Last week I started addressing the questions related to allowance. I wrote about the money management side of the equation in Kids and Money – Part 1.
Today I want to talk about the work side of this equation. I know a lot of people tie allowance to chores, which is why I’m addressing this here, even though we don’t pay for chores in our house.
I’ve already written a post on jobs we find kids can do (by age). If you are interested in that list of suggestions, click here.
Community Responsibility (a.k.a. Chores)
I have a couple of kids who were born with developmental challenges. A friend passed along some advice at one point about chores in that context: there is a chore for every problem you face with your kids. Does your child need to develop visual discrimination? Weeding a flower bed is perfect therapy. Be prepared to lose some flowers in the process. Does your child need to strengthen their ankles? Standing on tip-toes to dust way up high is perfect therapy. Be prepared for the occasional tipped vase. We had a lot of early intervention therapy with occupational, speech, and physical therapists. Many of the exercises they recommended could be accomplished through chores.
Chores are an excellent way to develop character strength as well.
Chores are about using our gifts to serve others (1 Peter 4:10), expressing faith through work (James 2:14-17), looking for ways to intentionally do good to others (Galatians 6:10), contributing to the needs of others (Romans 12:13), practicing hospitality, and developing generosity (Matthew 25:35).
Chores are the little things we do to help our community thrive. For us they are neither a lucrative opportunity to gain material wealth and possessions nor are they a punishment for a crime or offense according to a penal code. We have severed the relationship between chores and allowance. Chores are simply an expected contribution to life in the Quillen house. We even invite guests to join us. 🙂
On the other hand, as I mentioned last week, with limited resources our kids get an allowance of $10 every two weeks. Let’s face it, $5 per week is not a lot of money at this point in history. And our kids don’t even get an allowance until they are nine years old. It can be tough to save birthday money and pennies found in the parking lot when there is a larger purchase you’d like to make or a need to which you’d like to contribute.
If our kids want to earn money for a large purchase, a gift, or a charity, we provide opportunities for gainful employment.
Here’s how it works:
There are a lot of “chores” which fall within my realm of responsibility. I have the freedom to hire someone to do my work for me, and sometimes I do. It’s a bad example in our house, because we all work to clean the house together, but it’s not unlike a busy household hiring a maid to do the cleaning. Basically, I just hire from within the house if at all possible.
For instance, my oldest daughter (7 years old at the time) offered to potty train my youngest daughter (almost 2 at the time). We agreed on the price (equivalent to one box of diapers at Sam’s, including tax), the rules for accomplishing it, the result expected, and how we would measure success. We provided all the needed supplies and training for my “employee” and she showed up to work. One week later, I had a toddler who was completely potty trained and she had $43. It was hands down the best $43 I ever spent! It was the most money she’d ever made. And as a bonus, her relationship with her baby sister had taken on a sweetness and connection she didn’t have before.
We might hire a child to do any number of tasks which fall under our responsibility. We also allow others to hire our children – to babysit, rake leaves, move rocks, weed gardens – anything at which we have seen them excel in our home, we are willing to let them earn money doing for someone else. Serving our household community is a great way to learn skills for which they can be compensated.
However, we also encourage them to volunteer for some things even if they could get paid. I may simply ask them to help me paint because they live in our house. They might pick trash up from a neighbors yard because they see it blowing around. Maybe they pet-sit for free if the owners are gone for a short duration or when a crisis arises and charge only when it requires an extended period of responsibility. (Since we don’t have pets, they learn this skill by helping us when we pet-sit for someone else.)
The difficulty is there is not one answer which fits all the time. It would be nice if there were! Parenting with respect to money is like anything else in parenting: I have to make decisions on a case-by-case and child-by-child basis. It requires wisdom. A child who is hoarding because he is struggling to trust God to meet his needs needs different guidance than a child whose bank account is empty because of impulsive generosity.
I want my children to look for opportunities to serve others. I also want them to learn to work to earn money. Mostly I want them to work wholeheartedly and to the best of their ability whether they are a paid employee or a volunteer. If they can learn to see Christ as their “boss” and work in a way that he would be pleased regardless of the circumstances, I think we’ve done our job. Working to please Christ instills the idea that even our work is an act of worship. Learning to worship through work not only develops good citizens fit for this life, but also citizens fit for a heavenly kingdom, where I pray they’ll spend eternity.