“I’ve also heard that it takes 3 generations which is concerning for me since I would say that my parents are first generation rich (though technically my grandparents are also wealthy, but they built their wealth later in life around the same time as my parents), which means that it’s me who might spoil the kids. That’s why teaching kids about money is such an important priority to me, and teaching my kids about work too,”, wrote Hannah from Unplanned Finance in my recent post about the tough job of changing one’s financial tree.
That comment got me thinking about our journey to teach our kids the importance of working for money (instead of simply expecting it to be handed to them) and how we try to balance that with having them do work around the house or chores for others simply out of a giving heart.
We often have chances to make choices in how to find that balance with our kids. Sometimes they get overwhelmed with the work involved with farm life. Sometimes (although rarely) they ask for money for things they’d like to buy.
For the most part, they understand that if they want money they have to earn it. They sell unwanted toys to their siblings, or ask me if there’s any extra work (aside from the regular chores) that they can do for pay.
My Parenting Weakness
It’s the “overwhelmed with work” part that really grabs at my heartstrings. Honestly, they don’t do that much work around here. At least in comparison to the amount of free time they have. But they are expected to keep their rooms neat, make their beds daily, and we rotate certain chores such as animal care chores, emptying the dishwasher, etc.
Yesterday our son was feeling overwhelmed with all that was on his to-do list. I had washed and dried all of the bedding yesterday, so he had to make his bed from the bottom up. It’s his week to empty the dishwasher. He had the barn cats to feed and care for, which includes cleaning all of the litter boxes, sweeping the barn, feeding the cats and putting fresh water in their bowls.
With tears in his eyes he explained that he was feeling overwhelmed and asked me what he could do to lighten the work load. My kids don’t whine very often, so when they’re tearing up like that I know it’s authentic, and it grabs at me. I’m often tempted in those situations to reduce chore loads or take some of their stuff on myself. But since I’d done my own large work load yesterday (10 loads of laundry among other things) it didn’t feel right to take on his work. Plus, I really want the kids to have the life experience of working through those days when there’s lots to do. I want them to have the experience of perseverance. I want them to have the satisfaction of saying “I didn’t think I could do it, I didn’t want to do it, but I did it.”
In the end, I made the difficult choice of not bailing Sam out of his workload (although I did provide empathy and a warm hug), and he was excited when he came up with the idea of paying a sister $1.30 to put his bed back together and she took the deal. I’m still debating whether or not to give him a dollar just to bless him. I probably will as I feel the Lord leading me that way.
I have to add in here that prayer has been a powerful tool for me as I work to decide when to help the kids, when to give them cash “just because” and when to let them find a way out on their own. But there’s another problem I encounter as I work to find this balance.
Do it Out of the Kindness of Your Heart
I also want the kids to learn that it’s important to do things just because it’s the right thing to do, or because it’ll bless someone. Sometimes they get this “It’s not my job, it’s so-and-so’s job” attitude about stuff. Again, this is rare, but this is one of the problems with paying kids for chores. Therefore we have a separate list of chores that they do simply because it’s a part of being a member of the family. We work as a team to keep the house clean, to cook the meals, etc.
And we try to encourage them to bless other family members when they are led. We do this by example, but try not to do it constantly as to help them avoid getting the idea that mom and dad are their servants (do anyone else’s kids seem to get that idea at times?).
We promote the team concept lots, and the kids will verify that, especially when it comes to dinner meal choices I’ll answer with “I’m not a short-order cook. This is what we’re having. It’s your choice whether or not you eat it.”
More than anything, I want our kids to avoid entering adulthood with an entitlement mentality. I want them to understand that it’s a big, awesome country we live in, one where they have the blessing of choosing their path, and that freedom is a blessing. They are free to not work, to work at Walmart, to go to college and get a degree; whatever they want. I want them to ponder what goals they have in life and work out a plan to achieve those goals.
Letting kids earn their own money instead of giving it to them, letting them do their own work instead of doing it for them; these things build huge confidence when parents are standing by as their cheerleader and guiding them in how to get things done.
When they’re done with parents who have an “you’re on your own, pal” attitude, kids often feel resentment and abandonment.
It’s a tough balance to find, but the more we can lovingly coach and encourage our kids to be self-made, the more we can give them the tools they’ll need to make it in life. There is something about achieving a goal with your own two hands and hard work that makes it all the more satisfying.
I sincerely hope we do that with our kids. It’s tough finding the balance, but we’ll keep working on it. 🙂