My kids are paid on a commission. My children have chores that they are required to do on a daily basis simply because they are a member of this household – pick up their dirty clothes, take their dishes to the sink and make their beds are just a few. But aside from these required duties, they also have paid job opportunities. Just like anyone else in the working world, they work and they are paid based on a pay scale that reflects both the job and their ability to do that job. Every day, waiting on them when they get off the bus is a card that lets them know what their job is for that day. Each child has their own colored card (blue for the boy, purple for the girl) that lists what job they have to accomplish that day before they can go play. We are hoping to teach them a few things with this method.
The first lesson I want them to learn is that to get money, you need to work. They don’t get an “allowance” which I define as money that you get just by existing in this household. They get paid for their jobs on payday, which we have designated as the same day that John gets his paycheck from work. They understand that payday is not just for grownups, it is for anyone who works for money, including them. I want them to go forth in life realizing that if they hope to succeed, they will need to work to get there.
The second lesson is that they are capable of doing things that they would not have thought they could do. My children are 6 & 8 years old and we have been doing this method for at least the past year. They have learned to clean mirrors and windows, vacuum rugs, sweep floors, empty the dishwasher, fold towels, pull weeds, dust tables and fold and put away their own clothes. This has given them a confidence that we would not been able to give them any other way. We wanted our kids to go out into the world feeling as though they were capable adults and were able to handle things that seemed too big for them at the time. The first time I taught my then 5 year old to vacuum, I saw him take on a task that seemed insurmountable. Here was this vacuum cleaner that was as big as he was and might have weighed more. He had fear and trepidation in his eyes and his first reaction was to say “I can’t do this!” and my reply was “Yes, you can”. They don’t always do things to the level that I would have if I were doing them myself but by me being able to give up the perfectionist tendencies, they have learned invaluable lessons.
The third lesson that they are learning is to take pride in their work. It is important for our children to understand that any job worth doing is worth doing well. I have seen my kids stand back and look at their job to determine if it was done satisfactory. They have taken the initiative to redo what wasn’t done right the first time. Now don’t get me wrong, they are kids and have tried to skate by and only do part of the job before. Those were the times that I loving and gently guided them back to the task and informed them that I was paying for the job to be done well and I expected it to be done again. Almost always, they knew that they had tried to turn in less than stellar work. They might have whined or complained but they redid the job and were proud of themselves afterward.
The final lesson that my kids have taken away from this experience is respect. I think that by having to work for the money that they get, they have more respect for how to spend the money they are paid. My daughter will often think about a purchase for weeks before making it because she respects how much effort it takes to earn the money that she has. You can only learn that by having to earn what you get. I am also hopeful that by having to do the work themselves, they will show more respect for others who are working in their lives. I want them to see the work that their parents do and respect how hard it is to do that work. I want them to see the work that their teachers do and respect the amount of effort that is put forth. I want them to see the work that is done by the almost invisible people in their lives (grocery clerks, gas station attendants, garbage men) and respect what these people are doing in their lives. You can only learn to respect the work that others do when you have done it yourself.
Look down the road and think about the lessons you want your children to learn. The lessons that you teach them now are the ones that will shape them their entire lives. As parents, it is our job to teach these lessons to our children in hopes that if we “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it”(Proverbs 22:6).