Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It Doesn't Grow on Trees

I have been sort of absent around here lately. Our social calendar has been incredibly busy, and it doesn't show signs of letting up. Hopefully I'll have something thoughtful to say soon. It won't be this weekend, as I will be busy hosting family and making a space shuttle cake for Calvin's fourth birthday. In the meantime, I could use some parenting advice from those of you further down the road.

One of our favorite family outings is to go to the nearby bookstore and browse books. Well, three of us browse while Hobbes plays at the train table. On our last trip there, Calvin picked up a Tin Tin comic. (His dad may have influenced him in that decision.) As we were preparing to leave, he asked if we could buy it. My husband decided this was a great time to start teaching Calvin about earning money. They looked at the price of the book, and he explained to Calvin that he could earn the money to buy it by doing work around the house. Calvin was ecstatic.

Really, this has worked out great for me. We pay him a quarter or fifty cents for jobs like unloading the dishwasher, sweeping or dusting a room, putting away his laundry, or cleaning the sliding glass door. He even earned $1.50 for helping me to weed our front flower beds. (They haven't been touched since last Fall, but that is another post for another time.) He continues to be enthusiastic about the work, and Hobbes is catching the spirit, too. I have never seen them clean up so eagerly or so quickly. It seems great.

But, I have reservations. First of all, helping around the house is part of being in a family. I want my kids to learn that we all work together to make the home run smoothly. I am still asking them to do some things just to help me, with no reward, and they seem willing enough. I worry that paying them for doing work will make them feel entitled to it and unwilling to do chores just because they need to be done.

Second, I wonder if paying by the job is the best method. It seems that it makes more sense in the long run to have an allowance that each child receives for contributing to the work of the household each week. Just as Daddy and I have some share of the family income to spend because we contribute to the running of the house, so the children get a share.

Finally, I don't want to create greedy little consumerist monsters for children. I think this is teaching them the value of money, but I am not sure. We have emphasized that one-tenth of what they earn will be given to the church, just as Mommy and Daddy do. And we regularly donate some of their toys and books to local charities. I hope that our overall example of generosity toward those in need is enough to create a balance in their little minds between getting and giving.

So what do you do? Do your children receive an allowance or money for certain jobs? Do they get money at all? Do you allow them to spend it on whatever they want or are there guidelines? What about things like birthday money? How do you encourage wise use of money, even among little ones? I'm looking forward to your answers.


Catherine said...

Well, I'm not further down the road, obviously, so I won't offer any advice. I'm asking all those same questions, if a little early. (I've been actively trying to hone my parenting philsophy since I was 7! Seriously!)

My parents gave me an allowance (50 cents a week!) and I was expected to help with all the normal chores - dishes, dusting, vacuuming, laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc. - without pay, just as we all did. There were times that I was allowed to earn extra money, but that was typically to buy people Christmas presents or something like that - otherwise I save my allowance (for a lo-ong time, obviously). This extra money was earned by doing chores that were truly extra - raking and bagging ALL the leaves in the yard for a dollar a bag (I was 10, older than Hobbes) or preparing (stuffing, adressins, stamping, etc) my parents Christmas cards for 5 cents per card.

All money I got, regardless of source, was subject to 10 percent tithe and 10 percent savings (which went into my own bank account).

I'm not saying that's how I'll do it with my kids - but it probably is. Maybe a bit more than 50 cents though. :)

Farrah said...

I think a general allowance is probably a good thing when they can understand the whole delayed gratification thing. Maybe you could decide how much they earn/week and if they like the thrill of getting their money after the task is done, just divide it into smaller little payments.
I like Cath's idea of a little extra $$ for extra chores.
We too aren't there yet but we are teaching him about cleaning his room and cleaning up his toys and trying to be helpful to mommy. What kind of tasks does Hobbes have to do for his $$? I think we are going to start one of those chore boards this fall to help him see what he needs to and has accomplished.

How does it feel to be the one we all watch to pave the way in these things.. you all-experienced-mommy you?!?! :)

Farrah said...

P.S~ You better post a picture of the space shuttle cake... I bet it will look amazing!

At A Hen's Pace said...

My two cents... (pun intended) to not overthink it! It's kind of like chore charts and incentives--you do whatever is motivating for awhile, and when it ceases to be inspirational, you mix things up.

We have generally felt that allowances should be tied to chores in some way, and not just given no matter what. But we've run the gamut from paying by the job to having a total that we subtract from for undone chores, to requiring basic chores that we don't pay for, while encouraging them to choose over-and-above jobs to earn money.

If your boys are happily helping and motivated right now by pocket change--capitalize on that interest! (more puns intended)