From an early age I was taught to train a child how he should live, so that when he’s older he won’t forget it. My wife and I have three kids: 8-year-old twin sons and a 4-year-old daughter. As they’ve grown up we realized they were like sponges soaking up everything around them. We had to be constantly aware of what sort of "teaching" we did in front of our kids every day. It wasn’t a question of IF we would teach our children, but rather WHAT we would teach them.
For example, if we come home from work and crash on the couch, spend an hour on Facebook, or play video games, it’s no surprise that’s what our kids will do. On the other hand, if we want them to be prosperous and generous, it would take more than just a quick Dad or Mom pep talk or nagging them. We needed an intentional plan for teaching our kids the lessons they’d need to succeed.
About 2 years ago, we decided it was important to teach our kids to be good managers of time, talents, and money. We made a list of several jobs that were more advanced than what we normally would expect 6-year-olds to handle such as: making beds, folding laundry, drying dishes, helping collect and take out the trash, and cleaning their own bathroom. Our daughter helps empty her trashcan and carry laundry downstairs. It took a while to teach some of these tasks, but after some hilarious "Oopses" that included flushing a scrub sponge down the toilet, I can confidently say our kids know how to work.
Each task has an amount of pay attached to it that we write on a dry erase board post on the door out to the garage. As jobs are completed, we check them off. At the end of the week they have a payday. They know the rules: You work, you get paid. You don’t work, no pay. Just like the real world. Also, just like we adults expect our jobs to pay us regularly, we try to have payday at the same time each week, and we also give hugs and high-fives for a job well done.
The kids also have several unpaid chores to do just because they are part of the family, and I am amazed at how learning to work helps them complete these other tasks without whining. The act of working for the family teaches kids that there’s a time to pitch in and just be helpful.
To make sure they learned how to manage money, we set up three containers: a piggy bank for savings, a wallet for spending, and an envelope for giving. Each week, the kids put money from payday into all three containers. After the first two months of paydays, we didn’t even have to remind them. It’s automatic now and no arguing. One of our boys puts extra into his giving envelope because as he says, “I like to give.”
Our plan isn’t complicated or 100% original, and it did take some time and patience to implement. Our unique responsibility is to teach our children to be the people God made them to be. Wisdom, work ethic and generosity don’t come naturally to anyone, but the great news is we parents are blessed to be the closest, most powerful influence on our kids’ futures. We just have to step up and seize the opportunity.
Syd Whiting is the father of three -- twin eight-year-olds and a four-year-old daughter. He lives in Springfield, MO with his wife, Gail, and serves in the Army National Guard in addition to his regular job.