A mother recently shared that she was trying to encourage her four children (ages five to eleven) to read by offering to give them a dollar for each book they read. It was working out great until the neighbor offered to pay them to pull his weeds. Because this neighbor liked her boys and wanted to be generous, he paid them each $10 an hour to pull weeds.
This experience may not have seemed harmful at first, however, now when this mother offers to pay her kids to read they respond, “No! We would rather just go pull weeds because we’ll get paid more.”
How sad. These young kids have developed an unrealistic expectation of what their labor is worth at a young age. I know that the neighbor was just trying to be generous, but he unintentionally set a dollar amount to the effort that these kids put forth when they work.
Imagine for a moment that you as a parent have just been offered a job getting paid 50% more than what you currently make to do the same job you do now. Then, after a couple of months at your new job, your boss comes in to see you and tells you they made a mistake when they hired you and they will have to reduce your pay to the going rate for your job. So they lower your salary to the amount of money you were making at your previous job. How would that feel?
For most individuals, getting a reduction in pay is insulting and creates resentment even though the individual may have known that he or she was being over paid. The same thing can happen to our kids. When we decide to pay our kids more than the amount that their effort is worth, we may inadvertently create resentment inside of them when we lower their wage to a more reasonable amount. Or, when it is time for them to get a job outside the home, our kids may feel entitled to earn at their highest previous rate and be unwilling to work for anything less than the higher amount they once received.
Consequently, when we, or other well-intentioned people, overpay our children to do things, we don’t do them any favors in the long run. In fact, we may be creating more harm than good not only for them but also for their future employers. In Short, remembering the old adage “an honest day’s wage for an honest day’s work,” is not only a valuable lesson for adults but can also be valuable for kids to learn to work hard for each dollar they get.
Thanks for reading
Shiloh Lundahl, LCSW, is a child and family therapist in Gilbert and Mesa, Arizona. He is the founder of Parent Arizona and Counseling Services and is part of the Arizona Family Therapy Group.
He provides parenting classes using the Love and Logic curriculum, classes for parents of children with ADHD, step-parenting classes, and advanced trainings for foster and adoptive parents. He also provides in-home therapy in Gilbert, Mesa, Queen Creek, San Tan Valley, Chandler, and Tempe, Arizona.