How early is too early to earn part of your own keep?

I know we’ve talked about this before but it was a long time ago and other than SKL, most of the others who come here, didn’t then. So, one more time.

What brought this up was I was chatting this morning with a very “oldie but goodie friend” who I don’t talk to in person all that often but it’s one of “those” that when you talk, it’s like you just talked yesterday. Her daughter is graduating in June and she was trying to figure out how this girl could earn some extra money this summer for her “going away to college” account. In other words, she’s going away in the fall and has never EVER had a job. So my friend said to me that she was going to see if she could do “a bit of babysitting” in the neighborhood.

What in the world am I missing here? Is this just me or do you find everything wrong about this? First of all, babysitting at 18? Going far, far away from home without one lick of responsibility? She can’t cook. She’s never paid a bill and she’s given every little thing her heart desires. She went to two proms so she had two dresses at $300 apiece. She has her own car and cell phone and has since 16. And now she wants, or expects, her to go away all on her own in a few short months with no knowledge of even knowing how to put a meal on the table all the while she’s 700 miles away from anyone she knows??????

I know I wasn’t the perfect parent and if I could have a do-over on a few things, I’d jump at the chance but I never once let my boys think I or the world owed them anything. They had chores. They got an allowance and they had to pay for the “extra’s” that they wanted. They did what I did. They babysat and cut grass. They both had jobs at 15 and they both loved working. The only thing I made them pay for themselves was car insurance and the car. I paid for clothes, room and board and everything they needed in life but they didn’t “need” a car. And “if” cell phones were around then, I probably wouldn’t have paid for one of those either. I just think kids need to know that certain things are a privilege and therefore you have to earn them.

I have a few other family members who are doing this too and I just don’t get it. Don’t you want your kids prepared for life when they walk out that door? If you hand them everything and don’t make them earn anything, how will they survive on their own? I guess I was a mean ol’ mom. How can you just throw your kid into the big bad world without an ounce of preparation?

What did you have to earn when you were growing up? What did you do with your kids or do you plan to do? At what age do you think a child should be out earning a few bucks for the “extra’s” in their lives? What do you think kids should pay for while living under your roof?

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16 Responses to How early is too early to earn part of your own keep?

  1. mssc54 says:

    I think there is a difference between “earning” and “learning.” Wow, I just came up with that. I like it. Lol

  2. Laura says:

    We don’t have “chores” per se around here, but you can BET that he’s expected to do jobs when asked. I have him help set the table, he LOVES to help cook dinner, tonight he cleaned out the truck (under duress, but he still did it). Overall, he enjoys doing work, so I don’t have trouble with that… much.

    That said, I’ve put a moratorium (finally, I guess) on buying him toys. I’ll buy him stuff for Birthday, Christmas and Easter. Aside from that, he’s been told that if he wants something, it comes out of his piggy bank. And he’s got a four-slot bank with space designated for save, spend, donate & invest. He’s never used the four slots before, but just recently we started using them. He’ll get his own bank account soon, and he’ll start donating some of that money, either to various school fundraisers, church, or another worthy cause of his choice.

    He will have to pay for his own car, insurance, and will be expected to contribute to the cellphone bill when that time comes.

  3. Jenny says:

    You bet Hunter will get a job when he’s old enough! Once he gets older I’m sure he’ll get an allowance like I did when I was younger. I had to do chores around the house, outside stuff, I cleaned dog kennels, etc. I got a job when I turned 16.

    Why wouldn’t you want your kid to get a job & earn money? Its good for them to get some experience out in the real world! When they’re away at college and don’t know how to cook a meal or pay a bill, they’re never gonna make it! Especially now, when things are so tough!

  4. SKL says:

    I’m a great believer in giving kids responsibility as early as they can handle it. I always was, but Mr. ex-Houseguest was proof of why the other approach is scary. He had a master’s degree and yet had never washed a dish. However much such a person wants to be a considerate guest / housemate / roommate / workmate, he cannot because the other person will expect some basic level of responsibility. Not only was he clueless about how to do anything, but once he started doing a little, he felt like he was doing a LOT (and took forever to do it). Like dumping the recycle bin from the kitchen into the garage bin should earn him a freakin’ medal. Need I remind you of the stuck cars incident? The guy was basically helpless and I am sorry, but that is learned.

    OK, that got me off on a tangent, didn’t it?

    So. With my kids, I started giving them “paid jobs” at age 2. I have not been systematic about it (mainly because they are outdoor jobs and the weather usually sucks). But the general rule is, if you “want” some “thing,” you can only have it if you have earned the money to buy it. I do sometimes buy them stuff, of course. Yesterday I saw some cute little knight / king / soldier dolls at a discount store for $3 each. The last thing my kids need is more dolls, but I felt these would encourage some good imaginitive play (and round out the gender imbalance in the dollhouse). So I bought them and my kids were thrilled. I will also occasionally buy them a good book and of course their clothes, furniture, etc. as they grow. And their aunties give them stuff from time to time as well. So they are far from needing to work for everything they get, but at least they have the concept that working can get you what you “want.”

    My kids help around the house. Not every day – we aren’t home that much. But enough that they know how to do stuff. They set the table, sweep the floor, help with dishes, garbage, laundry and food prep, clean their room, and pick up their stuff from around the house, when I ask them to (or when the mood hits them). They are reasonably organized, considering their age. I have not yet instituted standard everyday chores, but that will occur before long. I always had chores that involved actual responsibility, from caring for younger siblings to managing the laundry for our family of 8. There was no household task I had not learned to do by age 12. My mom would have felt a failure otherwise.

    As far as working outside the home to earn their own money, I would encourage that as soon as they can (legally) do it. I think my first paid job was when I was about 8 and I tutored a little boy for 1 day, LOL. I used to also do odd jobs for an older lady who would occasionally give me a dime. I got an allowance from age 5 to age 10 or 11. After that, if I wanted spending money, I earned it. I babysat and did odd jobs. At 13 I got my first paper route. At 15, I was basically a nanny for 3 kids. At 16, I worked as an assistant for my mom at her job. After age 16, any work I did for pay created an obligation to pay room & board in addition to chores and finding my own spending money.

    Although I had more chores than average, I do not consider my teen work experience to have been impressive. I didn’t try that hard, because I was mostly content to take care of my younger siblings and not have much cash. My younger sister had a steady job with an actual paycheck from age 15-18, when she moved on to an accounting job.

    My parents were always strapped for cash, so I didn’t ask them for stuff. If I had a really big hole in my shoe, I might mention it to my mom in case she thought something ought to be done about it. Prom dress? Please. My mom did get me a dress (on sale) for my HS graduation – that was a pleasant surprise. Most of my clothes came from the Salvation Army in those days.

    The other thing was that I was the only person responsible for my education. My parents registered us and made sure we were awake each morning in time to get ourselves to school; and they looked at our report cards when they came out. The rest was for us to figure out. So while our school stats might not have looked as “responsible” as those of coddled kids, in fact we were learning plenty of responsibility and creativity that would be important for college and careers.

    So if I would have had to manage a household plus job by age 18, I could have done so. Surely I would not be perfect, but I’d get by. I intend to be able to say the same for my kids when the time comes. And I don’t care who calls me mean, selfish, neglectful, whatever. My kids’ abilities and attitudes will speak for themselves.

  5. SKL says:

    I do have a niece who is about to turn 18 and will graduate this spring. She’s “gifted” and a good student, but immature and very coddled. She does know how to cook and bake (she enjoys baking), and I imagine she’s figured out how to clean at some level. Having sisters with young kids means she’s probably done some level of child care. She did some sort of animal project for 4-H. But I’m pretty sure she has never had a paying job. I only hope some common sense clicks in when she goes to college away from her parents.

  6. Nikki says:

    I had a job washing dishes at a cafe, and cleaning rooms at a motel when I was 16. And I also nannied. I in-homed nannied for one family. But I had to, it was the only way I had any money. I wasn’t living with either parent and I needed money. It wasn’t so I could have money for a car, or a phone, or anything I wanted. It was for things I needed, like shoes, clothes, lunch, a place to stay. When I was really young, I had a lot of chores, but never got payed.

    Bailey will have a part time job as soon as he is 16. I know between school and baseball he won’t have too much tome to work, but some money is better than none. He will have to pay for his own insurance, cell phone, etc. He has a phone now, but it was free, and doesn’t cost any more money on my moms plan so he’s in the clear for that, right now. He has always helped pick his room up and his toys, since he was able to walk. Now, he folds his own laundry and puts it away, and he also folds all the towels, sets the table, and cleans it off, and puts clean dishes away. Cleans up dog crap, and takes out the garbages. A few more things, but the normal things kids should be doing.

    Some of those things he gets an allowance for and some things he is expected to do, just because. I don’t want him growing up and having the mind set that if he does something he will get payed. Some things, you just because it’s the right thing to do, not to get a buck out of it.

    Kids have to learn responsibility, and the best way to do that is by working. The best way to learn how to manage money and save is by making your own. Already, Bailey doesn’t like spending his allowance. He doesn’t mind spending our money but when it’s his, it’s another story!

    We’re lucky enough to live in a town that has a lot of places that hire HS kids and work around their school/sports schedules.

    • Nikki says:

      And as far as Bailey paying to live here, I assume you mean when he’s older…the rule we will have is if he is going to school (college) and lives here (which I don’t see happening because we live too far away from any college) he doesn’t have to pay. But if he is not going to school, he will be working and paying his way. But that boy WILL be in school!

  7. Sue says:

    I can’t help but wonder which one this is! I got a job as soon as I could drive. I never got an allowance for doing my chores at home. You were expected to do what was asked of you because you were part of the family just like everyone else so my parents weren’t about to pay us for picking up after ourselves. I know people who worked hard as teenagers and still work hard as adults, but can’t manage money(and their life) to save their soul, people who didn’t do squat as teenagers but became very responsible in their adult life, and people who worked very hard as teenagers who haven’t done squat since becoming adults. It comes down to choices and you just hope you’ve given your child/children the tools to make the best choices possible.

    • Sue says:

      I forgot to put in about my own kids! We started a chore chart and Christopher has been doing great at that! He loves marking off when he’s done something and it accumulates to the end of the week. He’s earned his allowance all but one time since we’ve started and let me tell you, the time he didn’t he was devastated! He is a saver already b/c he’s figured out how many weeks of allowance he needs to buy the next Lego kit he wants.

      Trinity on the other hand doesn’t keep as close of track as Chris does. She does what we ask and her chores on the chart, but she doesn’t mark it off all the time. She doesn’t practice her trumpet as much as I’d like her to so I added that to the chart a few weeks ago and she hasn’t earned allowance since. We had a big tear fest on Sunday b/c Chris got his $ but she didn’t and she didn’t think that was fair. I said, “Christopher did his work! You should be practicing, at minimum, 5 days a week. Last week you played it 3 days, that’s not even half the time! You don’t get paid for not doing your work! If I don’t show up for work, I don’t get paid!” Guess whose practiced every day this week?!

  8. Phyllis says:

    When I was growing up my folks provided whatever they could and we lived a good life. That was back in the day, so only my dad worked while mom stayed home and cared for us and the house. My mom was the only person I’ve ever know who could make a budget and stick to it …. every single time. My dad was given an “allowance” out of which he bought his tobacco, rolling papers, and ale when he wanted it. Out of his allowance also came the Friday “donut days”, and gifts for my mom. For us, gifts were given for b-days, and Christmas (both were big celebrations at our house), with little trinkets, a book, etc for days like Valentines and Easter(although Easter we always got Fanny May candy eggs).

    Chores were expected to be done simply because we were family and everyone pitched in and did something. Now if we wanted to save for something we “earned” that money by doing extra things. Cutting the grass (that was really dad’s job), keeping the yard cleaned of debris, doing dishes, vacuuming when it wasn’t our turn, etc. This taught us that there aren’t any freebies in life.

    We all took small outside jobs, delivering papers, babysitting, etc once we hit about 11 yrs old and got real jobs when we turned 16. At 16 we were expected to pay 1/3 of our check for “room & board” (OMG….. like about $5 in reality), put 1/3 away and we could spend the other 1/3 as we saw fit. This prepared us for real life. Surprise, in reality people were really expected to pay their own way! Can you imagine that? Both my brothers and I knew how to cook though the oldest preferred not to. We learned to manage our money because if it ran out before the next check we were just SOL. My folks still bought our necessities, it was the frills we were paying for. Frills included car insurance, gas for the car and stuff like that. We also knew how to balance our accounts and passed from the teen years into adulthood with a sense of responsibility and great love/appreciation for each other.

    Mean mom that I am I continue this life preparation with my daughter. She babysat at 12 after taking the Red Cross babysitting course, started working for a paycheck at 16, (paid 1/3 room & board, 1/3 savings and 1/3 bought the frills, paid car insurance, etc) She had learned to do laundry, clean a house, cook, maintain a car properly and be a responsible member of society.

    Mean mom that she is, she also continued the reality lessons with her kids.

    I really think parents haven’t a right to send their kids out into the world unprepared, without a sense of responsibility, a knowledge of basic life facts, or an ability to take care of themselves. Not giving kids the right training is doing them a huge disservice.

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