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GoodNCrazy Mom Wonders: Child Slave Labor or Allowance?

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“Mom, can I go to the movies with friends tonight?”

“Mom, I REALLY need this new mascara.”

“Mom, I need $450 for the band trip.” ($450!?!)

“Mom, these shoes are too cute. I must have them…the company gives back to charity, and they only cost $70!” (Um…only? Plus, I don’t like them; they remind me of ugly 80s shoes.)

Right. All the purchases they think are great deals aren’t much of a deal to me.

My pockets are full of holes lately. Or more like full-of-my-14-year-old's-hands-reaching-in-for-hand-outs!

To be fair, there were school-sponsored fundraisers for the band trip expense. But selling crappy chocolate door-to-door isn’t something we are happy about (it netted about .20 cents per sale, btw!). Instead my daughter (the 14-year-old) and I came up with our own fundraiser. We called it: “Ask Dad,” and it involved finding out what tasks needed to be done around the house, and her doing them in exchange for us paying for her trip.

This included:

  • cleaning out the under-house storage room and helping haul the weird junk left-from-previous-owners to the dump;
  • tearing up a corner flower bed that needed a complete overhaul, removing all the plants, weeds and bushes, and then helping till the soil, dig and plant new plants, and tend it all-summer-long;

And my favorite:

  • clean and detail the family wagon (BEFORE each family road trip).

I love a clean car to start out on a long drive! And professionally detailing the mom-van costs more than $100!

Oh, and of course, pretty much all the babysitting of her younger siblings we might need on a weekly basis…say, for the rest of her life.

So, are we slave drivers? (Yes, that's her in the photo above, slaving away.) The funny thing is I’ve always been a HUGE fan of paying children an allowance. I love that it teaches math and organizing skills. For years I’ve expected all my kids to pay their own small school fees like for a school issued organizer or P.E. fees. Plus they pay for half of larger items like gifts for friends’ birthdays or to save up to purchase a much coveted toy of their own.

Where did we go wrong with that?

It was working right up until that $450 band trip. WHAM! And the movies-with-friends/mascara/awesome-shoes-I-NEED-Mom(!).

In short, the kids have all grown up.

And when I pay them an allowance, often they save that money and I still end up paying for the 14-year-old's movies-with-friends/mascara/awesome-shoes, along with a “promise-I’ll-pay-you-back(!), Mom!”

This brave new world of an older kid and money isn’t working out.

How do you come up with a plan to help your kids learn the value of money AND the value of work? Because I want them to genuinely enjoy the moment when they realize: “I did that, I saved for that, I am awesome” Or, even better, the moment when they realize that that “thing” isn’t worth $70 in the first place—“I’d rather save my hard earned money!” (A mom can dream, right?)

Until we figure out the magic solution to this allowance conundrum, we’re happily resorting to slave labor (as much of it as we can get out of the 14-year-old). Because movies-with-friends/mascara/and-shiny-new-must-haves don’t come cheap

At least we’ll have the learn-to-work part of the equation down.


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Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?