Face it: we live in a society where an entitlement mentality is growing all the time. More and more, money seems to be falling from the sky to a generation who really doesn’t know there is no such thing as free. Someone I know recently made this comment: “I love free insurance…no medical bills, yay!” She really does think it’s free.
I’ll never forget hearing one of the young men (single, strong, able, employed) who once lived with my parents in an assisted living-type ministry upon a return visit: “Man, Obama has to do something…I’ve got bills to pay.” Yes, this is the generation we have raised.
“We desperately need to teach our children, by real life experiences, the basic connections between earning and spending money, and trading effort for income or benefits.”
We are witnessing a generation who has essentially transferred what they were taught in their childhood to their adulthood expectations. If I spend my childhood being given everything I want, all my favorite clothes, movies, electronic devices and sports equipment, (because everyone else does and I may be stigmatized if I don’t), if I get a new car when I turn sixteen, insurance paid, and gas money to putter around, if my mother does all the housework and cooks all the meals and my father makes all the money to pay all the bills while I spend most of my time having fun and receiving all that I want with little exchange of effort, I will likely grow up with an entitlement mentality.
Family economy is so misunderstood and underrated in the typical American home. Because we love our children, it *feels* like giving them everything they want is a good thing. And while I love to give my children gifts as much as the next parent, we need to distinguish between gift-giving and a daily practice of proper economy.
We desperately need to teach our children, by real life experiences, the basic connections between earning and spending money, and trading effort for income or benefits. The value of work can only be felt by the opportunity to spend or save its pay. The value of things can only be appreciated if there is some investment made. Likewise, the motivation to work can only be felt by a lack of the desired thing.
Obviously, there is balance in teaching this to children.
But here are 7 ideas we try to implement to encourage family economy:
- EVERYONE is an important part of the family and that belief needs to play out tangibly. “Teamwork” is verbalized; each member knows his presence is treasured and needed.
- Little ones learn to help with basic chores; older ones grow into age-appropriate responsibilities (looking different in every home). We need to be deliberate in affirming this idea.
- Some jobs are extra and deserve pay. I want to get a better system of this, but periodically we announce a certain job for pay to allow them earn money. Ideally, we’d have the jobs posted, with corresponding payment, so the opportunity to earn money is always there. (I’ve paid my children to make my bed, clean my room, help with my Etsy business, or I sometimes offer bigger jobs.)
- Think in terms of “multiple-income family.” This is something I’ve been mulling over. When we marry, we are one, and therefore our income is one. We have one account and all expenses/needs/wants are paid out of it with no distinction about who made what. What about our children? Should money they make go into this “family pool”? And if so, how do we teach them the distinctions between a socialist attitude (where money is forcibly taken from one and given to another) and a “family-is-one” economy? Just thinking out loud on this one. Would love your thoughts. I love what Kevin Swanson says: “We’re a seven-income family.” Bottom line is, we all work and we all reap the rewards.
- We all participate in making/saving money or exchanging work for food and shelter. Not to be overly simplistic, but a child needs to understand that while Dad may earn the money to buy food and Mom may cook it, he contributes in some way to the process (taking care of his chore so Dad doesn’t have to, etc.). Or though Dad pays the power bill, we are all responsible to use energy wisely. If a child disregards his job of conserving, charging a fee or requiring extra chores can help him see the importance; to learn that “nothing is free.”
- A word about “housework”: I have seen so many families instill awful habits in their children by treating Mom like a maid. My job is to manage my home. That includes work but doesn’t exclude other members from sharing that work. It’s an enterprise. We all work, we all eat, we all glean the benefits from the joint effort of family. We all have clean clothes because we all play a part in the laundry. We enjoy a clean home because we all do our part to keep it that way. Mind you, this requires constant reminding and training, but the outcome is worth it.
- Encouraging productivity…going through our years of being laden with debt and scraping to make ends meet (and many months the ends did NOT meet), was an invaluable time of learning. We were forced into a new level of creativity and my children learned more than ever the value of saving a dollar. Now they all seem to share a love of making gifts, making and selling crafts and pursing business opportunities. From the pencil-sketched portrait business my son keeps busy at to my 9-year-old upcycling enthusiast, they all know that each gift they make and the money they earn builds our family economy and they delight to know that God can use their talents in a variety of ways.
Reading over this post seems a bit like I’m stating the obvious. It seems only natural that parents understand the importance of helping their children make these vital life connections. But I’m afraid our super-busy lives and hyper-stimulated minds often just forget these basic concepts that once ran naturally through the course of life. Let’s allow God’s truth and common sense to guide our parenting instead of the pressure of popular opinion.