system. In my opinion, Keri is admirable in not only instilling values in her kids, but also in sharing her kids’ responses to the public. 

  10. KarenLoe says:

    Yeah, I have the question “How do you get them to do it” too.  My son will do it without pay.  But my daughter…WOW, she’s a real challenge.
    On the other hand, I realize that I have made her financial life pretty darn cushy.  She’s 14 and able to babysit.  I think I need to quit supporting her habits and get busy creating better habits.
    Thanks for another thought-provoking post!

    Seriously, I’m thinking!

  11. you must be friends with my dad! lol…

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