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.