Monday, September 29, 2014

Child Labor Laws

In the first month of the first year we sent our firstborn son to preschool, he came home saying he wanted a shirt that said "G-A-P" on it because that's what all his buddies had.  He was three and couldn't yet read or know that G-A-P was the name of a store.  He just knew that it was a popular clothing item amongst his classmates and he wanted to fit in.

O-L-D-N-A-V-Y is close enough.

Fast forward many years and many children later, and we are constantly fighting the but-so's complaints.  "But so-and-so gets an allowance!" "But so-and-so's family doesn't make them do chores!" "But so-and-so has 1000 Pokemon cards!"".

Our replies to any of their generic complaints until now have been:

~ Every family does things differently.

~ Well, so-and so would probably rather switch places with you and have tons of  siblings instead of the coolest toys.

~ We may not have a lot of money, but we have a lot of love.

~ God gave YOU to US to parent and WE are trying to get YOU back to HIM.

~ We do give you an are allowed to live in our house and eat our food.

Even though I know in my head we are trying to raise them the best we can, my heart sometimes feels guilty that we do expect a lot from them and don't give them much stuff in return.  They have assigned chores and we have pretty strict rules when it comes to what they can watch/listen to/eat, so we try to do fun family things on the weekends and treat them in inexpensive ways.  Because I'd much rather spend a little extra money making memories than 0.5 % interest.  

Like the photo, our family is far from  perfect but pretty happy!

Recently, John-Paul needed a whole new pack of pens even though school had just started and I had just purchased all his supplies.  He needed them because he lost them, as he is known to do.  To teach him a lesson, I made him buy the new pens himself, and $3.00 later I felt pretty good in the parenting department.  

Soon after, Andrew "lost" his black shoes that he wears to serve at Mass.  He is probably our most responsible kid, so this was a rare occurrence.  He searched everywhere for them for days, but no luck.  He told me he needed to buy new ones, and knew that he had to pay for them himself just like John-Paul had to pay for his pens.  


In order to be consistent, I took Andrew to the store where I helped him pick out the cheapest option, and $14.00 later I felt pretty guilty.  I didn't even want to make him pay for the shoes, because honestly he needed new ones anyway, and misplacing something is so unusual for him.  But he had seen that The Consequence of losing His Stuff was to buy More Stuff with his own money.  I couldn't exactly back out at that point.  

So now I'm left wondering if I did the right thing.  I'm also contemplating giving them an allowance for the first time ever.  I don't want to pay them to do chores that they should be expected to do in order to make our family and home run smoothly, but I also can't expect them to pay for things when they have no means of income.  Phil feels very strongly that we should treat them for being nice and helpful kids instead of  them being nice and helpful in order to get treats.  It's a subtle difference, but an important one.  

For now, we are trying to discern what would work best for our kids and would love any input you have to share!  (Why rethink the wheel when you've already been driving it all around??)


  1. My Dad told me that it is near impossible to treat your children equally, but you can treat them fairly. Surprisingly, what is fair is usually equal, but equal is rarely fair. I think you did right making JP buy his own pens with his money. Perhaps he'll learn to be more aware of his things and not lose them so often, since that seems to be trait of his. I would not of made Andrew pay for his black shoes because as you said, it is very out of his character. It is a hard balance, because you want to be consistent, but I think being fair is a better attitude with better lessons to learn. Perhaps a good compromise would of been to pay for half of his shoes. We give our kids an allowance, they just don't know about it. We set up savings accounts for them and put money in it every month. They will not touch it until they graduate high school and then they will be able to do whatever they want with it.

  2. I have a list of extra chores either written out or in my head that they can do if they want to earn money. Usually it's something a little more difficult for them...pick up a wagon full of sticks in the yard, vacuum the car, etc. This past summer John Paul earned $20 breaking up the concrete walk in front of the house. Good exercise, project I've been wanting to get done, plus he learned a bit about work ethic. Their regular daily chores, however, they do not get paid for. Seems to work for us!

  3. Maybe in the case of the more expensive replacements, like the shoes, you could make them pay for half? Or you could foot the bill for the shoes and ask him to take on some extra chores over a period of time to pay you back for the expense?

  4. Oh, the allowance question! We have tried and failed a couple of different times in this department, but recently seen success with THIS variation:

    My older three get a monthly allowance. They get it on the 1st day of the month. Every day before I leave for work (and early in the day on Saturday and Sunday) I inspect their rooms and they must have: beds made, all dirty clothes in their dirth clothes basket, all clean clothes put away either hanging in closet or neatly in their drawers, no trash on the floor, all towels hung up in the bathroom (two girls have a bathroom in their room). Any time I inspect their room and it is not in the condition expected, they pay me $1.

    For September, I have only collected a total of $8 from the three girls. AND their rooms are always tidied up every day (bonus!)

    my oldest gets $20/month. my 11-year-old gets $15/month and my 8-year-old gets $10.

    the 11-year-old is currently saving to buy herself an iPod Touch. The oldest gets babysitting money (when she gets jobs, which is surprisingly frequent for a 13-year-old) in addition and she buys herself things that she wants (We still provide all needs at this point). The 8-year-old doesn't have a goal right now and is just trying to get used to having some money.

    The oldest boy has been angling to start this, but I've informed him that he's not quite to an age I am ready to hand over money yet (he's 5). I think age 8 seems to be working well to start with my daughters (although, I honestly just started this it's not like my oldest has been getting this for years and years....trial and error at our house...)

    So far, it's working well for us. The amounts aren't extravagant, the expectations are reasonable, and everyone seems to be happy with the arrangement for now. We'll see how we're doing in another year (been doing this for about 4 months now)

  5. Allowance is such a tough thing. I don't remember for sure what my parents did or whether they had a system, but I definitely remember when I was a teenager and able to watch little siblings in an official capacity, and mow the lawn (a big undertaking! We had 5 acres!), my mom would slip me a 20 every now and then. Also, Christmas and birthdays were the only time we got things. If we wanted stuff at other times of the year, we had to buy it ourselves with whatever money we happened to have. That's definitely something I want my kids to experience. Also, I want them to have jobs when they are teenagers. Sorry, this isn't helpful! Just keep strong, Mama. You're doing a good job, your kids are well taken care of and loved. :)

  6. Perhaps you might tell Andrew that since he was going to need new shoes soon regardless you and Phil have decided to go halves with him on the shoes.

  7. That's a tough dilemma and I can't really help.

    My only is 4 1/2 and I have limited experience, but we are reading Dave Ramsey's daughter's book about raising kids to be financially smart. What we have decided is that our son will not get an allowance for being a productive member of the family (cleaning his room, making his bed, taking his plate to the sink, etc), but he will have opportunities to earn by helping above and beyond. It's more about the opportunity to teach him about money than that we think he deserves to be paid, and honestly I don't know if it will work, but it is what we are trying.

  8. I should also mention that we set up an extra account for Rachel for her wedding/honeymoon. Just a little each month so that in 20+ years we won't have to take out a small loan for big Catholic wedding. ;) Perhaps just one girl is a good thing.

  9. We don't give our kids allowance but they do earn extra money for things that are "above and beyond." At this point, usually that involves watching their baby sister (age 2) outside or at the playground.

    Mostly we just buy our kids what they need, but not what they want (except for birthday/Christmas, etc.) Issues of brand names or them wanting what "everyone else" hasn't really come up that much. Occasionally they have asked for things that all their friends have (like an American Girl doll) and if we can we might get it for a Christmas/Birthday and sometimes we just explain how we can't afford that and they are okay with that. They see that we (the parents) don't have what everyone else has either (like we don't have smartphones) and seem to understand that not everyone can have the same things and that's okay,.

    In your situation, I would have made John Paul pay for the pens, but not have made Andrew pay for the shoes. I would have told Andrew that he gets grace and forgiveness just like God oftentimes give us grace and forgiveness when we mess up. I would have also explained how somtimes God lets us suffer the consequences of our actions to teach us something or help us grow closer to him (which is why John Paul needed to pay for his pens because he needed to learn to keep track of his stuff), but sometimes God forgives us and doesn't make us suffer the consequences. Just like sometimes the traffic cop gives you a ticket and sometimes you just get a warning. Everything isn't always fair and equal all the time and everyone isn't always made to "suffer for their sins" in the same way or totally equally, yk. God gives us what we need. And, if you think that just the hassle of Andrew having to look for his shoes and his experience of losing then was enough then I think that's fine to not have made him pay for them if he is always otherwise very responsible. Epsecially if there is a possiblity that it wasn't totally his fault (like if maybe Xander could have put them someplace).

  10. I'll be watching this one in the comments. We came up with a plan just before summer after reading how another family does it on a blog. It was great and the kids were so helpful, in the beginning. It had a list of small (fill supper beverages) and larger (empty all garbage cans and take outside to the garbage bin) tasks. Yes, we even changed the names from "chores" to "tasks" to make it more appealing. The pay range per item ranged from as little as .10 to .50. It was hard at first to convince them that even small tasks were worth their 2 minutes time. When they started seeing the $$ add up each week, it seemed to work. Most weeks that meant they were getting around $3-5 when their tasks were all added up. Sure, not a lot but it was also worth the extra help for me so I could focus on other things and not be carrying all of the weight of doing everything at home.
    Now we've slipped into a lazy stage because well, they saved up for what their prize item was (toy) and they don't have much motivation. The thing with the money was that they had to save it for one month before they could spend any of it. They couldn't just be spending $5 here, $8 there, etc. Off the top, AT LEAST 10% was put aside for charity/church, AT LEAST 20% for their savings account. Since we aren't always able to put money in their bank accounts, I liked this way of earning it and putting it away.
    As I said though, that fun seemed to come to an end. There needs to be a change once again because I'm back to doing most everything and even demanding that simple tasks be done, is a fight. sigh.
    We start them young at learning how to help with things and having expectations to help around the house. In return, we've always fulfilled their needs as much as possible. I've also began to see in recent months though that my big kids are 'expecting' things, sure, most time small treats/things, etc, but still things, more often. I'm quite frustrated because this just ain't gonna fly with this momma. I've now put my foot down and clearly said that we just can't afford every little thing.

    Sorry for the long comment. Again, I'll be following along to see if we can come up with a new plan.

  11. Slightly off here - but you mentioned your family has strict rules on TV/music - I would be curious to know what shows you let your kids watch. (we are conservative in that area too - sometimes I think we are the only family on this side of the Mississippi River that does not do the Disney Channel....)

    1. Hi Katie! Our kids are aged 11 and down and we let them watch PBS shows and the older kids can watch a few shows from Netflix that we think they can handle. We allow G rated movies, and any PG ones that we have watched first and we usually watch with them. We've found the older kids might grumble that we're putting on Peg + Cat, but then they sit and watch the whole thing! Whereas if we put on an older kid show (like a Disney show on Netflix) the littler ones won't sit and watch it.


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