September 26, 2005

Money May Not Buy Love, But It Can Buy Legos

My son has developed a great interest in money recently, inspired partly by The Great Brain books and partly by the fact that money can buy Legos and, well, Legos make the world go 'round.

At school each child does a different classroom job for approximately a month, which is long enough for them to get the hang of things. The first month, our son was a sweeper. Now he's cooking. Next he might be wiping tables, setting up for snacks, or doing one of a number of other jobs. At home, we've been making him help out cleaning up toys and such for a while, but never had a formal list of tasks. With his work practice at school and his desire to earn money, it seemed like an opportune time to make up a chore list. Since the Great Brain books are set in the late 19th century, The Boy is perfectly satisfied with a nickel per task.

Of course, his sister wants in on this deal too. Last night we worked out the following lists. The Boy will wipe the table after each meal, he will sweep, pick up toys, and make his bed. The Middle Girl will make her bed, clear the table after meals, and help pick up toys. We'll mark off things as they get completed and then pay the kids at the end of the week. Once we see how these jobs go, I'm hoping for help unloading the dishwasher and doing laundry. This could be the beginning of an interesting experiment.

It's also a time for certain lessons -- such as -- one does not get paid for everything one does around the house. The Boy suggested this morning that perhaps getting dressed should be paid. I suggested otherwise. He was fine with that. I wonder what else he'll be hoping to do for payment.


Maybe some of the other folks will have a different opinion, but a child should get an allowance since they are part of the family. The tricky part is deciding when they are old enough to handle the money, as well as possible jealous reactions from younger siblings.

Their payment should not be predicated on the completion of chores or daily tasks. Extra tasks can be rewarded with extra money. Non-completion of chores can be met with various levels of discipline, depending on the situation.

When we visited Downtown Disney earlier this year, we found a store that was Legos, nothing but Legos. They had several large-scale models outside of the store (dinosaur, robot) as well as stations with loose Legos for building stuff. Inside you can get any type of Lego you could want.

Posted by: MarcV at September 26, 2005 11:51 AM

Be very careful with Legos. When you step on one in the dark, with bare feet, it hurts like hell.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at September 26, 2005 12:12 PM

Gotta disagree with Marc (respectfully, of course!). Daughter has always had age-appropriate chores to do, usually a combination of those tied to her own needs (she's done her own laundry since age 9, for example) and those that contribute to the welfare of the house as a whole (taking care of pets, taking out the garbage, emptying the dishwasher, etc.), which are done on an as-needed basis. But she has never had an allowance -- I just never saw the point of paying her to be a part of the family.

Now that she's old enough to want to have spending money of her own she gets a weekly stipend which is tied to the completion of additional chores, with the added caveat that they must be done well and without reminder from us. Out of that money she must pay for all non-family outings, personal items and entertainment. It's been an interesting lesson for her in money-management and deciding what it is she really wants -- and it has put a stop to the "I have to do EVERYTHING" whine we were hearing for a long time.

Posted by: Grouchy Old Yorkie Lady at September 26, 2005 12:14 PM

Stephen, we restrict the Legos to a spot upstairs (mostly so the baby isn't within choking range) but it also have the effect of not putting them within range of my feet most of the time.

As for the chore/allowance debate -- neither my husband nor I got either an allowance nor had chores to do. So we have no personal experience with any method.

I do not think I'm comfortable simply giving an allowance for being part of the family. I'd rather just pay for everything myself than dole out money weekly to children simply for being.

After reading and talking to a lot of people, this seemed like a reasonable way to try. Our kids have always been told they have to help with certain things because we're a family and families work together. But learning that work without whining brings in money is not such a bad thing either. Plus, they'll be saving some and putting some aside for the church collection and figuring out that it takes a lot of effort to buy the things they like.

If none of this works, we'll try something else or not.

Posted by: Jordana at September 26, 2005 01:23 PM

Hmm.. another parenting issue I hadn't remotely considered. I've got time, thank goodness! If I gave Jay nickels now, they'd show up in his diaper ;)

He did get his first Legos for his birthday though. He got the big ones that store in the Block-odile, which can eat them if you drive it over them. Mostly, he likes pulling them apart and throwing them. It's a toy he'll grow into!

Posted by: Lenise at September 26, 2005 07:52 PM

paying children for doing chores. If that doesnt get children ready for the outside world. not much will. preparing them young isnt such a bad idea i think. and it keeps the house clean.

Posted by: flargin at September 26, 2005 08:03 PM

Rather than tieing up valuable munuvian comment space on this debatable subject, I have posted on it over at ePrays: Allowance and Grace.

Posted by: MarcV at September 27, 2005 01:10 PM