It’s hard to explain the feeling you get the instant when you realize you’ve completely failed your kids in one specific area. I’d kind of liken it to a gut punch – you sort of freeze for a second like, “Wait, what just happened?” and then your face gets flushed and your heart beats faster.
At least, that’s what happened the day I realized we’d completely failed to teach our kids about earning money.
It happened this past fall. We were at Target in South Burlington, which doesn’t happen often for us since we live outside of Rutland and it’s about an hour and a half ride. Getting to go to Target is a big treat for my kids.
My older son, who was 6 at the time, wanted a big, expensive LEGO set. I told him it cost too much and he responded by saying, “It’s okay mommy, you can put it on your credit card.” It took a minute to register and for me to realize that he thought that putting something on a credit card meant that it didn’t have to be paid for. I stood there for a minute, not knowing what to say or where to start. There was a much larger conversation that needed to happen and I needed to think about how exactly to explain things.
And, this is where another of my parenting fails became clear – I just said, “No” and then the tantrum began.
I realize both the lack of knowledge and the ensuing tantrum were all my fault. I own that. But, for so long it was so much easier to buy my kids whatever they wanted than to deal with a tantrum. I just physically and emotionally could not handle public tantrums.
You see, I had my boys quite close together – 14 months apart to be exact – and I suffered from severe postpartum anxiety. It was especially bad in public. My postpartum anxiety struggle was followed closely by the grieving process from losing my brother and then two failed pregnancies. So, to avoid any chance of a public meltdown I knew I could not shoulder, I would let my kids each choose one thing to purchase every single time we were out. At the time, it was worth it to me to spend the money and avoid a tantrum.
The past year or so, things have gotten easier. My kids are getting older, more understanding, and more independent. I have a much better handle on my own emotions and am better able to support my kids and their emotions.
This particular interaction was so far from my radar at that point in our lives that I was almost confused – until I really looked hard at the situation and the messages I’d been sending my kids for the past 6 years. On the car ride back home – without the LEGO set, might I add (though Santa did bring it a few weeks later), my husband and I discussed where we went wrong and how we could begin to reverse the damage. These discussions were accompanied by Google searches and then, by us developing a system where our kids earn money by completing simple tasks.
Our Chore for Money Earning System to Teach Our Kids About Earning Money:
Now, we have a dry erase board on our refrigerator. On the board, we tally points for each of our kids. They earn points by completing simple tasks. It’s a very basic chore for money system. There are two tasks they can earn for each day, cleaning their room/making their beds and putting all of their dishes from every meal into the sink. Then, they can earn additional points for other things they do like cleaning other rooms, helping me with dishes, emptying the dishwasher, doing something exceptionally kind, you get the idea. These tasks and the shared responsibility of keeping our communal spaces tidy has become even more important now that they are distance learning from home.
They then use their points to purchase the things they want. For instance, before the time of social distancing, my younger son would go food shopping with me each week. If he wanted a toy or Kinder Egg, he used his points to purchase it. For us, each point translates to a dollar. We chose not to use actual money, mainly, because my husband and I never carry cash on us.
In addition to using their points when we were out shopping, they had to use their points if they wanted to purchase extra snacks when we were at the ski lodge. For us, purchasing snacks every weekend was getting expensive and our kids were beginning to expect it. We decided to make it their choice – but if they did choose to get a waffle, they lost 6 points. Obviously, we would feed them lunch, but it was usually sandwiches and fruit from home.
We also had our sons set some goals and we wrote those on the dry erase board right below their point tallies. My younger son started with one goal – a large LEGO set for 100 points. My older son had multiple goals ranging from 5 points for Goosebumps books to 100 points for heated socks. We no longer purchase them any toys or non-necessities without first discussing with them how many points it will cost them and then removing those points if they decide to make the purchase.
Since the kids are no longer heading out to stores, they were able to stockpile points. Just recently, they combined their points and purchased that large LEGO set together. They were so excited for the delivery and putting it together offered a nice long activity that kept them and dad busy all day.
How did we come up with this plan?
In our research before getting started, my husband and I came across Preparamom. She offers an awesome freebie that will easily get you started on a chore and money system that will work for your family. She also has a great video on Facebook that explains the system she uses with her kids. We didn’t follow her system exactly because my kids are a bit younger than hers and as I said before, we don’t ever have real cash around. However, her system was a sound starting point for us in realizing what needed work and what our kids could handle. Since we are still getting started with our chore for money earning system, I would love to hear your tips for establishing a chore for money earning system with your kids in order to teach them about earning money.
What has worked and hasn’t worked for your family? Do you have other ways you’ve taught your kids about earning money?