Charity for the Children?

Title Disclaimer: Daniel is my go-to title guy. This was his first suggestion, and we laughed so hard we had to keep it. You’ll see it doesn’t quite fit the content.

Recently I’ve been thinking about money and children. Or more precisely, my thoughts are about children wanting money and how not to raise entitled, spoiled brats.

My kids have hit the stage where they want… everything.

Even though there are at least 42 stuffed animals currently residing in our house, Alice begs me to buy her one whenever she spots a cute ball of fur in a store. (To be honest, I understand. I also have a big soft spot for stuffed animals. I’m sure she senses my weakness.)

Until recently, I’ve been telling Alice that she can buy things with her own money. Well, she took that to heart, and the small fortune she had amassed during her eight years of life (about $5) has been spent on an impressive assortment of gum balls of every color imaginable.

Now I no longer have the luxury of telling her to use her own money. Her piggy bank is empty, and she has no consistent source of income.

During the months before Christmas, Ian was the champion of “I want…”. My mind numbing response was “Put it on your Christmas list,” while reminding him over and over that he would not get everything on his list.

Now that Christmas is past, the wants continue, along with my increasing insanity while listening to constant begging for this and that from both children.

Daniel and I had very different monetary backgrounds as kids. He had no cash flow until his first teenage job making soft pretzels.

I had cash flow at an early age (around 6-8 years old) due to working on the extended-family farm. From the very beginning, I was taught to divide my earnings into savings, spending and giving, a principal I continue to this day.

To be honest, I’ve felt strongly that our children should have some source of cash flow by 10-12 years old. I know it helped me establish a strong understanding of the value of money, and I want the same for them.

However, neither of us received weekly allowances for doing household chores, and as parents, we’ve been adamantly against giving an allowance to our children for completing chores. Chores should be performed (cheerfully, of course) because a child is part of a family. Chores give children a sense of accomplishment and contribution to the family.

But the wants and whining continued until I was ready… ready to pay my offspring to do chores as an avenue to teach them the value of money.

As I talked with Daniel, we agreed that there would be chores the kids were expected to complete and chores we would pay them to do. The list of paying chores was short, emptying the dish washer and folding large amounts of laundry with mom supervising.

eager beaver

It has worked beautifully. Each child is ecstatic when I say it’s time to fold laundry or that it’s his/her turn to empty the dishwasher. Fights have erupted about who gets! to do the work. The maximum each child earns is about one dollar a week because obviously there is a finite number of times these chores need completed each week.

Due to the slow accumulation of money, I feel the kids are beginning to understand they can’t buy everything they want. They have both changed the item for which they are saving several times, hopefully realizing (over time) that wants change and impulse buying generally isn’t a good way to spend your money. And Alice is starting to understand that buying a gum ball each week moves her away from making a larger purchase.

Despite it’s apparent success, I’m still struggling with our system. At some point in time, I feel emptying the dishwasher and folding laundry should be moved to the list of chores that are expected to occur without payment. What kind of pushback am I setting myself up for in the coming years?

Even now, they offer to do non-required chores but always accompanied by the question “will you pay me for it?” I feel our current system is definitely not teaching them to be helpful out of the goodness of their hearts; instead they are expecting payment for non-required services… feels a bit like entitlement to me.

Then I stumbled across this earth-shattering article, which basically says (if you can afford it) just give!?! your kids a set amount of money each month—no strings attached except that you help them divide the money into savings, spending, and giving (sounds familiar). Author Ron Lieber says “Don’t start it too late, don’t link it to chores, and don’t skimp.”

 Sounds crazy, right?

The premise—kids should be given early and ample opportunity to learn to use money before they are making high stakes money decisions, such as going to college. Instead start them with small amounts of money and slowly increase the amount until they are responsible for their own clothing budget, for example.

Another glaring point by the author is that linking chores and payment is a huge no-no. Instead non-completion of chores should result in losing privileges… makes sense to me.

And yet this goes against every fiber of my being. Just give my kids money? How will they come to understand that money is earned, and that at some point, it won’t just fall from the ever-giving-parents? As teenagers will they possess incentive to get a summer job to start saving for college if mom and dad are already giving them money?

Well Mr. Ron Lieber, to say the least, I’m definitely intrigued and your book just went to the top of my reading list. (And to be completely honest, I’m having a hard time delaying my own instant gratification because I have to wait until your book is no longer listed as a “New Book” so that I can get it on loan from a distant library since my local library doesn’t have it.)

How about you… what do you think about allowances? As a parent? As a child who did or did not receive an allowance? Do you have any words of wisdom to pass along to me before I dive into this heresy?


Winter’s Gifts


I haven’t been able to write for a couple of weeks. Is this is the dreaded Writer’s Block? Although, I’m not sure I would classify my current state as “writer’s block” as much as I would call it “Zero Interest”. The ideas are plentiful; however the words don’t flow in fluid thoughts and the passion has disappeared. So I haven’t pushed it… until tonight.

I’ve started this post three times, from three completely different angles. Just to be clear, I’m not happy with how this is currently going. But maybe if I get something onto a page, my creative juices will begin to stir in my veins and will eventually pour out of my fingertips onto the keyboard.

This is a weird place where emotional energy has run out, leaving no desire to express myself in written format after I’ve spoken my 10,000 words for the day. However, I am hopeful because unlike where I was at the end of January, I think I have finally detected a spark of life glowing in my soul.

Every year since the Horrific 2011, late January into mid-February has become the lowest time of year for me (as evidenced here, here and here). Maybe it’s winter’s darkness that grows darkness in my soul. Maybe it’s the fact that my sister received her diagnosis in February and that has somehow tainted Februaries of the future. Maybe it’s just plain lack of sunshine and too much concentrated time with my kids. Most likely, it’s a combination of all of the above.

After the Christmas Craziness, I had been hopeful that January would be a restful, replenishing time. That did not happen. Instead I was driven deeper into emotional bankruptcy due to life’s circumstances… nothing earth-shattering, just regular life situations that became overwhelming. Even though January wasn’t the winter oasis I had hoped to experience, the brutal cold and snow of February did bring a shred of long awaited relief.

Last November, five of my (very dear) friends and I registered to attend a silent retreat during the first weekend in February. When I registered, I didn’t think about my recent “winter history”. It hasn’t been something I wish to dwell on; nor is it something I assume will happen each year for the rest of my life. But by the end of this January, I knew this retreat was my lifeline, possibly my way out.

To say that the weekend was “magical” would only diminish its value, and yet, it was almost magical. During the weekend, I experienced the most healing moments I’ve had in a very long time. I laid down people and situations that were not mine to carry. I picked up pieces of myself I’ve forgotten along life’s road. Through an unusual meeting, I was enthusiastically affirmed for who I am (or I should say for who I had forgotten I was) by a complete stranger. Although there was some sadness, there was great freedom as I re-prioritized goals—good-bye running 750 miles in 2015. For 48 hours, I gave myself permission just to “be”.

Below is a conglomeration of quotes I heard or read that spoke to me at some point during the weekend. I wanted to put this together not only for my own reference, but also in hope that something in one of them speak to you as well. May we realize the gifts winter offers. (And next time I will remember my “real” camera. Sorry for the poor quality pictures.)


I gaze in the mirror at my weary brow and tired eyes,

I realize that I’ve met the enemy-

And she is me.

~BJ Gallagher


To keep your lamp burning, you have to keep putting oil in it. ~Mother Teresa


Be your own kind of beautiful.


Our greatest fear as individuals should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that really don’t matter.


When we reach the end of what we know, we find God. ~The Cloud of the Unknowing


Because sometimes we need to stop and pause and let our souls catch up with us.

library 2

Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering. ~Winnie the Pooh


We cannot do great things, only small things with great love. ~Mother Teresa


True love requires sacrifice. True faith is loving a person after he has hurt you. ~F. Chan

sunny courtyard

Grant us to remember You at the heart of each moment.