2012… An age of entitlement?

PARENTING......... you're doing it right.

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?

Here's how raking would turn out at my house... the kids would do it too.

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.

Sending the wrong message?

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.

Special thanks to my talented sister for editing/revising this piece. She kicks ass. http://www.BeckerPR.com


About dramafreemama

My name is Deborah. I am a former teacher, turned education consultant for a technology company; I am a writer; I am a wife to a blue-eyed beard; I am an animal lover and rescuer. But the most humbling and moving role in my life to date is that of a mama. My sons, Zac and Jett are 4 and 7, so every day is an adventure and a lesson in survival! This blog is about the daily juggle (and struggle) of the working mom… I'm glad you stopped by!
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10 Responses to 2012… An age of entitlement?

  1. I’m a grandmother, and I think the best thing you can teach your children from the earliest age is to clean up after themselves, and not leave it for someone else to do. Part of being a responsible citizen. So wiping the sink, even the toilet if necessary, making one’s bed and keeping the bedroom picked up–all can easily become habits and not seen as chores or duties–just being a responsible person!

  2. Aspasia says:

    Hmm. I absolutely love this one. I’ve always been treated like a pariah in this regard because I NEVER paid for chores. A lot of times by my kids themselves. Like you, I firmly believe that’s part of your family “dues”. I can also say that my kids pretty much got everything they needed and most of what they wanted while I raised them by myself. At times I felt bad because I saw friends children “saving money” that they got for chores and an allowance for getting passing grades at school when mine never had to do that; I just bought whatever it was they wanted if they were deserving; if not, we just waited a bit until they deserved it which sometimes coincided with when I had the money =). I sometimes believed I was wrong (so many against one) when I was told my kids would never know how to “handle money”; wouldn’t know the “value of a dollar” ; I had a lot of doubts and at times had to pick up the phone and “consult” with my mother, who I think is the ultimate authority on love and motherhood. Nothing like people telling you you’re raising your kids wrong when you have no family around to support you and most everyone else is doing the “reward with money” thing. I thought that was a culture thing – I was born and raised in Brazil. I have adopted pretty much all of my “adopted” country way of life except for some basic ingrained things having to do with raising my kids – and that’s one of them. My kids are basically good, sometimes capable of some stupid acts, buy so am I. I wouldn’t trade them off at all. They do know the value of money; sometimes they amaze me with their thoughts on the subject. Well, in all fairness I’m easily amazed and amused by my kids. I’m their biggest fan. I always felt the time was going to come when they HAD to think about money, how to make it, save it and spend it, but as long as they were children I was going to protect them from thinking about it or worrying about it. They always thought they had money, when in fact the opposite was usually true when they were little. My kids probably did think money was grown in trees. Furthermore, I always thought they appreciated our weekly “trip” to the “new” McDonald’s with a playground down the street as a reward for good grades and good behavior than money. A special day when we all played “hookie” from school/ work and went to the beach instead; well. I guess you can tell I have pretty strong ideas on the subject. Another thing I do not understand: kids paying RENT!!! I’m sorry, I just can’t wrap my mind around that one. My oldest daughter recently moved out after living with me for 4 years with her three children; she’s 32. She never paid a red cent for rent. I wouldn’t take it if she offered. On the other hand, she had a lot of responsibilities around the house; I live on a small farm and she was responsible for a lot of the animals: feeding, caring for them. My grandchildren helped her with it and it was just expected. She bought groceries when she could, we complimented one another and were able to live in harmony. If she made a little extra money and I needed it she gave it to me; if we were ok we’d do something nice (usually for the kids) with it. I treasure the time they were here and miss them a lot. My son’s children lived with me off and on due to his and his wife’s schedules. Again, no money was ever exchanged. At one time my youngest daughter asked to live with my son and his wife for a few months after she turned 17, she thought she hated me I think; when she realized she still loved me she came back home; while she was living with them I helped with meals, keeping the children, doing whatever I could for them ; nothing really I wasn’t doing already and if I ever offered money I believe it would have offended. There was never any money exchanged; not even gas money for her to go back and forth to school. We use a different kind of currency when we “pay back” a family member for something they’ve done for you, and it’s called time, kindness, love, acceptance; to pay them with money would belittle what they just did for you, in my humble opinion. Anybody can pay them money for a chore. I’m the only one that can give them MY time, MY love, and a feeling that they’re MINE and they belong to something precious, a family. And if they need money, there’s always opportunities to give them some without it being a “payment” for services rendered. I’m glad I’ve stuck by my guns on that one. I’ve always said to myself: I HAVE to raise my kids the way I feel is right, in my heart. With luck I’ll live to see that love does prevail over everything else. So far so good, I still cross my fingers now and then. I guess I’m not going to feel like I’m done raising them until I’m six feet under. Wow. That was an opinionated and long response, huh. Sorry. I couldn’t help myself this time.

    • We love you bunches, Aspasia! And I know your girls do too! I think that’s a cool concept– the different kind of currency. And that anyone can pay them for a chore, PARENTS “pay” with TIME, LOVE, and ACCEPTANCE.

  3. Ginna says:

    I think my parents’ opinion was that the ‘reward’ for good grades was continued trust that I could monitor my own time and balance my own responsibilities without their interference. Your friend wants to come over? Sure. You’re watching a movie on a school night? Okay. Had my grades ‘slipped,’ my freedom would have likely slipped away a little, too. I never exactly tested this theory…

    • Ginna, I seem to recall you being an exceptionally mature individual. 🙂 If only all parents were so lucky– most kids require “interference” to keep even above-average kids on track. How cool that you learned early that taking care of your personal responsibilities earns you more of them. Nancy & Judge Bob must have done something right! How are they, by the way?

  4. Eileen says:

    I don’t know about the whole getting paid for good grades thing being bad. I was expected to make good grades and I made good grades all through school. I got 5 bucks for an A and nothing for anything less. It wasn’t to make me study more, it was more of a “Hey, you did great this semester, here’s an extra 40 bucks to buy what you want.” And I got an allowance too… Five dollars a week to do dishes, take out trash and bring in the newspaper. If I didn’t do a task in the required time, no money. I think it was just a little way for my parents to give me money to buy the things I wanted. They weren’t going to pay for that Jansport backpack, I had to earn it.

    • Eileen… you bought your own backback? HOLY RESPONSIBLE. I guess we all have different versions of spoiled. And I guess your allowance was a more organized way to give you what you needed without it being any old time you asked for it. I think parents went more for the we provide what you need, and we get to choose what you need approach. Haha.

  5. Dr. G says:

    I completely agree! I’ll go ya one step further and say that kids – even younger kids – should have chores that benefit the whole family, not just cleaning up their own messes. That 3 year olds can sort out ALL the shoes by the front door (great matching game) and that the 5 yo can feed the dog every day, that the 7 year old can help with the laundry and the 9 year old can wash dishes. These are important life skills and Family Club dues!

    • My 2 year old feeds the cat every night… He doesn’t even need help anymore. He also takes his laundry basket to the laundry room. This takes a minute, but he gets there! 🙂 He helps carry in the groceries and takes the milk jugs to the recycling. Even picks up sticks in the yard. I must sound like a slave driver, but a home takes EVERYONE to keep rollin! I WILL have an independent young man!

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