It’s pretty easy to let time slip by without acknowledging your children’s capabilities. Not that we don’t praise them for every little thing; I’m talking about realizing that a kid can physically do more to help around the house.
We get into a routine of doing everything for the wee ones, and sometimes overlook that they can do more in addition to it being good for them. Giving a child chores not only makes them feel that they are an capable and important member of the family, but it also teaches them independence and life skills. Starting at a young age with small tasks instills self-worth and gets them in the habit of pitching in.
My girls are six and almost four. I’ve found that being very specific is a big help in getting things done. Rather than just “clean your room”, saying -for example- “Please put all your dolls on your bed and your dirty clothes in the hamper” proves to be much more effective. Both girls are getting into the rhythm and know what is expected of them on a daily basis and now are doing helpful things like clearing their plates to the kitchen and cleaning up one play area before starting something new! This makes for a neater house and a much less stressed and happy Mom!
At the same time, my growing girls are interested in all kinds of stuff that for better or worse, entails buying it. Like it or not, pretty early on, the “I want this, I want that” phase kicks in. Unfortunately this tends to be one of the longer phases of childhood, lasting a lifetime for many! One way I’ve found that positively approaches the “I wants” is by instilling the values of saving upon my girls. Although my little one is still a bit too young, my eldest is starting to grasp the concept of money.
For a while I’ve been contemplating how to incorporate an allowance into my household. How do you differentiate between pulling your weight in the family and teaching the concept of earning some cash for a job well done? She received some monetary holiday gifts and opted to buy a couple of things and save the rest for a rainy day. We even opened a kids’ bank account with online access so she can see how savings grow! Since growth is often slow, you can opt to make matching contributions from time to time for good merits, holidays and birthdays. Don’t be afraid to let your relatives know about your your little savers either!
I asked our resident experts for their two cents (pun fully intended).
Here are Merriam’s thoughts, “At my house, I wrote detailed instructions on how I want specific chores done, made cards that I colored with stickers, and laminated each card and put it on the fridge (makes it more appealing). We have a chart that delineates which kid does which chore on a given weekend, and since the instructions are written out, they can’t pretend they don’t know how to do it. They get an allowance if they complete their chores and the amount of chores and money is based on their age. 10% goes to savings and 5% to charity. They don’t get the actual cash, but instead the amounts are tracked on a chart on the fridge. I figure that although no one pays me to clean around the house, it isn’t unreasonable to expect to be paid for work. However, since I have to pay for expenses, so do they. If they want to buy anything (outside of school clothes) – including movies, ice cream, toys – it comes out of the non-savings part of their allowance. So I get help with the house and they get to learn how to earn and spend their own money. Note that my kids are 9, 11, and 14 and I don’t think this would work with younger kids, nor do I think younger kids need an allowance!”
I am in awe of Merriam’s organizational skills and while I know that personally I’m far less orderly, I will definitely be drawing from these great ideas in the future, particularly the mandatory percentages donated and saved. Presently, I’m allowing my girls to spend their earnings when they choose and with my guidance. I’ve stressed the importance of altruism on other levels. When they tire of a toy they tell me that they’d like to give it to a kid whose parents don’t have money for toys, so I can proudly say it’s sinking in. As for the minimum age for starting an allowance, I think it’s case by case; my eldest is really embracing and learning from the experience.
Melissa’s response reinforced my ideas; “I think that there is a difference been household expectations(clothes in laundry, dishes in sink, clean up your room, etc.) and paid chores. Paid chores are not daily expectations. Chores can look different for different age groups. They can vary from collecting and taking out the trash to helping unload silverware from dishwasher and sort it.”
This is exactly how I’ve been handling it! Our “extras” for pay have included doing laundry ~ the six year old can do a load from start to finish and the three year old is extremely helpful too. Added bonus ~ we have a blast at the laundromat together! Other earners include sweeping and Swiffering kitchen floor (actually voluntarily) and dusting furniture.
A wise friend told me that she had introduced her middle school son to collecting recycling and bringing it to a center in exchange for cash. What an amazing idea! Helping the planet while earning! My six year old is so excited that we’re taking her first collection to our local recycling center tomorrow and so am I.
I feel that I’m instilling valuable life long lessons in my girls. I’m hoping interest doesn’t wane, but also don’t want money to be too primary a focus. That’s why I consistently remind them that the best things in life are still for free.