Our eight-year-old daughter shared this with me when she came home from school the other day:
“Dad…I told my friends at school how much money I have and they laughed at me…“
At the time, she had $1.28. Many of her friends told her they had $40 or more.
Who knew keeping up with the Joneses started in the second grade?
I’ve got three daughters that are experts at wrapping me around their fingers. There was a big part of me that wanted to be the “hero of the moment” and slide her a couple twenties. But that’d be counter to everything we’ve been trying to teach our kids about money.
We’ve been working on teaching our kids about the value of a hard-earned dollar. So I used this as an opportunity to circle back on the lesson once again.
Our children have the opportunity to earn money through “extra chores”. That may range from $0.50 for wiping down the kitchen table to several dollars for cleaning a bathroom.
Our daughter explained that her friends get money as handouts or a regular allowance.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with allowances per se. They are great for teaching some money lessons (saving, investing, budgeting). But giving your kids a chance to earn their own spending money is wholly different. Let’s see how through an example.
Teach Kids to Earn
Our daughter told us something else on the day she had her money discussion at school. She also told us she wanted to buy a stationery packet from the school catalog. Envelopes, letters, stickers, and stamps - all in a cool designer case. The cost was $10.50 and she had $1.28, meaning she needed to earn another $9.22.
Knowing she had a long way to go, our daughter lobbied us to give her extra chores so she could earn the money she needed. The following Saturday, we had a full line-up for her. She wiped down the kitchen table and cleaned the bathroom. She vacuumed the living and dining room. And she cleaned up all her toys (and her sisters’ as well).
Every time she finished a chore, she tallied up how much she had earned. Then she’d figure out how far away she was from her goal before asking for another opportunity.
It took only a few hours before our house was clean and our daughter’s coin purse was full.
As we filled out the catalog order form, the grin on her face lit up the room. She was so proud of herself for the hard work she’d done and for achieving her goal.
As parents, we were proud too. We weren’t only getting caught up around our house. We were parenting - helping our daughter learn important life lessons.
Here are the major lessons our daughter took away from the experience:
Advocate For Yourself
If our daughter hadn’t pushed me to keep finding chores for her, I would have stopped coming up with ideas. I wasn’t going to force her to earn money and achieve her goal. That drive needed to come from her.
When she finishes high school and/or college, she’s going to have to be proactive in finding a job. She is going to have to make resumes, contact recruiters, and sell her abilities to employers.
Once she’s in the workplace, she’s going to need to advocate for her own career advancement - for raises and new jobs.
A part of growing up is learning to advocate for yourself in every aspect of your life.
But we don’t want her to have to learn these lessons the hard way at twenty-two. Learning them in a safe environment at age eight is so much better.
Hard Work Pays Off
Life, in general, has a rule:
If you don’t put in the work, you won’t reap the reward
Yes, we all know of exceptions. There’s the person who got lucky (or unlucky). Or people who were born into favorable (or unfavorable) situations. But even for those people, there’s some level of correlation between the work you put in and the rewards you reap.
Working for three hours on a Saturday might sound like torture to some kids. But when it’s for a goal you’re passionate about, it’s completely different. Our daughter didn’t complain at any point through the process. She hopped from one job to the next with her eyes on the prize and a proud smile on her face
In the end, her hard work paid off and she was able to make the prize her own.
Know What It’s All For
Once she’d achieved her goal, she asked if I had any more jobs for her. I told her that I’d give her $3.00 to clean her entire bedroom (which she shares with two younger sisters). She peeked in the room, then looked at me and said, “Nah, I’m good for today”.
This is the biggest lesson of all. She learned that there’s a shrinking benefit for every hour of your life you trade for work. Our daughter learned to measure whether work is worth it.
After she had reached her goal, she was ready to take a break and play with her sisters. She’d worked hard, earned enough, and got to order her stationery packet.
The Opportunities Are Out There
Choosing not to take me up on that last offer may have seemed like she was leaving money on the table. But in that decision, our daughter showed some real maturity.
She knows that the kitchen will get dirty again. She knows the carpet will need vacuuming soon. And she knows her sisters will cover the floor with toys before I finish this post. She’s confident that she’ll be able to get more money when she wants it.
If you believe that money is scarce, you’ll spend your entire life working. And you’ll never enjoy the fruits of your labor.
When she goes back to school, her change purse will be empty but her sense of accomplishment will be full. And if the topic of money comes up with her friends, I’m hoping she’ll remember what she earned and what she learned.
How did your parents teach you about earning? What are you doing to teach your own children?