21st Century Childhood Allowance: Contracted Labor

A few weeks back, I wrote a blog about motivating my children to do work around the house.  None of them are very motivated, and I have found in the past that offering a blanketed amount for a week’s worth of duties left me with less money in my wallet for less than par performances.

My two younger daughters, nine and eleven-years old respectively, have finally learned that saving money for something they really want has a higher sense of gratification than running to the dollar aisle at Target every time she has a buck or two.  Maggie recently saved for a Captain America Build-A-Bear, and Lizzie saved for an American Girl gymnastics set.  However, they have each learned that without a regular way of earning money, it is difficult to set her sights on something big because she is unable to make a timeline and work toward that goal.

This morning, after a very long conversation with Lizzie, the nine-year old, I decided to reinstitute allowance.  However, I refuse to allow for the handing over of moneys for the same level of effort I am getting at present.  Hence, I drew up two unique contracts for each girl, I had their father act as witness and legal advisor, and he, on their behalf, agreed to the wording and terms of my contract.

They have been signed.  Schedules have been made, and who knows what the results will be.   Hopefully, the girls will learn that their performance effects their pay; they will learn that economic survival is about one’s willingness to perform; and they will learn that earning money is actually rewarding and can lead to an early retirement!

Here is Lizzie’s contract:  (Moms, feel free to borrow my idea!)

I, ______________________________, not bound by the contract of habeas corpus, do agree that by the signing of this said legal document, that I will do my best to perform each activity listed so that I can earn a fair wage in the Huffer household.

I understand that by signing this document that I am aware that if I perform each activity to the best of my ability, I will be awarded a bonus for each activity a week. Likewise, I understand that if I do not meet said criteria, not only do I forfeit my bonus, but that my weekly allotment will be less because of my laziness.

In addition, mother and/or father have the right to ask me to take on an up to two extra duties a day that do not meet the requirements for compensation. These duties include, but are not limited to: picking up wet towels, taking paper to the paper pile, hang up my coat, taking cans and glass to recycling, etc.

If at any point I feel that I am asked to do an activity that is time consuming, it is in my legal right to negotiate for compensation for said activity.

Compensation Schedule:

I will make my bed and pick up my floor every morning for $.25. At the end of the week, if I have performed said activity each morning, I will have earned $1.75. However, I may also earn a bonus $.25 for performing this job for seven consecutive days, taking my earnings for said activity for the week to $2.00.

I will at the end of each evening, pick up all of my belongings off of the kitchen table, the tables in the living room, the living room floor, and the basement floor and put them in their specified locations: books should return to the book bag, toys to their proper location, and any other belongings should be placed NEATLY in my room. This assignment will also earn me $.25 a day with a bonus of $.25 at the end of the week if I perform my activity for seven consecutive days.

I will empty the dishwasher every day. As with the other activities, I will earn $.25 a day with a bonus at the end of the week of $.25, after I have executed my responsibility for seven consecutive days.

Lastly, on laundry day, I will be afforded $.50 for putting all of my laundry away NEATLY and appropriately. I must bring down my hamper to have my clothes washed, and I must bring down all hangars in my closet that are not supporting my clothing at the time.

If I perform all of these activities each week, I have the opportunity to earn $6.50 a week. However, I understand that my pay is solely based on my diligence to perform each activity each day.


Print your name ____________________________                    Date _______________________________________


Signature _________________________________                     Witness _____________________________________


Mother ___________________________________


I Believe in Slave Labor.

Okay.  Okay.  Don’t get your panties in a twist.  I am not an advocate of slave labor, in the true sense of the term.  I do not believe that any human being should be bought or sold to any other human being.  Nor do I believe that “the boss” should make the working conditions so horrible that it is impossible for a human to live in any other way than in squalor.

What I am referring to is a much more humane practice: Childhood Slave Labor in my household alone.

You see, I have three very entitled daughters.  They basically want-for-not and worry very little.  When they express interest in an activity, I find a way to enroll them in a class, sign them up for a club team, or get them into a camp.  Their curiosities are often satisfied, and in many ways, I am proud that I have this ability to offer my children life-experiences.

However, what I am not proud of, and what I have not been strong about insisting upon is enlisting their help in the day-to-day activities of running a household.  They are very neglectful of chores., and I am somewhat of a lenient mom who allows for this behavior.

Some mothers believe that children will not neglect responsibility around the home if they are given an allowance.  These mothers boast that it gives their children a sense of empowerment: a $5.00 payment every Saturday morning, a pat on the head, and a “Job well done.”

I tried giving an allowance to my girls at a few different points in the last five years; however, for me, it turned into the handing over of money for mediocre help that I still felt I was nagging to get.  In addition, I struggle with the idea that I should pay the kids for helping around the house.  We are a family, and as a family, we should all want to pitch in to make our house, our world, clean and manageable.

So, what happens if I do not give allowance and I get insufficient help?

I do the lion’s share of the work.

I pick up.  I wash.  I fold.  I hang.  I vacuum.  I dust.

However, certain weeks when I have extra work at the job that I do get paid for, I come home exhausted, and I find the house…. well, trashed.

I think to myself, I did not sign up for this.  I cannot do it all.  And whether I am actually doing it all or not, I feel like I am, and this feeling makes me lose it.

Literally.  I freak out.

I find that I am standing in the kitchen barking orders like a drill sergeant.  I am not your slave!   I work hard, for what?  Ungrateful kids who cannot lift their princess fingers to help!

Magically, things start happening, and they happen fast.  Laundry not only makes it into hampers and baskets, it makes it to the laundry room.  The living room carpet and the basement floor get vacuumed.  The Tupperware cupboard gets organized, and the sink gets cleaned.  In the matter of an hour, the bedlam that was my home has been tidied.  The nervous sensation in my stomach has been quelled.

So how does any of this relate to slave labor in my home?

Well, this past Friday, I came home from work and Carson was on-line looking at a Fault in Our Stars sweater that she was coveting.  She explained how her friend told her about this website, and how cool it would be to own this particular sweater.   She said it with a bit of resign in her voice.  For whatever reason, she hasn’t landed many babysitting jobs lately, and her coffers have dwindled.  She is very aware of how much money I spend on her dance classes, costumes, shoes, and competition fees, so she does not like to ask for a luxury item for the sake of said item.

However, while listening, I thought of a plan that could work to my advantage.

“Carson,” I said.  “I can buy that for you, but then, you will be my slave.  You will have to do whatever I ask without complaint.”

“Really?”  Without hesitation, she clicked the order button and started to enter her name, our address, etc.

Since Friday, she has dusted and vacuumed the rec room, put away two baskets of laundry, and shoveled the driveway.  We did not discuss a timeline.  At some point, we will come to an agreement that her services rendered is equivalent to the cost of the sweater.  However, when that happens, there will be something else to order.

I cannot wait for Maggie and Lizzie to catch on.  I may never have to lift a finger again!


I Am Not a Child Psychologist, Nor Do I Play One on T.V.

I am a little rattled by the responses I received about yesterday’s post, Sometimes, It Stings.  I have received a couple Facebook inboxes, a few text messages, an email, and a couple of comments from friends about how I handled the situation.  The general consensus is that I was probably insensitive when speaking with Carson.

I appreciate the advice and the general concern people are feeling for Carson’s well-being.  However, I do want to let you in on a little secret.  She and I talked for fifteen or more minutes, and although what I expressed in my blog was the overall sentiment of our exchange, I did not just bark at her about crying and life’s obstacles.  I did spend time consoling her as well.

I usually do not defend my parenting style, but because so many people offered advice, I feel the need to explain my philosophy.  I parent with common sense.  I do not read how-to manuals or books.   I listen to other people and I observe their parenting.  I think about my own parents and my experiences as a child.  I take away from all of it what I believe can and will work for my family.  In addition, I parent each of my daughters according to her needs.  I try to always show them that I love them, but I am not afraid to be stern.

With that being said, I have said many times that I do not think every child should get a trophy.  Likewise, I think it is good for a child to learn that she does not always get everything she wants, that not everything will always go her way, and that sometimes, life is difficult.  It is true that Carson was disappointed because she was not invited to a friend’s birthday party.  As a parent, I chose to be pragmatic and discuss the sobering reality that sometimes life kind of sucks.  She felt real disappointment and besides for rubbing her back and kissing her forehead, I could do nothing to take the pain away.  However, by talking through the situation, I know that what she is learning are valuable techniques in developing an emotionally, healthy self; she is learning to endure, to  cope, and to survive setbacks.

I want Carson to feel strong and independent.  I do not want her to crumble when she strikes out or worse, life throws a 103 mile fast ball and she gets smacked in the face.  Oh, it will sting, I know from personal experience that it stings.  However, time has the ability to assuage any hurt, and eventually, she will have the strength to pick herself up and stand in the batter’s box of life again.   Life is about swinging, and eventually she will experience the glory of the homerun, and when she does, I will be (because I always am) her number one fan cheering in the stands!