Saturday, January 29, 2011

Money changes everything

We are experimenting with giving William an allowance.

A couple of weeks ago, I gave William the penny that was left over when I paid $1.10 for the $1.09 large Diet Coke at McDonald's. I've been doing this for months now. Sometimes he squirrels the penny away in his pocket, sometimes he drops it somewhere in the minivan where it rolls around for awhile, and other times...well, I don't know where the pennies go. But at any rate, the other day, he said that he wanted to get dollars.

I thought about that for a minute. The parenting experts are always saying how great it is to give kids an allowance and teach them the value of money. I tried to remember how old the kids needed to be, ideally, but finally concluded that William was probably old enough to get a basic introduction.

"Okay," I told him. "I'll tell you what. You can earn dollars. How about that?"

And I thought fast. What could a four-year-old do to earn money? I mean, realistically speaking?

"If you make your bed every morning after you get up, and then you pick up all your toys in the family room every night before you take your bath, and you do all that for a week, you can earn a whole dollar," I concluded.

William enthusiastically agreed. He already knows how to make his bed, and he certainly knows how to pick up toys, even if he doesn't enjoy doing it.

So a day or so later, I made a very basic chart on a piece of construction paper, with three columns: one for the day, one for bed, one for toys. He is supposed to make a checkmark in the appropriate columns for each day. Of course, what I didn't stop to think about was the fact that, oh yeah, William can't read the days of the week yet. But luckily for me, he's motivated enough to either ask or to figure it out based on the first letter of the word.

(Side note: I think he'll be reading the days of the week before long anyway. He claims he can't read, but then I've caught him reading random words that I didn't even know he knew. Today at the zoo, he read the word "exit" on a sign that was located nowhere near an exit. And he read the word "recycle" posted above a recyle bin. Of course, last week, he also read the word "beer" on a Budweiser truck parked in a gas station parking lot that we passed on the way to school. I was torn between being proud and being a little bemused. I went with proud. You don't have to actually drink beer to be able to spell "beer," right? And NO, it's not like he's seeing David and me drink lots of beer at home. David and I almost never drink beer. Certainly never cheap domestic beer out of a can. Shudder. Um, I can explain the bottles of Sam Adams in the fridge, though...)

So tonight, he checked off the blank for the "toys" category for Saturday. He's made (legitimate) checkmarks in all of the "bed" blanks since Tuesday, and he's got checkmarks in most of the "toys" blanks, too. He's been really good about making his bed without being asked, but getting him to clean up his toys at night has taken a little more effort (read: maybe just a tiny little bit of yelling and threatening).

Still, overall, I'm really proud of him. I think I'm going to go ahead and give him his first dollar tomorrow--after he makes his bed, of course. I know that he missed a couple of the "toys" blanks earlier in the week, but it was his first week. I think he's getting on board, and I think that getting his first dollar will really motivate him to keep doing it.

I plan to let him just enjoy his first dollar or two. Then we'll start talking about saving part of his allowance each week. "They" (you know: the Parenting Experts) recommend that children be taught to save part of any money they receive. And I think that's a good idea. But in order to do that this time around, I'd have to dig up four quarters, and honey child, that just ain't happenin' tonight. I'm just feeling good that I actually have a real dollar bill that I can give to William tomorrow.

Maybe by the time Andrew's old enough for chores, I'll have gotten this whole enterprise all figured out. Luckily, that's aways off. Right now, I'm just trying to keep money away from Andrew so he doesn't eat it. And wow, I can't believe that William's getting an allowance. How crazy is that? It's like he's almost five or something...oh, wait...

(By the way, a special award to anyone who remembers which song I stole this blog post title from! You can have...the penny left over from my next fountain Diet Coke. William won't need it anymore.)

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