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Old enough to put in his time for The (old) Man

March 21, 2008
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Several days ago, Ian announced to Dawn that he wants either a Game Boy or a Nintendo DS.

When asked how he expected to pay for it, he didn’t really answer, but rather him-hawed around saying he just figured we’d buy it for him. Then, upon realizing that wasn’t really going anywhere, he regrouped and suggested that it could be a birthday or Christmas present. Dawn basically decided it was time to implement the rite of passage for kids known as The Allowance.

Ian’s seven, so I am not completely averse to working on teaching him the value of money, the importance of working for and saving for what you want, and the importance of responsibility in general.

I’m just not completely sure he’s ready.

After Dawn and I discussed it for a while, we finally summoned him and explained to him about allowances and chores and how the whole process works. He was rather taken aback at first when we told him that, in order to receive his allowance, he’s got to perform certain tasks (clearing the table after meals, making sure Blue has food and water, making his bed, cleaning his room weekly, etc.) to our satisfaction and without our having to remind him 27 times until we’re practically screaming at him, or else he’d lose it for the week. Dawn explained to him that we are very well within our “parental rights” to make him do those things and not pay him at all, because he’s a member of the family and he’s expected to help out.

He didn’t like that option.

Then, when we explained that he will also have opportunities to earn extra money by doing extra things, especially if he just does them without being asked, he kind of perked up a little more. So Dawn asked him how much he felt he should get for an allowance, to which he answered, “I don’t know, $50?”.

I about swallowed my tonsils.

Finally, after discussing it with a few people whose kids have gone through this already, Dawn suggested we start with $3.50/week (i.e., 50 cents a day) with the understanding that 10% goes to the church, and 10% goes to savings, and then he can decide how he wants to dole out the rest, whether he wants to spend it as it comes in (with the understanding that once it’s gone, it’s gone until the next week), or spend some and save some, or just save all of it for a Nintendo DS or whatever gadgetry or trinket he can’t live without at that particular time.

We told him that, as things go along, and contingent on how well he holds up his end of the deal, his allowance could increase. We’re also considering that if he gets half the money for a Nintendo DS saved up, we might pop for the other half. But again, that’ll be dependent on him.

So are we ruthless tyrant cheapskate parents, does he have us wrapped around his finger, or is this deal somewhere in the middle, i.e. relatively “fair” for a seven-year-old? I’m curious as to what other parents think. I realize it’s not really right to compare allowances to seven-year-olds nowadays to that from when I was that age. I about pooped when I found out what babysitters command these days. But by the same token I don’t necessarily feel right about giving him boatloads of cash simply because “the times have changed”. Kids are spoiled enough and full of enough entitlement these days. If he earns more, I have no problem with paying him more, but I also want him to understand that he has to earn a good chunk of change before he can expect to be paid a good chunk of change.

The job I consider to be my first “real” job (i.e. outside of the fast-food and/or mall rat jungle) was as a pharmacy technician at St. John’s. Who did I work with quite regularly? My father. No pressure there. He was never my supervisor, but it definitely had its awkward moments. However, without the slightest hesitation, I credit him with gradually, silently teaching me that you are worth what you give to them, not the other way around. It’s easy to simply do the least amount necessary and just put your time in and rack up 20 years on the job, but if you’re going to go anywhere in life, you have to understand that by taking the job you are essentially giving your time to your employer, and they dictate to you how you do your job. (Unless you’re in a union, and that’s a while other issue. Don’t get me started.) Do it well and you will be rewarded accordingly. Do a crappy job and you will also be rewarded accordingly. I have busted my ass- sometimes, admittedly, to no avail- at the three jobs I have had since but looking back, I am quite satisfied with myself and, more importantly, I sleep very well at night. Figuratively, anyway. I haven’t slept “well” in years. The point is, I’m glad my dad was there to make me understand that, and to kick my ass when I needed it. Which I did at times.

Thank you, Dad. I mean that.

Anyway, I realize Ian’s only seven, but I hope to try to at least begin to instill in him the same work ethic that my father did in me. I realize we’re now in the Age of Entitlement And Something For Nothing, but as prehistoric as this is, I still believe that hard work ultimately gets you farther than does being a slacker and then screaming “grievance” every time you don’t get that to which you feel you’re entitled. Not to mention, it makes you a better person.

So again, are we being too hard on Ian, too soft on him, or somewhere in between?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Marjorie permalink
    March 21, 2008 6:24 pm

    I think it’s great that he has specific work to do to get his allowance and that 20% is earmarked for church and savings both worthy deductions. A word of caution which you may have already thought of: don’t let him skip the required chores for the $3.50, and let him do extra stuff to get whatever the going rate is. He should understand that the chores for the $3.50 are absolute and must be done.

    I’ll bet you did about swallow your tonsils when he said $50, which shows you right there that the allowance is a good thing to teach him about the value of money, the work ethic, etc. I think you’re headed in the right direction.

  2. Johann permalink
    March 22, 2008 7:32 am

    Yeah, we had a discussion today already about why he had to make his bed and “all that stuff” since he’s on spring break right now. Like chores are a Mon-Fri thing only or something.

    But we’re sticking to our guns on it. He knows the rules; whether he chooses to follow them or not is another story.

  3. March 26, 2008 7:29 pm

    I can’t believe Ian is 7 already!! It was good catching up the other day

  4. March 26, 2008 7:38 pm

    alright – here’s where we have been on this.

    We have (nearly) 10, 8 & 6 year olds ( a 1 year old too – but that is moot for this response)…

    We started the oldest with an allowance at 8 years old. Only @1.75 a week, but he’s not expected to do anything to earn it (yet he has tasks that he doesn’t get paid for, but is expected to do – it’s connected, but not connected in some fashion). He has the ability to earn additional cash doing things that are above and beyond what he would normally do… scrub walls, help rake leaves etc. He has three buckets that he divys the allowance into (spend, save, give). He is a saver and not a spend-thrift.

    My next will start getting an allowance when he has his birthday next month. Again @ $1.75, same expectations. He is a spend-thrift and not a saver (the exercise will be a challenge for him/us).

    My (nearly) 6 year old daughter is probably more ready for it than her big brother, but she is still two years away. Consistency.

    They are all saving up for a Wii. They have to each come up with $50.00 and we will kick in the rest. Be it from allowance, money earned helping with non-expected jobs or birthday/easter/whatever gift money they have been saving since January. They have $18, $13 & $16.25 saved. Birthdays are coming….

    Hurry! I WANT THE WII as much as they do!

  5. Johann permalink
    March 30, 2008 8:20 am

    Thanks, PG. Interesting take- I like the “connected but not connected” thing.
    –Johann

    P.S. You’ll love the Wii, I assure you.

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