One of the best ideas we’ve ever come up with as parents has completely changed our family for the better. We are raising a 10 year old boy, 8 year old girl and 6 month old boy. We homeschool the older ones and since the new addition we have had to change up our routine a bit. He requires time and attention of mine that I use to spend on schooling the big kids. His arrival also meant a change in time allotted for my household chores. We’ve always had something in place that I thought was awesome in our homeschool – life skills class – but this revamp of that class has just been wonderful! It has resulted in better behaved, more mature and responsible children, more household chores being done in a timely manner, more time for me to spend with the little one, and increased self worth for the big kids.
When we started out, we made “life skills” a daily class. During life skills class we would do our daily chores, run errands, go grocery shopping, do laundry, feed animals, prep meals, bake cookies or a cake, and just about anything else we could think of that needed doing around the house. It was a way of teaching the kids that there are daily activities that you should be able to learn as well as reading, math, etc, in order to succeed in life. Once these tasks were out of the way, we would get on our school work.
When our little one was born, we all had to readjust to life with a baby. I had forgotten what all went into it since the kids were 8 and 10 already. They also had to learn how to handle my attention being split – a LOT. Between feedings, diaper changes, naps, baths, and all that extra baby laundry I still had household chores to do: dishes, everyone else’s laundry, vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, dusting, cooking, and, oh yeah – schooling! From the up-all-nights to the work-all-days, this Mama was exhausted. So many can relate. I needed something that would help us all out. As much as I’d love to take credit for this fab idea – it was my husband who thought “why don’t we hire the kids to help?” The more we discussed it a magical, wonderful idea unfolded … and once we presented the idea to the kids, we all agreed it would be terrific.
Now, lots of families have some type of “allowance” in place but we went hard core above and beyond the traditional allowance with this one and it is a doozie. We have set up daily jobs that are each worth a certain amount of money. These jobs must be done in order to keep from being fired that day (they can be rehired every day and we explained to them that, in adulthood, jobs aren’t given back to you once you are fired). These jobs are: washing dishes, vacuuming, dusting, sweeping, mopping, cleaning windows and mirrors, cleaning toilets and tubs, cleaning out the flower beds, pulling weeds, watering the lawn, and doing laundry. They must record all jobs onto their time sheet in order to get credit for them.
On top of regular jobs there are chances for overtime work. For the good ole OT, you gotta be a good employee, have done all of your regular jobs, and not gotten any fines. Yes, there are fines, but we’ll come back to that. Overtime jobs can be just about anything I ask them to do and if they do it properly I will determine a pay rate for those jobs, but in addition to that, there are set OT jobs that they can choose from: washing dishes on a day that was not assigned to anyone (you can’t steal anyone’s work…. and you can’t pay anyone to do your jobs for you – I had to make sure I put that in the employment agreement), assembling/filling baby bottles, setting the table, helping cook a meal, helping unload and put away groceries, babysitting for me (so I can take a relaxing bath, etc.), reading books to the baby (this is a good one because it gives the older kids reading practice and it helps with his development – we love to read to him), or giving your parents a massage. (I love that one!)
Whoop-tee-dew right? Well, the twist on this is that there are bills to pay. We are trying to teach them TRUE life skills. They need to understand that once you get paid, you have obligations before you blow your paycheck on items you “want.” So, they will pay us for rent, water, electricity, internet access, household supplies (soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc.), and groceries out of their paychecks. This is a predetermined amount which is on a very small scale compared to actual amounts for these items, but in relation to their paycheck it is a large portion, just as it is for most people. For “groceries” we set an amount for “the special.” They can buy “the special” for every meal and this is what I have prepared or purchased for that meal. If they choose, they can substitute that meal for something else they would like to have but they have to pay for it. Want a pizza? I’ll order – you pay. Or they can add items to a meal. They can order one special with a soda and extra dessert. They pay for it. I’m still mom – I put limitations on it. No, you can’t have 5 cupcakes, but if you want a second one – no problem – just pay for it. If they don’t want to purchase from the pantry, when we go to the grocery store they can buy themselves a package of cookies and a 2 liter of soda and a tub of ice cream and these items belong to them. No one else can have them. They are also not allowed to sell them to each other for profit. They can share or they can resell for the exact amount only. They can pay all of their bills, purchase only the special for every meal, and save up money to buy something awesome like a new outfit, toy, book, movie, or a computer if they have the patience. Or they can splurge all along the way on whatever they want. It is their money – they earned it – they can do with it whatever they wish.
Fines- they really happen! If you break a law, such as speeding, you pay a fine. There are fines in our home for breaking rules, fighting, lying, disrespecting, and back-talking. There are also fines for not completely a job correctly. If they only make enough money to pay bills (which is paid for by regular jobs) and they don’t complete any overtime jobs, then get fines, they won’t have enough money to pay bills. And what happens when you don’t pay bills? Late fees! So the next week they have to work hard, do over time jobs, tone down the fines, pay the bills and pay off the late fees.
This sounds kind of harsh when you first hear it… “You make your kids pay bills, pay for fines and they have to pay for their food?!” … but in reality, they work for us and we give them allowance… we just highly over pay them for their tasks and then charge them for things and take a lot of it back. The end result: they earned allowance (wish is sometimes pretty hefty), they have self worth and confidence in knowing that they earned that money and can do with it what they wish, they have a deeper understanding for how the world truly works, they learn to pay bills first before splurging, they learn to stay on the good side of the law, Mommy gets some help around the house, and they will have an understanding of how to run their household when they grow up – they won’t have to depend on anyone to cook, clean, or pay bills for them. Parenting WIN!