Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Penny For Your Thoughts? What About A Nickel To Make Your Bed?

I don't remember getting a regular allowance when I was growing up, and I don't recall having many chores. I'm the youngest of five, and it's my theory that by the time I was born my parents just got tired of trying to make their children into productive members of society. My three brothers were subjected to a rigorous routine of lawn mowing and trash detail and under my mom's guidance my sister sewed, cleaned and learned how to cook up the perfect meat loaf. When it was my turn I think my parents saw me one day, pathetically trying to wash a dish with the feather duster and thought, "Why bother? No way this one's ever living on her own. We'll just leave her some stocks and a couple pieces of jewelry."

We've been struggling with the whole chores/allowance issue with our girls for awhile now. It all started after our last trip to Disneyland when Rigel, still beside himself over having to spend three hundred dollars at the Mad Hatter shop for two mouse-ear hats and a Goofy keychain, started telling them that they should start dipping into their piggy banks to pay for some of their 'luxury' items. There was a long lecture in the car about money and responsibility and he even managed to work in the speech about how, in some countries, kids their age would have to weave twenty rugs just to afford one of those overpriced balloons that were bobbing around in the backseat. He figured their somber silence was a sign that they were taking his words to heart, but I didn't want to tell him that they'd actually been asleep since we left the parking lot.

When we got home we came up with an allowance plan, deciding that a flat rate would be doled out to them weekly with fifty-cent bonuses for any extra duties. We figured out which chores would be everyday chores, which ones would be weekly and which additional duties could garner them those valuable extra quarters. Rigel and I were very excited, this prospect of bringing financial enlightenment to our offspring! I even mapped out an elaborate color-coded chart with graphs, tables and lists and when I was done it looked like something that the Pentagon could use to assist them in invading a small country.

Our grand plan lasted two weeks.

The first few days went like clockwork. They'd come home, consult their chore list and get to work. Lunchboxes were emptied! Clothes were hung! Beds were made! By the end of the week and the presentation of their first installment of their allowance, Rigel and I were convinced it was only a matter of time before they were charting their earnings on spreadsheets, investing in mutual funds and donating generous amounts to bogus charities for hefty kickbacks.

But soon our new routine gave way to busy work schedules, increased homework loads and, um, blogging. Chores were forgotten, my chart fell behind the bookcase and when it came time for allowance Rigel and I, realizing we didn't have enough dollar bills between us, would give the girls an IOU. After a few weeks of this we abandoned the whole thing altogether. Except for the occasional request for them to empty the dishwasher, or my pre-menstrual tirades where I tear through through the house like a madwoman demanding that they pick up their things or risk losing them to the Goodwill bin, they remain virtually chore-free.

There is a crazy, insane school of thought that says chores shouldn't be tied to their weekly allowance, anyways. The theory is that the chores should be a separate entity, done purely for the aim of contributing to the household's well being. This may be true, but then what do they get their allowance for? Watching TV? Making farting noises with their underarms? I'd be hard pressed to hand over their wad of cash every week with the words, "Good job with the video games. Lay around on the couch a little longer next week and you could really start pulling in the big bucks."

We're still determined to get them on track with the chores, institute a weekly allowance and make them pay for non-essential items with their own money. I think it's important to teach kids fiscal responsibility and give them guidance in making wise financial choices. I didn't have it, and look how I turned out. What kind of idiot spends four dollars for a cup of coffee but then turns around and uses a coupon to save forty-cents on a roll of plastic wrap?

I'd be interested to hear how other parents deal with this issue. Did you have chores as a child? Do your children have chores? Do you give them an allowance or plan to in the future? Are you good at enforcing chores or are you weak and spineless like us and fork over bucketloads of cash because you can't resist those big pleading eyes asking for a McFlurry or a new bottle of nail polish? Well?

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  1. I can feel your pain...

    THE IDEA: My son is supposed to make his bed everyday, pick up his stuff, put his dirty laundry in the basket, and take the trash out twice a week.

    THE REALITY: He hasn't made his bed in a month. The floor is covered with stuff. I do insist that there be a path from his bed to the door in case there's a fire. His dirty socks and underwear are sitting on the family room floor. He's pretty good about the trash when I remind him - and for this he gets $10 a week.

    Something's just not right here.

  2. I have 9 and 10 year old daughters. For their allowance they put their laundry away, empty the dishwasher, water and feed the dog/cats, do homework, music practice and keep their rooms clean. I buy clothes twice (school and summer) and they get little extra for birthday and christmas. nothing else!!! This has not been easy but they understand I do not cave (grandma does though). Here is how we brake it down. For the past year we have using Mead Bright Wallets (found at office Max) they get $10 every two weeks (shared cusody) and have to choose how to divide up their funds. We use 5 Wallets 1- Savings 2-Charity 3 and 4 a goal set by them to buy and 5- Mad Money. There are 3 rules. 1- At least .50 must go to a charity of their choosing. 2- $2 must go into savings. 3-No more than $5 can be in Mad Money at a time. My girls have really understood what it takes to get what they want. Even money they get for holidays and birthdays get divided in these wallets. Last year they both saved over $200 for a family vacation, donated $50 to a local homeless shelter and $80 to the local no kill animal shelter. I am so proud of the way they have taken to this! My husband and I also get an allowance to keep on budget, I make sure the girls know this and that way they dont beg me to spend my allowance on stuff they can save for themselves.
    Good luck!!!

  3. Here's how it worked with me and my brother. We either did our chores or we got our asses whupped. And allowances were given for doing homework and bringing home good grades.

    Did it work? Highly debatable but I think so. To this day, if I see some dirty dishes in the sink, I wash them immediately because I'm worried that my wife might beat me.

    And getting paid for studying? Well, my parents didn't care how the knowledge got in my head. They just cared that it got in there.

  4. We do the whole chore/allowance thing a couple of times a year. Then I run out of meds and am laying on the couch and I want company.So I encourage the kids to join me in a Project Runway/fast food marathon. We burn the chore list in celebration.

    My younger kids get money for birthdays, Christmas, etc. from distant relatives. If they ever want anything big or outrageous, they have wait for a their birthday or buy it out of their stash.

    My oldest daughter babysits a lot, so she uses her money 75% of the time. She has a checking account and is pretty good about saving for big items (bass, electric guitar, cruiser bike) but she frequently needs $5 bucks for an afternoon downtown with her friends.

    The chores? I ask them to do things and they usually do them (at least by the third time they are asked). We recently have thought of the whole chore list because our house looks like we've all given up. We have, but we don't want it to look like it.

  5. so weird, I was just composing a post about kids and chores! My two start an arguement to get out of chores because it seems that being yelled, physically seperated and sent to corners (naughty step equivilant)then grounded and worst of all - no dessert is preferable to putting away a few toys and running the vacuum around! J's latest fight starter? to karate chop C on either side of her sore neck! I feel like the mother in malcolm in the middle "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE!" My two have to be given chores in differents rooms as they watch each other and hold back so that one doesnt do more than the other, if they put as much effort into doing their chores as they do trying to get out of them this house would be spotless!

    Yep Boots is great, we have a little one in the small town I live in and a huuuuge one in the bigger town about 3 miles away, I can spend hours browsing and they give loyalty points so I can have free chocolate! They pharmacy assistants are good too and dont make me feel like a druggie when I ask which make has the highest concoction to make my back ache go away!

  6. Since LB is still only 2, we don't have to (fight) deal with this issue yet. But I have an over-optimistic view of chores = clean house = money for her.

    I'm still working on not having her poop her pants and the stickers don't seem to do much. Maybe it's time to START an allowance for pooping in the potty. It's only slightly better than the fart noises you listed. ;-)

  7. My son is two but I will share my experiences growing up:
    "I don't get paid for this why should you?"
    "Why are you asking me for money for doing something you should be doing anyway?"

    there were more, but needless to say I never got paid to do my chores. I don't know how I'm going to approach this with my son...good luck to you!

  8. My mother tried the "chores are not related to allowance" philosophy, but it went nowhere. As kids, my siblings and I just didn't really give a rat's hiney if the dusting got done or the laundry got folded. In fact, I distinctly remember saying "Mom, our REAL friends don't care if our house is dirty." The "real friends like you for YOU" lesson backfired a little bit there.

    Once allowance was tied to the chores, it worked a whole lot better. Money makes the world go round!

  9. Mary,Mom to 5!3/29/2007 1:39 PM

    Why would I pay my kids $$$ to live in my house? Dont I already do that? I obviously dont give out an allowance. They are expected (and yes it requires me to whine) to do about a chore a day. If they want to earn money I can keep them busy for days doing extra chores for cash or babysitting. They are all pretty good with money, me I am pissing it away. lol

  10. I grew up with lax chore/allowance rules as well. Which explains our non-existant policy in our house, but like you I'm thinking of cracking down - no chores, no $$$!

  11. we're still trying to decide how to do this...

    until then there is status quo

  12. When I was a little girl I remember getting a regular allowance. But I think my parents were light on the work - I only remember washing dishes a couple of times in a month, and other than that keeping my room clean.

    I guess they didn't train me very well, either because I buy those $4 cups of coffee as well.


  13. Check this out:

    I just discovered it today, but I haven't tried it yet.

  14. Allowance? What's that? When we were growing up, us three girls had to do all the work while the two brothers were out playing sports and we didn't get a dime. It was a "privilege" for having room and board in our parents' house.

    So, I'll probably institute something similar too. The only allowance they'll see is from the tooth fairy.

  15. we got pennies off our allowance for grammar mistakes, so all four of us kids were in the negative column for months. You might want to try that. "Like", when not necessary, can cost them a bundle.Then I remember my dad keeping a tally for us on a little pad till it added up to something...

    mind you, I believe my weekly take was a nickel for starters, making it's way up to a nice little stack of small coins by the time I was a teenager.

    Oh yeah, I was flush.

    We were all required to clean our rooms before the cleaning lady came (insert collective, hunh?) She only came once every two weeks, and I remember we'd come home from school that day, dump our jackets and bookbags and my mother would burst into tears..."but , but it was clean?"

    She wanted four kids...I never understood it...until now.

    I liked to cook, so I became the scullery maid early on...but I don't believe any of our chores were linked to the handsome sum we were sometimes awarded.

    AND, our present in home allowance experience sounds a lot like yours. It all makes sense for a while, but then, I am still paying for movies and ice creams and souvenirs, and I am still nagging at them to lend a hand, and I don't have the requisite bills in my wallet come kid pay day...and it falls apart again.

    but, I am still good at living on next to nothing...

  16. In theory our daughter is meant to get $3 a week, but we've forgotten to give it to her for so long I think we owe her several hundred dollars at this point.

    The chores we have her do because she's part of the family (again in theory- we're all gung-ho for a while , and then we all slack off- I get tired of asking)

  17. I recall getting around $2 a week, but I had to work for it. My sister and I had to wash dishes, vacuum and set the table for dinner.

    But I seem to remember doing most of the work. My sister was busy curling her hair and talking on the phone with boys.

  18. We used to have a chore list that was hung on the fridge every week. The kids found it boring to have the same chores for an entire week so I started writing out daily chore lists. That last for a few months until I started forgetting to write the list... Thanks for reminding me. Are they ever going to get a surprise after school tonight when there is a new chore list waiting for them!

  19. You are my writing hero, you know. Reading this blog satisfies me a great deal.

    I never grew up with an allowance but rather with a graph-paper chart of possible household chores, with monetary amounts next to each one (ex: a quarter for scrubbing the toilet). Every time I'd complete any chore off the list, I could put a check mark next to it, and every few weeks my mom would tally it all up and pay up. So I could control how much I earned by how much I did.

    With our kids, we're keeping it simple (they're ages 6 and 4). The six-year-old gets a dollar a week, and her one responsiblity is to empty all the small garbage cans around the house on garbage day. The four-year-old gets a dollar, too, and he gets it for holding still and being nice when I cut his finger and toenails. He can earn more if he helps fold laundry or empty the dishwasher, but he must volunteer and do it when I'm ready to do it.

    I heard an NPR financial pundit talking about giving a nominal allowance, even without chores, because then you're teaching your kids how to save, about purchasing power, and about long-range thinking and such. It's working for us, even though our kids do have to complete minor chores each week.

    Oh, and we often do the IOU thing, as we never have cash.

  20. If ONLY I could get the wee toddlers to do chores!

  21. Love and Logic, a discipline program, suggests that you don't pay your child to do their own chores but that $ can be had if they do your chores. I pay my daughter to dust...a chore I hate!

  22. As the oldest of five, I always felt like I got the lion's share of chores. No rewards. No allowances. Nothing but an extra helping of cold gruel.

    Seriously though, I do believe in a reward of some sort as a show of appreciation... not for something that's supposed to be done. But for something that was done WELL... at the very least, without my having to remind them every single day.

    Good luck!

  23. We had to do some housework (how I longed for 'chores' which sounded so exotic, because I only read about them in Little House on the Prarie) and it wasn't related to our pocket money. If we wanted to buy anything we had to save up half and our parents would chip in half. That was until my parents worked out what a little miser I was. After that my mother started raiding my piggy bank when she ran out of cash in an emergency ... I don't know if it worked or not, I do zero housework still if I can get away with it and still save all the money I can. I think you're born that way.

  24. this sounds so familiar! not only have the carefully allocated chores all been reabsorbed into my routine, but the regular pocket money has gone into reverse. so now when i'm cross with them, it's 'you know that £42 pocketmoney i owe you? well, now it's only 37! hah!'
    so lame ...

  25. I refuse to tie chores to pocket money/allowance.. because I don't think that will teach them to pull their weight when they leave home. When they are in their own place, or share accommodation, noone is going to pay them to get in and do the washing up, etc.

    My aim is for them to be lovely, helpful girls who will be able to bog in and do their bit when they see something needs doing, rather than fighting over doing only what is on a chores chart and nothing else. Hah.

    There are things I have succeeded in getting them to do, and other things they are hopeless at. Problem is I'm totally disorganised and messy myself, so it's a bit like the blind leading the blind.

    I decided to finally give them pocket money simply to teach them that if they want little luxuries they have to buy them themselves out of their 'own' money instead of pleading with me. After all, what is the difference between that, and succumbing to buying them various 'desires'. When remembering to give it to them in cash every week failed, I ended up opening bank accounts (in trust) tied to mine, and the money goes in automatically. When they want to spend their money, I will give them the cash, and then pay myself back.

    Having to buy some things with their 'own' money has made them think twice about the difference between needs and wants, and even do price comparisons.

    It is all a bit more complicated than that... you have inspired me to write a post about it myself, actually.

  26. We're still trying to figure this one out ourselves. So far we haveleaned toward not getting allowance & the kids doing chores as 'being part of the family'. But it's hard once they want to start earning money....

    BTW~ I love your blog :)

  27. I'll relate my own experiences here. It was pretty much do your chores or else.... Now, I don't condone the sort of punishments I recieved for being argumentative, but I can't see getting paid for them either. I grew up in a small town with quite few farmers and it's not even a question for local kids most of the time. You just don't even try to argue and get out of them. Once the "It's non-negotiable" tone is set, which will no doubt be tricky, Problem solved. My mom did try the charts thing but couldn't stick with it. Fear worked much better for her, in the rare instances I did refuse something. My mom sets a horrible example with money and I learned how to handle money by watching her mess up with it repeatedly. I didn't start earning my own money until I turned 10 and started mowing my grandma's lawn. That money was used on big things I wanted (like my own camcorder) and anything beyond the 2 big shopping sprees a year for fall clothes and school supplies, then summer gear. Perhaps you can have expected chores, like stuff around the house like dishes and trash detail and then job chores (bigger harder stuff) such as mowing the lawn that the kids get paid for. I do think the envelope idea mentioned above rocks. I think I'll try that with my own kids if I have any.

  28. Mmm. I think Metrodad is on to something.... Especially with the beatings... heehee. Honestly? I have no idea. Right now there's no allowance but my child is 4 1/2 so there's no need for it. But I am eager to hear how others handle this...

  29. Shoot, the whole reason I had a child was so I could eventually stop taking out the garbage and mowing the lawn.

    We're even thinking of moving to a colder, Northern climate just to make her understand the pain of shoveling snow.

    Well, that and the tax break. Allowance? Ha.

  30. As the eldest I was the subject of my parents' freshman attempts at rasing a child right. I was made from an early age to go out and get part time jobs delivering papers, caddying for alcoholic golfers etc. My siblings found that persistent wheedling was more effective and more fun. Not that I am bitter.

  31. Well...In my house, chores (yes, exotic "chores") are tied to allowance. I mean, really, no one is giving me money without working for it and since I don't see a trust fund in my sons' future, I figure they had better get the hang of the work equals money concept since they aren't staying on my couch past college. That said, they are allotted jobs based on ability to do. The older child gets a couple more jobs thus earning more money as befits his age and needs. As the younger grows, he will have the opportunity to add jobs and money. These are weekly jobs (daily is pretty hard with the demands of homework, so we stick with the folding laundry, dusting outside, stripping making bed kind of stuff). They do them by the predetermined deadline, they get paid. They don't do them, no moolah. (If I have to do them, I pay myself their allowance money, thus setting up a little fun money fund for myself!!)We buy the basics, but extra toys, games, movies with friends, paintballing, etc. must be saved for. They save gift money too. Works great. No arguments over what they want to buy. It's their money so I don't have to care whether or not they are wasting it. There are at times opportunities to earn extra for special jobs that come up seasonally.

  32. My little guys are still young, so I will learn a lot from this post...

    My question were 45 minutes away from me and you couldn't say HI?!?!?! ;)

  33. We give each of the kids a base allowance and have a chore list posted with amounts if they want to earn more. Only the 11 year old has a consistent chore that is considered his responsibility, but the six year olds are ready now, too.

    The four and five year olds get .50 a week, six year olds 1.00, and the 11 year old gets 2.00. The oldest three have three jars- one for spending, one for saving and one for charity. They can divide it any way they choose, with a min. set for each jar.

    It is understood that we will ask them to do something around the house in order to help out and that they will not be paid for it. They do ask for clarification on that rule, sometimes. We also give chores as consequences, that are not paid.

    It's fabulous to go to the store and have them ask for something and turn it back to them... "I don't know, do you have enough money?"

    There are enough holidays, birthday's etc that they get their fill of junk food, toys, and sweets, so I don't feel like they are deprived.


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