On my morning commute, I heard a story on Atlanta local radio that went something like this:
“Mom Charges 5-year-Old Room and Board”
At first, the thought was silly. Really? I thought, really? But when you get further into the story, Mom gives her 5-year-old $7 dollars a week for chores and charges $1 per week per each expense: Rent, Food, Transportation, Clothing, and, Utilities. She then deposits the remaining $2 per week into a savings account for the child. When the child is 18, the mother figures they will have $3,000 with which to start their adult life.
Naturally, there was some debate on the show concerning this, but after the first cry of unfair treatment or dare they, abuse, I jumped out of the car shaking my head and decided that I would re-focus on the day ahead.
I find it absolutely incredible how media and society continue to shame the rising generation for lack of work ethic, fiscal responsibility, and character when we so heavily criticize the parents – like the one above – that try to do things right.
In concept, I wish more parents would train their children for real life more often. Yet, we coddle and throw every treasure at our children until the day they turn 18, having cooked them every meal, cleaned up every mess, paid every expense, purchased every dream, whim, and desire, even attended every parent-teacher conference accusatory towards those in authority, shielding every disaster or shortcoming from the very humans we are molding. Then magically on their eighteenth birthday, if by divine inference, we expect our little humans to decide who and what they will be for the rest of their lives, ship them off to college and say, “hey kiddo, the rest is up to you.”
Give me the Mom charging room and board any day over the above.
We have to set the next generation up for success, instead of failure; giving them a glimpse into the pitfalls and responsibility that we call ‘adulting’ while they are still young enough to desire our encouragement and help is far greater an advantage for them than throwing them to the wolves and saying, “figure it out.”
These humans we are modeling have to be taught at home, reinforced by society, what it means to be human. Right now we expect them to just ‘know’ and then hold them to some proverbial picture-perfect model of a human that they are not allowed to study, learn, critique or from which to even be instructed.
3 ways this “extreme” Mom got it right
1. Life requires money and choices
Perhaps we’d have less entitled twenty-somethings if we taught them young that everything has a cost and opportunity costs. Meaning when you invest in one item, it means you are giving up the opportunity to invest in another.
I grew up in a home that was lower – the middle class. We seemed to never really have money to do anything. So when I started working at fourteen, and until I was around thirty, I spent every dollar I earned – with little to show for it. It took trying to teach my eight and ten years old about money that I realized, my parents were constantly making decisions. But I never knew. I simply thought, well we are poor and so I decided I was always going to be able to buy what I want. And so I did, with very little thought.
This approach crippled my financial freedom in my twenties. We openly have discussions with the kids that are less focused on “you can’t do this because it’s expensive” and more geared towards, “well if we do this, then we have to say no to that.” Life requires money and then thoughtful choices about how to leverage that money. Children can be apart of family budgets and conversations around money. I highly recommend that they are. The sooner they realize it’s not necessarily about having a plethora of money, as much as it is making that money work for you and both your long and short-term goals.
Believe it or not, with my kids’ chore money, they go through those questions before spending money on items. My son last week decided to not spend his GameStop money until he had enough to get a game that worked with the figures he already had. He didn’t want anything to go to waste. But it also meant that he had to say no to a very cool new figure he was oohing over.
Life requires money and thoughtful choices
2. Things have value
All things have a listed cost, but also a perceived value. When we were buying our kids’ legos, they wanted every set available. And sometimes they got just what they wanted. They would build the set, leave it on the table or floor, right where they put it together and never play with it again. Months later I would find it at the bottom of a toy bin destroyed and unloved. When they had to buy their own legos, all of a sudden they were weighing the value of each set. What was more cost-effective, what would they play with more, how can their money go farther? And most nights I come home to find them playing with those sets that they bought.
Personal belongings aren’t valuable until a sacrifice of some sort goes into them.
3. We have a responsibility
By making our kids work for some of their life’s treasures, we instill in them a responsibility to their community. The house, the treasures, it’s a shared responsibility. Equal between male and female. Do you want something in life? Well, my dear, you have to go work for it. There are no handouts. Better they learn with me than on their first job, after they’ve bought their ‘too-big-for-you-home and -oh-so-impressive-car and end up entitled without a job, a paycheck and mounds of debt. Why would we start them out in life this way? I strongly feel the lack of training, responsibility, fiscal acumen and confidence are what cripples our nation, our marriages, our communities. It doesn’t have to be this difficult.
Start Early, Growing up takes decades, forcing our new generations to do so between the ages of 18 and 26 is a huge disadvantage to thier succes and societies. We aren’t doing any one any favors by shielding our kids from the realities of living a life.
This is exactly where this mother is headed with her instruction. My husband and I approach it a little differently and teach our children a proportion rule – some money to savings & investments, some money to fixed expenses and they get to spend the rest.
Whatever our approach, we can’t leave our children’s education to happenchance. We have to be involved in their full development. They are the future, it is our responsibility to leave that future in good hands. Those hand our molded by our actions as parents and leaders in society.
We can’t blame others for having a sense of entitlement when we as parents and leaders have a sense of entitlement that the next generation should just know without any responsibility or accountability of our own.