My eldest child is 12, so one could assume that I have been attempting to instill a good work ethic in my son for at least 10 years now. He is the first child of our four who are 12, 10, 8 & 6 respectively, and by virtue of his birth order, the most prominent example of our parenting. My husband and I want our kids to be achievers like most parents, but beyond that, we want them to be givers. We don’t currently belong to a church, but when we did, it was usually a Unitarian congregation that suited our divergent backgrounds of former Catholic and Agnostic. Until the new Unitarian church in town is re-opened, we are the sole stewards of our children’s moral compass, and that is a job to be taken very seriously.
My husband recently attended a sales conference in Miami that had some fascinating seminars. One that impacted him greatly was the presentation on the “Entitled Generation Y”, that is, those kids who have been given everything without earning it, and feel that the world owes them. It’s these kids that when asked what age they believe they are fully adults answered “thirty”! When I was a child, Timothy Leary was quoted as saying “don’t trust anyone over thirty” which suggested to me that thirty was over the hill. No wonder so many kids move back home after college – it’s not just the faltering economy, but the sense of entitlement.
Eeeek! This must not happen to my kids. What to do? What to do? The first lesson out of the gate: electronics (tv, computer, x-Box, cell phone) are a priviledge, not a right. They must be earned through other activities such as playing outside, practicing an instrument, or doing a chore.
Ah, chores. The bane of my existence. I can’t even count on my fingers the many different chore charts I’ve used over these past 10 years! I even tried to design an innovative system myself using colored magnets and an intricate reward system that I never could make function just the way I wanted. Don’t even get me started on the ‘enforcement’ of the charts. What I have learned from all my efforts is that I end up being the ‘nudge’ or ‘irritant’ who hounds the kids into reluctant capitulation. Ugh.
One thing that has made a great deal of impact on this effort was the acquisition of our chickens. We already have 2 Beagles, 2 cats, 2 hermit crabs and a Beta fish who miraculously get fed daily, but chickens require more care. I am not interested in doing it, so I made clear to the family that if they want to keep their beloved hens then they must care for them. That worked. It’s the ultimate in “natural consequences” – living domesticated creatures rely on us to stay alive. The kids get that.
Now, how about those beds that need making, the laundry that needs to be put away, the rooms that need tidying? We’ve also just moved into the realm of lawn mowing with my eldest, and the garage is an area in constant need of attention.
I have tried allowances to act as a ‘carrot’, but they often forget to collect it from me. I recently found an online solution to my over 10-year quest for a system that works, and what I like about it is that it involves “giving”, which I mentioned earlier as a goal I would like my children to embrace. It’s called ThreeJars. One jar is for ‘spending’, one is for ‘saving’, and the third is for ‘sharing’. Fabulous concept, don’t you think?!
Here’s how ThreeJars briefly defines itself: “ThreeJars makes allowance fun and easy for 5 to 13 year old
kids and their parents. Kids learn to manage their “money” through saving, spending, and charitable giving jars - with guidance from Mom and Dad.” The system is on an IOU basis from which the parents can add and subtract. The allowance amount is decided together, but % of that amount to go to ‘share’ and ‘save’ is their decision to make. Over time, the kids may make requests for ‘spending’ or ‘sharing’ through emails to their parent, and the parent responds “yea” or “nay” as they see fit. ThreeJars’ service costs $30 a year for unlimited children, but the actual paying of monies to the kids happens at home per the adult’s prerogative. The chore section is helpful if your family bases allowance on chore completion. Often, looking to garner more funds, my 10-year-old son will make offers of chores with a value attached to it such as: Wash the Car – $3.00. It is up to me whether I accept or decline his offer. It’s not all greed driven, though. Yesterday that same son asked if he could donate $7.00 of his ‘share’ money to the ASPCA. I said yes, and because ThreeJars has a direct relationship with about 21 reputable charitable organizations including the ASPCA, $7.00 was deducted from his ‘share’ fund and charged to my Visa on file. If he had chosen to donate elsewhere, I would deduct the sum myself and write a check. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy, not to mention, warm and fuzzy.
My kids love computers, so this online solution is so much better than a white board that can be altered either on purpose or by a shoulder coming too close in passing. It’s all there in black and white until I, or they, decide what changes. Boy, do they love seeing how much allowance they are accruing each week, too.
Hallelujah! Peace has been restored, chores are getting done, and giving is, well, “a given”. Oh, how I love Three Jars!
Disclosure: I received a free year’s family membership valued at $30 to facilitate this review, but that only buys my honest opinions.