Monday, August 26, 2013

No such thing as a free lunch... PART 2

So, to sum up... we've divided our house up into 4 work "areas" or "assignments."  We've given these assignments to our 4 kids.  I help the 4 year old the most and the 11 year old the least.  In theory, the whole house gets clean little by little and never has time to really get bad.  In theory... it doesn't always happen that way.  So what does that have to do with a free lunch?

   Well, that all started when my 9 year old decided that I was somehow being unfair and unreasonable. His desire to put forth the least amount of effort necessary started a fire inside him.  This was fueled by the fact that he was assigned to clean up the main floor areas - which typically is a difficult area to clean because it's where we spend the most time and therefor make the most messes.  It didn't take much time for the bubbling and brewing fire inside him to erupt into a huge volcano.  He began yelling and screaming at me.  The phrases I will share are the few that sent me over the edge and solidified his place in what my husband has now named "the system."  I have heard the scriptures use the terms "weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth."  I have now seen with my own eyes what that looks like.  My 9 year old did that as he yelled, "You make us work because you're lazy.  You just want us to be your slaves because you're too lazy to do the work yourself.  You don't do anything but sit at the computer all day while we work."  I know what you're thinking... some may read that and think, "that little ungrateful brat!" Others may wonder just how much time I spend on the computer and if he perhaps is right.  I would wonder the same thing if that same child didn't get to spend hours a day playing with friends and/or playing video games, if he didn't have clean clothes to wear, food to eat, and a mother who encourages him to read and/or do workbook pages daily during the summer.  Let's just say that I am comfortable with my efforts and confident that I am not "using" my children unfairly.  The path this particular kid was on has been a long time coming.  He has frequently exhibited signs of entitlement and laziness.  I had a long discussion with his teacher about before school got out.  He's a sweet kid, he just lacks motivation to work hard and feels like the world owes him... this was not something I could allow to continue.  How would you handle the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth?  I spoke calmly with authority, "Carter, you no longer live in my house for free."  That was it.  He quieted down and said, "what?"  I explained, "you no longer HAVE to do your assigned chores, you no longer HAVE to read or do workbook pages.  However, you no longer live here for free.  You can not accept free things from other people.  Food is not free, clothes are not free, electronics are not free, your bed is not free."  I then sat down and wrote out prices for him:
Place to sleep - $3/night
Clothes rental - $2/day (includes laundering)  Option to purchase $5 each piece, can reuse, but laundry costs 50¢ each piece (more money up front but may save money in the end)
Meals - $1 each
Snacks - 50¢ each
Drinks - 25¢ each
Electronics rental - $1 for 30 min.
Playing outside with friends - FREE!

I then looked up the amount of money in his savings account - $107.  Since the point of this was for him to work, I set a beginning limit of $10/day that could come from his account... this was slowly lowered until on the last day he could only take $2 from his account.

Then I looked up the current national minimum wage.  It's $7.25/hour.  Since he would hardly work for an entire hour, we needed to know the per minute wage, it came out to 12¢.  I then outlined things he could do to earn money.
His assigned chores
Doing workbook pages
Doing yard work
Playing with sisters (keeping an eye on them)
Helping with other needed work (special assignments)

Any work he did was paid out at minimum wage.  I was merciful, I rounded up to the nearest minute for the payout and allowed for "good attitude" bonuses.

Every morning, I took out money for clothes for the day and the bed for that night because I told him it was unacceptable for him to get to the end of the day and not have anywhere to sleep.  So, he started out each day owing me $5.  He almost always paid this money out of his savings account.  He would then start working for things.  There was no "credit"  I told him that the grocery store doesn't let me eat the food with a promise to buy it later.  I have to pay for things BEFORE using them, which meant he had to earn enough to cover what he wanted to do in a day.  We wrote down everything - what he earned, what he spent, everything.  If he went into someone else's house, I told him that I would assume they were playing electronics and I would write down what he owed that person.  Same with eating their food.  If someone has to pay for something(food, electronics, etc.) then he had to pay for it.  After a few really hard days, he finally came around.  He began working without complaint and doing it before playing around.  We did this from a Thursday night to Thursday night.  On Friday, he and I still tracked everything (what he spent and what he earned) but instead of needing it to match up to cover his expenses, he just had to do his regularly assigned work: Read for 10 minutes, 1 workbook page, and assigned chores throughout the day.  At the end of the day, I sat him down and we totaled it all up:  He had a $16 day that he was getting for $2.40 worth of work. I asked him if he thought that was unfair or unreasonable... of course he answered that it was not unreasonable.  I explained to him that if he ever complained about it not being "fair" that he was free to do the additional $14 worth of work to make it more fair for both us.

Please don't comment and tell me what a horrible mother I am and the psychological damage I have done to my child.  The boy had a lesson to learn and I believe he learned it - that is all I set out to do and it was the only way I could think to do it.  He is now the first to volunteer when I need someone to do something.  When I give him an assignment, for the most part he does it without complaint.  Is he perfect?  NOPE.  Then again, neither am I.

1 comment:

Marna said...

No criticism here! I think it was a great way for him to learn, and appreciate, what goes in to being a part of a family and just living. :-)