Can we buy this, Mommy?
Here’s something, it’s really cool, see? It does this! Yeah! It’s cool! Can we buy it?
Okay, how about this? This? What about this? Pleeeeeaaase, Mama?
But MAMA, what are we gonna BUY then? What’re we gonna buy?
Cameron was just about in tears, desperate to make a purchase. Any purchase. He was literally going from bin to shelf in Chapters (bookstore, think Barnes&Noble-esque), grabbing random gizmos and shaking them at me. I gently removed the last item from his hands, and calmly took him away from the shelves. Carefully, slowly, I explained that we didn’t have to buy anything, and that I was not going to spend money just to spend it.
His teary eyes blinked, and sparkled a bit, focused over my shoulder. He headed for another shelf, and pulled down a marble game, where you build a track for the marbles to whiz down. A $34 toy. Now, granted, it did look pretty darned cool. And I could tell from his body language and his voice that this was different – he actually wanted this, where the other items had mostly been just simply something to buy. But there was no frickin’ way I was going to buy him a toy at this point, and certainly not a big-ticket item like that. I explained, as gently as I could, that Mommy just doesn’t have that money right now. An idea occurred to me – and I went for it. “But Cameron, you know, you’re a big boy now. My money isn’t just mine, it’s ours. I have to use it to buy groceries and pay bills and pay our share for where we live, but I could give you a little each week. It’s called an allowance. And if you save it, you could buy this toy for yourself.”
Oh. He liked that idea.
I started him walking towards the escalator down and out of the store, when he saw the Melissa and Doug display. Ohdear, I thought. Now, there was a toy there that I wanted to ‘test out’ with him – a wooden boy with ‘layers’ of body system stuff, like a dress up doll only grosser and more educational at the same time. But now was not the time. He however spotted a chart with brightly coloured magnets, and wanted to know what it was. So I explained, that it was a responsibility chart. That big kids could use it to keep track of their responsibilities – that’s part of being a part of a family, and growing up, having responsibilities goes hand-in-hand with privileges … ohhhhwwwwwaaaaiiiiiittttt.
In fact, after going grocery shopping and discussing how I wasn’t just going to give him $34, we talked about saving. Would he save his money and buy the toy? Or would he go across the street to the corner store and buy candy – a treat I know he loves doing. Surprisingly, he said he wanted to save, not to buy candy.
But Mommy, if I’m going to be saving all that money, I need somewhere to put it!
You guessed it. He convinced me to go BACK to Chapters and buy him a piggy bank. But I turned it into a lesson. I told him that we had a budget, $15, and that if the piggy banks were more than that he would just have to wait. It was $14.95.
Less than fifteen, Mama!
Our agreement is that he gets one dollar a week, no matter what. And he is expected to help out around the house and do his responsibilities no matter what. If he makes an effort to get them done without being reminded, he can get another dollar. If he does extra and is saving? One more dollar. It’s going to take him a long time to save up the $34 (yeah, I know, taxes. I’ll pay taxes for him for now, it’s hard enough for him to understand the price on its own). Once he’s bought the toy we’ll talk about other rewards, how it doesn’t have to be money, we could go do something special instead.
So far he and I have worked out what responsibilities he has, together. Last week it was pushups (assigned for karate), reading (he says he wants to read, and to do that he has to try it a little every day), looking after pets (he feeds Nimoo and the fish, and today added water to the fish tank), getting dressed, stopping whining, brushing teeth, picking up toys. This week he switched stopping whining for showing respect, and picking up toys for loading the dishwasher. I dictated some, strongly suggested others, and gave him a couple to pick for himself. It’s a good mix of work and personal development, if you ask me! He chose well.
So any thoughts out there? Good or bad to tie chores to money? Am I giving him too much? Expecting too much out of him, to save for that long? What are your kids getting for allowance, and what are they expected to do? Or what did YOU have to do, and what did YOU get?