Why We Don’t Pay Our Kids To Do Their Chores

My 12-year-old son, Blake, recently invested $150 in the development of skills that will enable him to be a professional graphic animator, possibly by the time he is sixteen. Part of this comes from the fact that we got rid of television in our home a few years ago, which leaves our kids a lot of time to develop artistically. Part of it, in my opinion, has to do with our philosophy on allowance and chores.

Izzy and I do things a bit different from how most other parents do them (no surprise there). We don’t pay our kids for doing their regular jobs:

  • 5 minutes minimum daily bedroom cleaning.
  • Daily bathroom cleaning.
  • Daily vacuuming of the living room.
  • Daily kitchen cleaning after dinner.
  • Dog mess clean-up

We also expect Blake to babysit the kids without pay while we run errands (although we pay him when we go out for fun).

Slave Labor?

I suppose that’s debatable.

We do pay our kids an allowance, but their allowance is in no way tied to their responsibilities around the house. It’s a philosophy I believe in. If they forget to do their jobs they either get a lucky break or they have more to do the next day. But we pay them their allowance.

My Philosophy

It was important to me that my kids never associate their responsibilities with getting paid. They clean because it is their responsibility as a member of the family and a resident of our home. If they ever get to a point where they refuse to clean, they will just lose all of their privileges, like:

  • computer use
  • friend dates
  • desserts or snacks, or any foods not necessary to sustain life
  • clothing that is not necessary to maintain modesty or health
  • toys or fun stuff
  • extra-curricular activities

So far the kids have never refused to clean, and complaints are fairly minimal. They forget a job here and there, but for the most part they just do them. If they forget and get on the computer, they run the risk of losing their computer privilege for the day. Blake often has his jobs done before we are even out of bed in the mornings. The kids understand that they have to do their part. Once their regular jobs are done, they are allowed to perform extra jobs for pay if we can use the help.

Allowance With No Strings Attached

We pay our kids allowance because we want to help them learn to use money. We refuse to pay them to do the things they should do. We have never, ever said they would lose their allowance for any reason. They don’t earn money for good grades or good behavior. They don’t lose their allowance for inappropriate behavior or poor grades.

  • We expect them to be decent human beings because their actions effect others.
  • We insist they get good grades because they are fully capable (or if they were not, we would expect them to get the kind of grades they could reasonably get), and because they will need to get scholarships.
  • We can see they are capable of scholarships, so if they want to go to college, we require them to live up to their abilities and earn one. We have told them a number of times that we will not pay for their college tuition.
  • We expect them to share most all of their belongings with each other. Having their own allowance enables them to buy some things that are truly their own that they do not have to share.

How They Can Spend Their Money

We have a collection jar for the purpose of donating to an organization called, Kiva. Kiva advances micro-loans to individuals in third-world countries who are trying to start or sustain a business. The kids are only allowed to donate a percentage of their money to this cause. We match their donations times 7.

We gave them a cap because:

  • Trinity would give away most of her money and feel guilty about any she kept for herself if we didn’t cap the amount.
  • We like the reverse psychology of telling them they’re limited in how much they can donate.

To help them learn to spend well, we have these rules for how they can spend their money:

  • They have to declare to us their intention of purchasing something. We have the right to tell them no. For example, Blake can only buy one or two video games in a row, and then he has to buy something else before he buys more games.
  • After declaring their intentions to us they have to post those intentions, along with the date, on the fridge.
  • They have to wait 2 weeks after “declaring” before they can actually buy their items. This is the part that gets the most resistance, but they have realized how quickly they change their minds about what they think they want. They’ve also learned from this how seductive advertising sways them to make unwise spontaneous buying decisions. The 2-week requirement forces them to be sure they’re not acting from the gut when it comes to money. Every time they change their mind they see how the two-week wait prevented a poor buying decision.

Once in a while, when there was no real way to plan, we let them make spontaneous purchases.

Responsible People

I love the messages we send our kids every day with our method. As they get older, we see them invest more and more of their time developing their talents and skills. In my (biased) opinion, they’re growing up to be pretty awesome, independent individuals who understand their place in the tribe, as well as how their choices effect themselves and others. They’re very cool people.

A Train Of Blunders

If I believed in fate or some powerful will outside of myself, I might have concluded that this Paperclipping episode was destined to never happen.

But I don’t. So it did.

I fully acknowledge that each blundered attempt to print and retrieve the photos for the above project sprung from my own spaciness. Here is why it took me 5 attempts to get the photos I needed . . .

Attempt #1

I brought my cd of photos to Costco. Because I print from tiff versions instead of jpeg, and the Costco computers can’t really handle tiff files (boo on them!), I waited 45 minutes for my photos to load. It was after that 45 minutes passed that I realized I had burned the wrong photos to my cd.

Attempt #2

I burned a new cd and returned to Costco. I waited the approximate 45 minutes for my files to upload to the computer (again), this time to learn that I forgot to convert my collage of pictures from a psd file to a tiff file. As a psd it was unprintable.

Attempt #3

I gave up on the tiff version and decided to upload it as a jpeg via the internet.

(Since then I discovered that you can upload tiff versions to their website, BUT the Costco computers rename the files as jpeg’s. My technician said she “thinks” they’re just renaming them but not actually changing the files themselves. I’m not sure I believe that).

When I got to Costco to pick them up, I realized I didn’t have my Costco card because I had taken it out of my wallet in order to upload my photos. It was sitting on the computer back at home, which meant I couldn’t get in.

Attempt #4

I went home, grabbed my card, and returned to Costco where my collage was finally waiting for me.

At this point I had missed my deadline for the scheduled video shoot of the project for which I needed the photos. Because we were leaving town that afternoon, Mother’s Day became our only available day to shoot the episode. Fortunately, my family gave me the most amazing Mother’s Day, which made it almost a complete pleasure to have to work a few hours on “my” day.

BUT . . .

. . . it wasn’t really that easy. I took my collage of photos out of town with me for a little prep work so I would be ready on Sunday.

Then I left them. In the hotel.

That’s right . . I did not have them when we returned home before the episode shoot on Sunday.

Attempt #5

. . . was a success. I ordered my collage print AGAIN on Saturday. I picked it up. It was done correctly. All of the photos were on the collage. We did the shoot on Sunday, and released the episode with a dramatic drag of the hand across my forehead on Monday.

But seriously? Five attempts?

The Story Of My Life? Well . . .

I guess I could conclude this post with a “story of my life” sob, but it wouldn’t be true. This many attempts with accompanying blunders for one simple task isn’t typical. Plus, I also commit singular blunders that result in odd experiences, like finally finding the ketchup bottle under the bathroom sink. Or where I can hear my cell phone ringing incessantly from the direction of the kitchen counter, though I can see it’s NOT ON the kitchen counter. And then, after almost convincing myself that I’m insane and only imagining the ringing, I find it inside in the dishwasher. Underneath the kitchen counter.

At which point I am still convinced that I’m insane, but for a different reason.

So my train of blunders, plus my singular crazy ones, all derive from the fact that I have extremely exciting activity going on in my brain that distracts me from the mundane acts of life. Fortunately, I did not fall for an understandable “the gods are against me” conclusion and give up. I just needed a big hug from my very supportive and unbelievably patient partner, and I worked it all out.
But may a train of that many errors never happen again . . .

Mother’s Day

What more could they do for me on Mother’s Day when my husband and kids already treat me like every day is all about me? Turn it into Mother’s Week! It wasn’t intentional but that’s basically what they did. Aiden started celebrating his mama four days early when he began making me handmade Mother’s Day gifts like this “I Love You” bracelet (which I decided worked better as an awesome arm-band)…

Handmade gifts from Aiden continued to come in daily. I made him save the rest for the “real day,” but talk of Mother’s Day by the kids seemed never ending. You would have thought it was Christmas. In fact, early in the day on Saturday I mentioned that I got a sudden craving for ethiopian food and that evening, as I was about to boil artichokes for dinner, Israel and the kids announced we would now have a “Mother’s Day Night” and they took me to Cafe Lalibella in Tempe where we all dug into piles of wot with our injeera.

(Did that spark your curiosity? Good. Go try it. Yum).

After we got home the kids banned me to the bedroom because they didn’t want me to accidentally see something that an unnamed somebody was preparing. I think it was this very amazing and hilarious graphic my twelve-year-old son, Blake, designed…
I am now calling on my Mother’s Right To Brag to tell you that Blake didn’t copy light bulbs somewhere and photoshop them into his picture or anything like that. He didn’t use someone else’s models. He designed those bulbs from basic circles using professional software that is very difficult called, Blender. I’m sure that my three or four blog readers don’t know what that is, so let me say that my son is a genius and you can just take my word for it.

The Actual Mother’s Day

On Sunday morning — the big day that everybody had been revving up for — I opened my bedroom door to find my three children in a youngest to oldest pose with about 9 balloons all bright and shiny around them. They greeted me with a little chant by which they each took a turn throwing their balloons into the glorious air. I opened all the handmade gifts with my kiddies around me and I basked in the beauty of the clean room, which was Trinity’s gift.

Israel surprised me with a subscription to a super cool music application called Rhapsody (you will be hearing about this on some Music Monday to come).

And then we ventured out to The Compound Grill for brunch. Vegan breakfast is unheard of around here and the chef made a number of yummy vegan entrees for the occasion! There was even a guitarist-harmonica-ist-singer named Geoffrey J. who accompanied us. Loved it.

Next, we recorded a Paperclipping episode (you will learn the almost traumatic reasons we had to work on Mother’s Day very soon) and then Israel took me out for his gift number two (because he can never stop at just one). Clothing shopping! Yay for Tilly’s and Wet Seal. Yay for Izzy!

When I kissed my kids goodnight and told them how wonderful they made the day for me, Blake and Aiden told me they LOVE Mother’s Day. Blake said, “I can’t wait until I’m a mother . . . Oh, wait.”

And that’s it. Okay, well, not really. I must mention that when I woke up on Monday, my kids wished me a happy Post Mother’s Day. Geez, I’m totally spoiled.

* * *

Note: I realize that two of my last three posts have been braggy ones about how sunshiny and Brady Bunch-perfect my family is, and how much they adore me. While that part about my family is true, I promise I also have plenty of self-depricating content to blog about. Those seem to be the Reader’s Choice posts, based on the fact that they draw the most comments. I will indulge you soon. Please be patient, my dearies.

Music Monday: Word Play Through Metaphor & Imagery

I’m diving back into novel-writing mode again. I was there between August and November of last year, especially the entire month of November. After that I resurfaced to focus on some other things and to walk away from my November novel so that when I returned, I would be able to evaluate its first draft with more objectivity.

Having read it through a week ago, I am happy to say that this novel’s first draft is more complete than I thought it would be and I think it has some decent potential. Now my job is to whistle the details into line so they’re consistent throughout, to tie up a couple ends that I left loose, and to flesh out the story, especially so the reader can believe the motivation driving the characters’ actions, words, and choices. I also need to do some research on a number of subjects that turn the story.
One thing that surprised me when I started writing fiction is that I can often listen to music while writing. And I’m talking about music with lyrics. It turns out good lyrics move me to write. There are two lines from two songs in particular that stick with me because the imagery and the metaphorical verbs and nouns are so potent they communicate an entire story with just a handful of words. Check it out:

From The Killers — When You Were Young:

We’re burning down the highway skyline
On the back of a hurricane that started turning
When you were young

From Red Hot Chili Peppers — Scar Tissue:

(Right now my very favorite song lyric)

Falling all over myself
To lick your heart
And taste your health

The verb choices and the imagery of this one . . . it’s so desperate. It’s physical, intimate, even sensual.
Both sets of lyrics are intense. Both share a story of their lovers’ histories. So much story there from three short lines.

I’m not at the point of laboring over the exact words in my novel yet. I’m still working the plot and the character development, and carving the pieces so they fit together. But the complicated layers of music from bands like the Chili Peppers stirs my emotions into the frenzy that I need for novel-writing. And catching the brilliant word play during my sit-back-and-breathe moments motivates me to work toward that stage where I’ll get to fiddle with the words.