Saturday, June 7, 2008


Our kids do not get allowances. I am not even sure I believe in the whole 'money for nothing' idea. However, I believe kids, at a certain age, benefit from a 'steady income' in order to learn about saving and spending. It's a very important personal responsibility and the younger the better to learn it. I'm thinking 'salary' rather than allowance... don't do your set 'jobs', no salary. Not yet though. Right now they are temp labour. Contractors. And yes, in some things, they are unpaid interns, which will remain the case as long as they live with us.

We're starting the sixth month since I quit to stay home, and the kids are adapting well to not having a housekeeper do everything for them. I may be biased (me?) when I say that they have always been very helpful kids, but still, it is difficult to learn to do things, if someone else is doing everything for you! They are much improved now.

Honor still has a tendency to do what she wants rather than what actually needs to be done, even if it is something beyond her 5yo skills. Today she watered all the balcony plants, sprayed the leaves (they get dusty and benefit from a soaking), mopped the balcony and washed the sliding glass doors (at least the half she could reach)... very good, but what I'd asked her to do was to make her bed!! She's definitely a cat. People look at me like I am weird when I say that, unless they have cats and have had a chance to get to know Honor. She's a human cat.

Brian needs to slow down. He operates in high gear ALL the time. School, crafts, writing, making his way from point a to point b, etc. It is all done fast, often too fast, and I have to send him back to do it again. And again. And again. And it is, I believe, in part, laziness. If he wants to do something well, he can and will slow down and do so, easily, no help. If he doesn't like or want to do something, he won't bother to do a good job. He's a brilliant kid. You'd think he'd 'get it' that he's wasting his own time, but no. I think this is just something we have to go through. He knows better, but he has to develop the self-discipline. With his homework I often ask him "Did you check it like I would check it?", and he can answer me honestly, "Yes" - ok, then I'll look it over. Or, "Uh, no, be right back..." He knows. He even knows that I know he knows. We'll get there... probably very quickly, after tripping several times, and getting up to run more...

Back in April I said that I wanted to set up a spreadsheet for the kids, to track their earnings. I haven't managed to do that yet. We are tracking what they earn and spend on the calendar, but that's not what I want. They have learned that I mean it when I say something is 'family teamwork' (ie. unpaid, do it anyway) and something is 'extra' (for money)... no negotiating on that. I will negotiate/vary the amount given for a job though. Bad work means no money. Well-done, but half-finished work, or otherwise 'good effort' work, means $.50, not a whole $1 (I keep in mind that 5 and 7yos do not work/focus like bigger kids). 'Above and beyond' work earns more. Yesterday, Honor asked for extra work to earn a dollar. I gave her a bag of green beans and said if she could top and tail most of the bag, I'd give her a dollar. She did the whole bag, then washed the beans, tidied up her work area, got out the microwave steamer, set it up (with water, salt, pepper, and a little butter), cooked the beans, and served them. I gave her that dollar, plus a $2 bonus. On average, they earn less than $3 a week. A good amount for their age. They don't need it, but it's enough to 'count' and watch grow... unless it is spent. We are still working the concept of 'saving' vs 'saving up just to spend'. One step at a time. Saving up to spend is still a good lesson in 'rewards for good work'.

Brian just received a reward for de-cluttering his room. We don't go through the kids' rooms and take away their belongings. I want them to have control. I want them to learn to give. It's hard though, especially when they get so much stuff! And it's not like they don't value and appreciate these things - I cannot go through their toys and find anything that they do not know where they got it and who gave it to them. This is especially sensitive with items from far-away family, or friends who have moved away. They play with this stuff too, and only rarely break things, so I cannot even get rid of things due to 'erosion'. So, every month or so, we clean up together, and they slowly get things moved out to the charity box. Little by little. Slowly. This weekend, I resorted to bribery. My deal was: "Get rid of a certain number of old toys that you no longer play with, and I'll give you a certain credit toward buying a new toy." Brian filled three large bags - ancient stuffed animals, not-favorite action figures (aka dust collectors), large plastic trucks he loved as a toddler and has not wanted to give up (but hasn't played with since forever), etc. Honor wanted a couple of the items he was giving up, so I asked her to get something of her own, that she no longer wanted, and she could trade it for the item from Brian's giveaway pile - she did. Brian earned enough for two new toys that he's been begging for... bonus: he loves how good his room looks now.

This 'trade-in' deal will not be a regular event. I will help Honor go through her things too, and then the deal will probably not be repeated until we pack out to move next year. Giving up old toys should be more about charity than rewards. This just turned out to be a good way to push Brian a little, without him feeling 'pushed'. He made his own decisions about the things cluttering his room. No regrets about old toys; he has new toys to anticipate, and a better space to live and play. My reward is knowing that kids learn better when they do it themselves, and this turned into a great lesson.


Cairo Mama said...

good job, guiding the little fly babies!

Christine said...

I agree about the allowance thing sis.