- My daughter Kristen, then about age 6, is painting the basement playroom. Kristen did not get cash for doing this. Her rewards were much more valuable: being connected to our family (the BEST substance abuse prevention) teamwork, learning a work ethic, developing a skill, nurturing self-esteem, self-discipline and competence. Today, Kristen is earning a Masters in Fine Arts in sculpture.
Money. Can’t live without it. Seems like there’s never enough. Many a marriage has failed over money. The challenge is how to teach children the golden rule: spend less than you earn.
You can convey this to children so they grow up to have successful relationships with money, and their life partners.
DO NOT pay children to contribute around the house, also known as chores. Do not pay children to work for money at home unless you want to:
1. Guarantee that you will always have to pay them to do that task, earn that grade, or practice that instrument;
2. Teach them that money can be used to manipulate others; or
3. Teach them that work ought only be done for money. Research shows that money is the LOWEST motivation to do anything.
Parents must be creative, have a plan and work together to make teamwork fun to motivate kids without money, fear or punishment.
This takes time. Pay, praise and reward and punishment are quick and dirty. Creating an environment where contributions are encouraged and appreciated takes time and patience — like most aspects of good parenting.
Start with a family meeting. This is where to reinforce positive parenting and mold your child into the adult you envision. Or at least to manage their behavior to live peacefully until they leave home
Make a list of everything parents do around the house. Ask every child, tween and teen to make a list of what s/he does. Self-chores do not count, such as, “make my bed, clear my dish, put my toys away.” We’re looking for contributions for the common good: emptying the wastebaskets, setting the table, making the salad or dessert for dinner, mowing the lawn, painting a room. Notice how those chores increased in complexity, as they do as a child gets older.
Ask them what responsibilities they’d like to take on. Write them down. Expect them to do the job in the coming week, month and year. Encourage and appreciate their efforts. Hold them to their agreements by being kind, firm and consistent. This is how they develop the precious gift of self-discipline — doing something we don’t feel like doing at that moment.
Do not pay them by the chore. Do not withhold allowance if they don’t do them. DO give them an allowance that is NOT tied to money. They contribute to the common good, they enjoy the rewards of being in a family. Don’t you have bad days/weeks at work where your performance was lacking?
Here’s a true story about how to handle requests for payment of chores.
Me: (Fixing dinner.) Noah, it’s time to empty the dishwasher. (Notice I didn’t ask him. He agreed to do to the job at a family meeting.)
Noah (age 8): Mom, will you pay me for emptying the dishwasher?
Me: (Pause. Thinking quickly.) Sure, Noah. I’ll pay you $3 for emptying the dishwasher.
Noah: (eyes light up.)
Me: But dinner is $5.
Next post: How to use allowances to teach children how to manage their money.