Monday, September 19, 2011


My 8 year old son does not come by anything naturally, maybe most kids don’t, I don’t know. My 4 year old comes by things very naturally…I only have the two children to compare so maybe some of you can identify, or have a child similar to my 8 year old. He needs to be shown or coached through everything. Teaching him things is not always easy. I relate to my 8 year old. HE IS ME when I was growing up. I was always so frustrated and felt like my brain didn’t work because I didn’t get some of the concepts that others did (well, that’s another blog). 
I have been struggling over the last year to teach him the value of work and money. My husband and I believe that it is our job to teach our children how working on commission is how the world works. You do the work you get paid. You don’t do the work, you don’t get paid. There is no allowance. We also believe that there are certain responsibilities you have in a family that you do because you are part of the family. 
I struggled to find balance between what he should do as a member of our family for free, and what he could do for money, and it seemed that at every turn there was negotiations going on about “If I do that how much will I earn?” or “I’m not doing that for free, I want a quarter” Then there would be whining and grumbling the entire time.
So I did what the typical house does and made a chore chart. My attempt at a chore chart was defeated when he decided he would only do enough to make the money he wanted then he wouldn’t do any more. 
If I asked him to help me out in picking up he would say “I didn’t make that mess, why should I have to…?” Again, the grumbling.
We were constantly arguing over the “Why should I have to?”
I finally had to sit down and ask myself, What is it exactly that I want him to learn? What is the end result? When he is an adult, what do I want this to look like? Do I want him turning to his boss and saying “I didn’t make that mess, I’m not cleaning it up?” Do I want him on the job doing the bare minimum to get his paycheck? Do I want him to grumble and complain about what he has to do? I could name 5 people off the top of my head that do this exact thing in the adult world…The answer is NO! Nothing I was saying or doing was helping this attitude problem.
I was thinking about all of this as I was listening to my favorite afternoon radio show, and the host said something that hit me. He said (talking to a caller), “If you worked for me, you’d be fired by now.” And the light bulb turned on. If my husband went to work with the attitudes my son does he’d be fired by now. 
I realized that he was failing at what I was attempting to teach him because I hadn’t started with the basics…a work ethic. My son, needed to be taught how to have a good work ethic. He completely respects and loves his father, so why not use him as an example?
Here is what I devised:
#1) THE SALARY – You are only allowed to make $2 a day (in the summer), no more. School year rates will be different.
#2) THE WORK – You will do what I ask, when I ask, no matter what.
  • This is not a chore chart. I assess every day what household things need to be done and he is to work for me until I say he is done with no negotiation on how much he will make for each thing he does…he just keeps working until the work is done.
#3) THE ATTITUDE - If I hear grumbling of any kind…YOU’RE FIRED, and you don’t get paid that day…we try again the next day.
#4) THE BONUS – If you see things that need to be done and do them without being asked you have potential to earn a bonus at the end of the month. 
I sat him down and explained to him that:
  • Daddy goes to work everyday, and he has a salary. Dad only gets to make so much every day. No matter what he does in that work day it’s the same.
  • Daddy does what he’s asked when he’s asked, or has it done by the deadline given. 
  • Daddy cannot go to work and grumble about what he is asked to do, or he will be fired. 
  • Daddy does his best to see what needs to be done before he is asked so that his company knows he is a good employee and worth keeping around (even in the tough times). Sometimes, because of that, Daddy gets a bonus from his company to show appreciation for what he has done above and beyond what he was asked to do.
We made an agreement that the first day would be a trial run and I would just point out what attitudes would get him fired (because he really didn’t know). He was fired 4 times that day and each time he made a mental note and didn’t do it again.
In the days that followed it got easier and easier and he became happy to do whatever I asked. I didn’t hear “Why do I have to do that” or “How much for this job”. He was happy to get his money and I was happy to give it to him. He still hasn’t quite caught on to the bonus system. Like I said, he doesn’t come by things naturally, so he doesn’t really see that there is anything to be done outside of what he is told. I’ll help him through that in the next couple of weeks. 

This system works for my 8 year old. I don’t expect that it would work for every child, in fact, it doesn’t work at all for my 4 year old. He gets overwhelmed by the “you’re fired” maybe its just his age, maybe its him and his style. 
I’ve learned over the years that sometimes we as parents need to give up what we think of as the “right way” of doing things and try to find what works best for the individual child.  We all learn different. I am very lucky that my son is exactly how I was when I was a child, so I can relate to him. I know what it’s like to not see that anything else needs to be done. (Those socks on the floor are perfectly fine where they are…they’ve been there for 3 days isn’t that where they belong now?) I literally had to learn everything. 
Don’t hear me say that I’m not guilty of nagging my children…I so am! Asking God for help to break that cycle and to bring ideas to me that will help me and my children is where the glory goes for any success I have had. 
Now to work through the kinks of the “because you are part of this family” system…

We would love to hear your ideas of how to teach kids a good work ethic. If you try out Adrian's idea, then please let us know how it works for your family. Lastly, if you have any tips on teaching "because you are part of this family", please do share!


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