We have always insisted on our children doing chores and marking a chart to show accountability. While my three boys were all teenagers, they had gotten very lax in their duties and no amount of lecturing was having any effect. So my husband called a family council. He handed each family member a spreadsheet.
“I have given you a copy of our monthly budget. I have listed the cost of the mortgage, insurance, utilities, phone, food, and other miscellaneous household supplies. I have divided it by the number of people living in the house. As you can see, the cost for each person is $300. That would be about $75 a week. You pay for your share by doing chores and helping out around the house. I am looking at the chore chart, and I can see that you three boys have not marked off any chores for this week. You now owe me $75. Go get it.”
There was total silence. Not one of them had that kind of money lying around. My husband continued. “Okay, you obviously don’t have the money. So now you can’t live in the house. You will pack what clothes you need and move into the back yard. You can use any of the camping supplies in the shed, as well as the ice chest. You can use the house for showering (or the pool), and the bathroom in the garage. You are responsible for your own food. You may only come into the house to do your chores.”
As a mom, I panicked. These were my babies! But all three of them were Eagle Scouts and were very capable of camping, cooking, and taking care of themselves. In fact, my youngest son was smiling and laughing and saying that this would be fun! And they moved into the backyard. They pooled the money they did have and walked to the store to buy some basic supplies – milk, cereal, bread, peanut butter, hot dogs, and some chips and cookies. I was kind enough to give them some ice for the ice chest. That night they roasted hot dogs in our fire pit and decided that this wouldn’t be too bad.
It is amazing how much we don’t appreciate technology. Camping in the back yard meant the only lights they had to use were a lantern and flashlights. My boys learned the first day that they had better do their homework while they could see by the light of the sun. Chores could be done later, when it was dark. There was no television to watch. No video games to play. No computer or internet. This was before the days of cell phones, so, no texting, games, or youTube. It was too cold to swim and there was nothing to do. The sun set at about 6 pm and they were in their sleeping bags by 8. Guess who had all the chores done that week, and every week after?
Here are some ideas suggested by Jacqueline Curtis in Money Crashers to teach your child a good work ethic:
- Treat school like a job. The teacher is the boss, there are rules to follow and responsibilities to complete. There are consequences when you fail.
- Put work on the schedule. Don’t just have them pitch in to help.
- Work together. They learn teamwork, and you can keep them on track and teach them as they work.
- Don’t use bribes. Children then learn to work for the wrong reason. Instead of learning to do laundry so they will have clean clothes, they do it for the reward they have been promised.
- Allow consequences. As hard as it is to watch your child suffer, negative consequences will help your child learn what happens when they don’t complete their responsibilities.
- Model the behavior. If you have a solid work ethic and a positive attitude about work, your children will probably copy your example.