It is my firm belief that being part of a family unit comes with certain responsibilities– duties or “chores,” if you will, that you perform just because you are member of the family. We’ll call them Family Club dues… you don’t get paid to do your chores, you just do them to reap the benefits of “membership.” For example: You eat here, so clean up behind yourself. You sleep here, so make up your bed. You shower here, so put your towel in the hamper and wipe your toothpaste out of the sink. They are required duties, or the Family Club House becomes Animal House in no time! These simple duties are not strenuous or even time consuming, so please don’t make me ask you. Again. Period. Pretty please?
Now, for older children, there are some above and beyond “extra” tasks that, in my opinion, should not go unrewarded, like washing the car or raking leaves. Those are arduous tasks that, quite frankly, really suck. So I’ll throw ya a bone for those. But basic, every-day, household chores are part of your responsibility/job, and your reward/paycheck comes in the form of food, shelter, clothing and utilities… because you live here, even if not all of the time. As I am a step-mom (or “Bonus-Mom,” as I like to call it), and only responsible for a chore-doing aged child part of the time, this concept is sometimes difficult to relay… and even more difficult to enforce. But, when you’re under my roof, certain responsibilities are non-negotiable. So I feel very fortunate that I am speaking of a remarkable young man that, at age 9, seems to value his different roles in both of his families. Hard to come by, to say the least.
But honestly, the bulk of my experience with youngin’s (pardon the colloquialism) comes, not from home, but from observing and overhearing other people’s little angels in my classroom. And what I cannot wrap my brain around is how many of their parents give them cash allowance for fulfilling regular daily tasks, such as cleaning their rooms. And even more alarming? For getting good grades. For some of them, it’s hundreds of dollars per semester. I simply don’ t understand why or when this became “the norm.” And Part II of my high-horse, may-have-to-eat-these-words-someday, rant goes like this…
I was never rewarded cash for good grades, and it goes against everything I stand for. In fact, if I maintained good grades in school, I was afforded the opportunity to live to see the next marking period– Ha! No, I kid. My parents took me out for a nice dinner or let me have some friends spend the night if I made Honor Roll. I was rewarded for my work… but with time spent together, or an extra privilege, like staying up later or choosing the movie, not a spot on the payroll. Satisfactory academic performance was expected of me, not a surprise event for which I got paid money! You see, my Dad was of the opinion that a “C” is just as close to an “F” as it is to an “A,” and that mediocrity was not acceptable, and I believed him. I still do.
So when I watch my “Bonus-Kid” excitedly accept $25 cash from his paternal grandmother for his Honor Roll report card, I cringe silently, feign excitement for him… and keep my mouth shut. But trust me, it isn’t easy. Don’t get me wrong, I was proud of his high marks, and I made his favorite dinner that Wednesday when he visited. I even bought a Boston Creme pie (his fave) for dessert. But kind of like the chore thing, I feel like being a good student is part of the “job” at his age, not an opportunity for salary.
As a teacher, I feel like if you want your kids to assign REAL value to their education, stop attaching a dollar value to it. Let them count their academic successes as personal victories… as stepping stones to the next level. It’s called a grading period, not a pay period. They will have time enough to bust their butts for money– as in, the rest of their lives. So for now, let a kid be a kid– report cards, chore charts and all!
(Oh, and I reserve the right to change my mind when my little one becomes a stubborn, angsty teenager that won’t do his homework. And I’m expecting it.)
I took some time to ponder on this before publishing, as I feel like opinionated ramblings deserve a “pause & reflect” period before sharing. And here’s what I’d like to add, in fairness and in love:
I understand that being a grandparent is different than being a parent and that the Memaws and NeeNees of the world have put in their time being the ‘bad guy.’ Now it’s their turn to spoil the crap out of the kids without fear of the consequences. GaGa’s prerogative… far be it for me to interfere or negate.
Parents, motivate your kids to succeed, both at home and in the classroom, however you feel like you need to. Do what works for you and your family. It can be difficult, especially with older students, to find something they are excited about and that drives them, other than cash. A sticker chart just doesn’t make a 13 year old jump for joy. And a kid with a car wants gas money, not cookies or a slumber party. I get it. And I, by no means, have all the answers or believe myself to be some sort of parenting or educational guru. I simply and strongly believe that kids should view achieving satisfactory grades and doing household chores as their responsibility, not anything extraordinary or deserving of payment. And if we instill that idea in them early on, they may be less likely to feel like anyone owes them something for doing what they are supposed to do anyway. Just my opinion, of course. I just don’t want it to get to a point where money is the only thing that motivates children– the ones under my roof or the ones in my classroom. If we arrive there, then the world has bigger problems than bad report cards and messy rooms.
All that being said… I consider myself open-minded. So, I’d love to hear your views on this subject, especially positive reinforcement ideas and rewards that have worked for you and your family, so comment below! Feel free to disagree with me, but please do so with kindness.