Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Teaching kids the value of money? Or just bribing them?

My youngest kids have discovered the value of money and, since I've been trying to instill in them the value of earning money, rather than just receiving money, right now they're all about doing random chores for a quarter.

"Mama, can I earn some monies?" my 4-year-old son asks, dish rag in hand just in case I say yes.

"I made my bed this morning! All by myself! Without anyone telling me to!" chirps my 6-year-old daughter. "Is that worth a quarter? Or is it worth two quarters?"

They're careful about depositing their quarters in their piggy banks, and they're probably ready for a trip to the real bank to open a real savings account. And, as I mentioned last month over at The 36-Hour Day, I'm thinking they may be ready to start getting an allowance, even if they're too young to have anything to spend it on. But while I contemplate how often and how much, I've noticed that I'm starting offer up a quarter here or there in exchange for a minute or two of peace.

The peace takes the form of happily occupied kids, of course -- it's not like I'm offering them 25 cents to let me finish this blog post. (Though hmmmm.... nah, they're in bed already.) But if they're happily occupied swabbing down the lower cabinets in the kitchen, or dusting the bottoms of the bookshelves, or folding a heap of freshly laundered towels, then what's the harm?

Sometimes, the bribe is some extra TV time -- another episode of "The Avengers" (my boy is in full-on superhero mode), maybe, or "Phineas and Ferb" (quite possibly one of the best kids TV shows out there, in my opinion). Sometimes, it's double dessert in exchange for finishing dinner in a reasonable amount of time (they are pokey eaters) or letting them dip their apple slices in the leftover maple syrup at breakfast if they eat all of their pancakes first. Sometimes, it's game after game of "Mario Kart" on the Wii while I'm on deadline and working from home.

But even when the bribes are relatively healthy, they're still bribes. I'm still saying, "I'll give you X if you do Y." And, at some point, they'll catch on -- and then they'll be the ones doing the negotiating. In fact, it's already starting: 4-year-old boy has noticed that Daddy has a bowl of loose change on his dresser, and is figuring out how he can scale the drawers to get to it whenever he wants. And my daughter asked for clarification at a restaurant the other night: "Is being good something that we just have to do here, or is it worth a quarter?"

Do you bribe your kids? With what... and does it work?

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