Ever since Legos have invaded our home, our oldest son, James, has been going nuts over every new superhero set that comes out. He’s even counting down the days until “The LEGO Batman Movie” is released (Feb. 10, in case you were wondering).
My husband has been taking him to the Lego Store at the mall this month to get a weekly free Batman movie poster and pick up a new Batman Movie Lego Minifigure mystery pack. But you know what? Those little packs add up quick! And so do all those Lego sets. So I started wondering, “Why am I paying for all this?”
I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job giving James, 5, and his 3-year-old brother age-appropriate chores to do around the house. So far, however, we haven’t assigned any money-earning chores. James certainly understands that things cost money — probably because I complain about it every time I pull out my wallet. He’s also learned that when he has gift cards, he can buy things he wants with his money. So I figured this Lego obsession could be a great opportunity for teaching about earning money.
But where to start? I brought my idea up to a close friend, and she gave me some great advice: Whatever chore you decide to pay your child for, make sure it’s not a chore you would normally expect them to do without compensation. I expect my children to do basic things like clean up their plates after meals, put their shoes in their shoe bins when they arrive home, put their dirty clothes in the hamper, etc. So I feel like those sorts of things should not be money-earning chores. But some chores I feel can be tweaked.
I have my kids work together to clean up the play room at least once a week. Believe me, it’s never fun. There’s whining, complaining, crying and gnashing of teeth, but it gets done. So the first chore I gave him was cleaning up the playroom on his own — something I knew he could do. I made it very clear that he would only earn the money if he cleaned it up totally on his own before the designated cleanup time. If he did not do the chore on his own, and it was eventually completed with the help of his brother, he would not get paid.
The first week, he “forgot” to clean it on his own. On the designated playroom cleaning day, I sent them both in to get the job done. James realized afterward that he had missed his opportunity to earn money for that chore. The following week, however, he specifically asked to go in and clean by himself so he could earn his Lego money. It was quite amazing to watch the little lightbulb go off in his head when I handed him the $2 he had earned. And it was pretty nice not hearing them fight and complain during the cleanup.
I’ve had to get creative with other special chores for him. He’s helped pull dead weeds from our garden and cleaned up random toys strewn around the backyard. A few others on my list include raking leaves and dragging dead tree limbs out of the yard. If we ever get any snow, he can help clean off the cars or shovel a path for our dog with his adorable little kid snow shovel.
It’s tough thinking of things that I feel he’s old enough to handle that aren’t chores I’d normally have him do. I can see it now: him holding the door open for me like a sweet little gentleman, then as I walk by, he holds out his little palm for some cash. Guess I better choose my chores wisely.
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 5-year-old James and 3-year-old Luke.