It’s amazing to me that I shared my body, for 9 whole months, with a little human who won’t even share her M&Ms with me. Imagine that. GIRL – who do you think paid for that candy?! I guarantee, however, if I offered her something in exchange for the treasured chocolate, she would capitalize on the opportunity, almost instantly. Some might call it early signs of entrepreneurship, but I call it a dirtier word – entitlement.
If we aren’t careful about what we are willing to give our children, in exchange for something we expect of them, we could be fostering an attitude of entitlement.
I know, it’s a sensitive topic. Any parenting topic is sensitive. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to approach this area of parenting, but hear me out for a moment. I REFUSE to pay for chores. As I see it, cleaning your room, washing dishes, folding laundry, and so on are all responsibilities of being part of a household. It’s what we do in our family and I am not paying my daughter to be in this family.
I expect my daughter to help out around the house because it is the right thing to do, not because she can make money doing it.
If we give our children allowances (now) in exchange for chores, what are we going to do if they one day decide they don’t need the money and refuse to do the work? Furthermore, why should we reward our children for something they should already be doing?
It’s an area I wrestled with for a long time – how do I structure allowances and delineate between what is “expected” and what should be “rewarded” behavior. Then I sat in church one Sunday and had the rare privilege of hearing John Maxwell deliver a message on this very subject. He spoke of how his parents gave him money for reading books when he was growing up. I will never forget how he shared personally about his parents’ philosophy.
John asked his dad, early on, why he paid them to read while their friends received their allowance for taking out the trash and other chores around the house. Melvin Maxwell replied that if he wanted them to grow up to be garbage collectors, he would do the same. He had higher goals for his children and he knew reading and education were the keys. Besides Melvin said, “You were all born owing your mother nine months room and board and you do household chores to make up for the lost time.”
John said, with much humility, that by the time he graduated high school, he was miles ahead of his peers due to the years of extra reading. His dad helped provide the educational foundation that would carry John on to the lofty heights of success that he has achieved.
I’ve realized that before I pay my child to do something, I need to evaluate the underlying message that I am sending. I am going to put my money where my value is and where I think there is an opportunity to cultivate her desire to expand in that area. While oftentimes we opt to provide an allowance in exchange for our children doing something, as an attempt to thwart entitlement, I feel as though it does the opposite. It sets the stage for entitlement because it teaches kids that everything revolves around them. It puts the child above the needs of the family. It begs the questions, “What’s in it for me?” and “What do I get out of it?”
On the flip side, “free” chores teach that everyone has a role to play and that everyone must contribute. A family is a community, not an employer-employee situation.
Investing in Our Future
The lessons we teach our children today are ultimately going to shape who they become tomorrow; and, who they become directly affects our future. I don’t know about you, but I often think about the day my daughter will be changing my diapers and what type of person she has turned out to be. That will certainly determine the kind of experience I will have!
In all seriousness, I am far from being a parenting expert and this is in no way an attempt to tell you that you are doing anything wrong. This is merely an attempt to present an alternate perspective.
At the moment, the system that works for us goes like this: helping with household responsibilities are expected. Money can be earned for achieving educational goals and completing tasks that are outside of customary chores. She is expected to use that money, along with anything she is gifted, to learn to budget and save. When she does so responsibly, that presents opportunities to earn more. I reward her for being creative and for going above and beyond. She is rewarded for reading in addition to what is required of her schoolwork.
Our system isn’t perfect, and we evolve as we go, but I can say one thing is for sure – I truly believe that the best thing we can do for our children is to allow them to do things for themselves – without attaching a monetary affirmation to it. Allow them to be strong and allow them to experience life on their terms. Expect accountability, integrity, and respect, but give them a safe space to stumble while doing it. Let them be better people, let them believe more in themselves, and let them earn their way through each and every lesson.