By Laura Snyder
How do you teach a kid the value of a dollar? The answer is, of course, that you must make him work for that dollar.
This work should be worth a dollar as well. Telling a child that you'll pay him for staying out of your hair for an hour is called bribery and does not teach the value of money, only the value of driving his mother nuts. It also demonstrates how desperate you are for a vacation. Your spouse should be made aware of this departure from sanity so that he/she can prepare for an impending showdown.
My kids have regular chores that they have to do without payment, because that is life in the real world. When they do something other than their regularly scheduled chores, they get paid for it.
I needed some yard work done the other day and I offered the assignment up for pay. All three of them jumped at the chance to earn money, although my nine-year old, who has not yet learned the value of money, accepted the task simply because did not want his siblings to receive anything he didn't get.
Later that day, after the work was done and I had paid them, the phone rang. I needed some scrap paper to write down an address. My nine-year old ran to get some. He came back with one of his dollar bills and slapped it on the table. I think he was a little disappointed that I wasn't thrilled that he found some scrap paper.
After the call was completed, I sat down and had a talk with him."Do you remember that nice bike you got for Christmas last year?" I began.
"The one I sold to the neighbors for $10?" he asked.
"You sold it to the neighbors?... for $10?" I sputtered.
"Yeah about that"
"You said you lost it!"
"I sort of lied."
I tried to compose myself and think about what the important lesson here should be. This child had a way of sidetracking me. Was it wrong that he sold his brand new bike? Was it that he sold it for only $10? Or was it that he lied? Is it bad form to punish a kid for a transgression that happened last year?
Pulling my hair out was becoming a habit for me. By the time this boy turned 18, I would most likely be bald.
"Okay. Okay. The point I was trying to make is that if you don't value money or the things that it can buy, you will never have anything nice."
He looked at me with that blank stare that says, I wonder if there are any Double Stuf Oreos left in the cookie jar.
"Look," I said, "if you didn't sell your bike, you would still be able to ride it."
"But I wouldn't have the $10," he said logically.
"True, but you can't buy a new bike with only $10."
"I didn't want the bike as much as I wanted the $10."
"What did you buy with the $10?"
He thought about it. "I don't remember."
"That's exactly what I mean," I said, thinking he finally understood.
"You're right! I should have sold it for $20."
Nope, he didn't understand.
"No! I'm saying you should have kept the bike, and worked to earn the $10 for whatever it was you wanted to buy. Maybe even save some of it for a rainy day rather than using it for scrap paper."
"So, I can use money to make an umbrella?"
It was like talking to a brick. I tried another tack.
"How many dollar bills would it take to make an umbrella?" This is a question that doesn't come up very often under normal circumstances, but it was all I had.
"A hundred, maybe?"
"And how much does an umbrella cost to buy?"
"I don't know twenty dollars?""So why would you take a hundred dollars to make an umbrella when you could buy one for twenty?"
I saw something click. Then a calculating look came into his eyes.
"So, you're saying if I sold a bike for a $100, I could buy a scooter for $80 and an umbrella with the other $20."I looked at him hard. I knew that look. "Don't even think about selling my bike!"
Laura is a syndicated columnist, author, & speaker. You can reach Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org Or visit her website