Parenting Perspective: Rewarding Responsibility

April 2, 2010 7:59:57 AM PDT
I come from a long line of hardworking salt-of-the-earth folks who often worked too much and didn't leave enough time to play. My maternal grandparents were farmers who worked from sunrise to sunset, literally.

My paternal grandparents were entrepreneurs who worked shorter hours in real estate and homebuilding, but put in 7 days a week. So, my parents grew up believing in chores for me and my 3 brothers.

I don't ask my 9-year-old son Jake to do the ironing, vacuuming, dusting, dishes, bathrooms and childcare like I had to do weekly. It often could total 5 or 6 hours a week for me as the only girl in a family with 4 kids and two working parents.

However, I do ask my son to help out around the house for 3 key reasons: I think it's important to teach children a work ethic, teach them that they can and should contribute to family efforts at every age and teach them the value of money.

So, starting at age 5 Jake would "help" do small things like sit at the kitchen table and unload the groceries so I could put them away. I didn't expect him to put the food away in the right spot, but he certainly could take it out of the bags and set it on the table for me.

By 6-years-old he was helping with the laundry... I taught him to put the dirty clothes in the washer, shake in the powder and turn the knobs with my supervision. But his favorite part was throwing the clothes in the dryer. I told him to pretend the wet clothes were baseballs and I let him throw them in! By 7, he was watering the plants, refilling our cat's food and water bowls and helping fold the clean laundry.

By 8, he even mastered sweeping the patio and setting the table for dinner nightly.

Not every parent pays a child allowance for chores, and I understand the different philosophies on that. On the one hand, shouldn't they contribute to family life for free like their parents do? But on the other hand, I wanted Jake to learn how long it takes to make money and how quickly it tends to get spent! That way he learned to take care of his toys and choose carefully when he wants something new.

So, at our house, I do pay him an allowance in conjunction with any chores. It started at 50-cents to $1.00 per "job." We even typed a list on our computer and he would check off and total how much money he was "due." Of course, it didn't take him long to ask for a raise! I laughed and explained to him that I didn't get a raise that day, but I did give him a fair time frame for an increase... a month from then (something short that a child can look forward to.) And if he's tired, I let him do his small jobs a different day.

It's been great for Jake, and it has the added plus of giving him some spending money for extra activities (like snowboarding in this picture which is his favorite winter sport), toys, and fun with his friends.

I recommend it!