My Kids Are Gonna Break Me!

DollarsMoms have a lot of stress because we’re responsible for a lot of people and a lot of things. And if you’re responsible for the finances in the home, that stress load quadruples–and then multiplies by 100. So we’re gonna talk about money…because I want to share an easy strategy that not only made a big difference in my stress…but also taught my girls a few things about money management.

Let’s set the scene. You’re at Wal-Mart. As you roll through the aisles, this kid asks for this, and that kid asks for that. You say no a few times and yes a few times, and by the time you get to the checkout line and start putting the contents of your cart on the conveyor, you do some quick math. This kid’s little extras add up to $15, and that kid’s extras add up to $13, and now you’ve just spent $30 more than you planned (don’t forget taxes!). You vow–again–to quit taking your kids to Wal-Mart.

Is there a solution? Yep. Your kids need to quit spending your money…and instead, spend their money. But my baby is only six, you say. He doesn’t have a job…or a paycheck. Well, give him one. Domestic Sanitation Assistant is an impressive title for his future resume’, don’t you think? Here’s an example job description to hang on your fridge each month.

Before my girls had a driver’s licence or jobs, each had her own chore chart* with (8) responsibilities. Some tasks were the same for both, laundry for instance. Some jobs were different. Randi vacuumed; Kelli mopped. And each job had a dollar value–based on how often it would be done (unloading the dishwasher daily) or more likely, how much I didn’t like doing it myself (cleaning the bathroom). Remember to keep the jobs age-appropriate.

The girls were paid for the jobs they did right…or not paid if they didn’t… and Sunday evening was payday. It was important for them to learn the idea of a “payday”–receiving a specific reward for their specific work at one specific time.

Now, as you already figured out, there are a couple of problems with this system…especially at first.

What if Junior doesn’t fold and put away his laundry…and doesn’t care if he doesn’t get his $2 for the job? It happens. And he may not care on Sunday night when his stack of dollar bills is a little short, but on that next trip to Wal-Mart when he wants to buy a Star Wars action figure and doesn’t have enough money, he’ll care…IF you stay strong and don’t give him an advance on next week’s paycheck or give him a loan to work off later.

It’s important for Junior to feel the consequences of choosing to shirk his responsibilities.

It might take a time or ten for the lesson to sink in, but it will.

There’s another problem that might arise. Unlike Junior, Juniorette embraces the chore chart. She likes checking jobs off the list and adding up the money she’s earned. So she asks for more jobs to do…because she wants more money.

Now, on the surface, this is great! She wipes your baseboards, cleans out the fridge, dusts all the decor on your walls. But when payday comes, the calculator says you owe Juniorette $50! Take advantage of her enthusiasm and get some of those overlooked jobs done, but pace her so you don’t break the bank. 

Juniorette poses another problem. Remember Junior who doesn’t want to do his jobs? His sister sees an opportunity. She makes a deal: she’ll do his jobs if she gets his pay. This is good because the jobs get done. But it’s bad because, once again, Junior can’t afford the Star Wars figurine. (Will the boy ever learn?)

While the chore chart isn’t a perfect system, here’s what I like about it. When kiddos have to give their own hard-earned cash to Wal-Mart, they make different decisions. Suddenly certain items aren’t as necessary as they once were. They realize their money supply is limited, so they prioritize their wants and needs. Sometimes making those choices is torture for them…but it can be entertaining for you…kinda like payback for all the years they nickel and dimed their momma.

Our kiddos learn a lot of good lessons by getting paid for a job well done. Each payday I required my girls to set aside 10% for savings and 10% for church. It might be hard pull those dollar bills from their greedy little hands, but when they watch their savings account grow, they start to feel a sense of accomplishment. And when they put their own money into the collection plate, they learn it’s not all about them.

Hiring domestic sanitation assistants takes a little organizing and a little management, but when your new employees are trained, the system is win-win-win.

Your house gets clean (less stress).

A trip to Wal-Mart doesn’t bust the budget (less stress).

Junior and Juniorette learn life-long lessons that shape their work ethic and money management skills…so they won’t still be living with you when they’re 30 (less stress).

But there’s one problem this system doesn’t fix. Unfortunately, we still have to go to Wal-Mart. 

What battles do you fight when it comes to kids and chores? What do you think about paying your child by the job? What strategies have you used that other moms on the journey might like better? Share your comments!

(*I learned about chore charts from Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.)


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  1. Sandy Slusher says:

    Great advice! The key is sticking to it and be strong when you see those faces not giving in. It does help them learn life long lessons.

    • Karen says:

      Why is it so hard to stay strong sometimes–and not give in–when we’re trying to teach those life-long lessons???

  2. Tina Sutton says:

    Once again great article. I count myself fortunate as Mike learned the value of chores, money, etc at a very young age. If he wanted to buy something, he would check the price and if buying it would leave him less than half of what money he had, he would pass on the purchase. I’m truly blessed.

  3. LM says:

    Yes mam….another “dead on” moment. Our beautiful babies will spend our money all day long but as soon as they have to use their money then you really begin to see what it is they truly “want and need.” Look, we all want to spoil our babies, but is it extremely important to teach them the value of money amd hard work. Another issue I had problems with was hat my girls were athletes and so finding jobs for them to do during the summers were difficult. They obviously had chores to do but I also gave them them chore of keeping their grades up too. As a parent, you also have to remember that your child doesn’t need EVERYTHING. It is ok to say no. Now I am not saying this is easy but spending within your means and training your children valuable lessons on earning and managing their money are very important life lessons. Thanks for sharing Karen!

  4. Tina Sutton says:

    Thanks Karen. I’m glad you started these posts. There may be that one mom feeling totally lost and might find exactly what she needs from reading your words.

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