If I Pay My Child To Do Labor is That Bad?
I’ll start at the beginning and then you can chime in and let me know what you think…
I took my 6 and 9 year old boys to the Halloween store at Hampshire Mall in Hadley. Never in my life have I gotten a kick out of the scare and gore of Halloween. Rather, I enjoyed Halloween and dressing up because I got to pretend I was someone else for a day, to escape, to explore a side of me that I didn’t let myself in daily life.
My 9 year old on the other hand goes for the gore. He has been a Zombie for the last two years. His focus is on the blood, the weapons, the story of how he was killed and why his character is back for revenge. Even our front yard is decked out with all scare. No lovely pumpkins or fun lights. It’s blood, gravestones, spider webs and fear that now greet our visitors.
Our younger son went with power. After checking out his choices, he chose a red Power Ranger suit. I knew how expensive it was and I knew that my partner and I had agreed to give them $10 each.
Our 6 year old couldn’t take his eyes off the bright red Power Ranger suit with puffed up muscles and a golden belt. The cost was $30.00. His first attempt at demanding I give him more money was met with one calm and clear warning that we will leave the store if he asks again…
In holding to my word, I secretly felt torn. Of course I wanted him to have his dream costume. I knew though that sticking to my word modeled behavior I wanted him to learn. I had to think fast for other options! I suggested he use $20.00 of his own money to buy the rest. He joyfully agreed to pay me back when we got home and we all left happy.
At home, I followed up and asked him to pay me back the extra $20 he borrowed from me. To our dismay he only had $17 to his name. The thought of giving me every cent of the little money he had became intolerable to him.
After some conflict and tears, he proposed that he would earn the money within a week doing jobs around the house. In the moment I saw little possibility that there were enough jobs for a 6 year old to do that would add up to a whopping $20.
He on the other hand, had complete faith in himself and got right to work. For the next few days we watched him haul firewood up our deck stairs, rake leaves on to tarps and drag them back to the woods. He even asked if he could learn how to do the dishes! Beaming with pride we said “Yes!” For three nights my partner and I got to relax after dinner while he cleaned up the kitchen (on his trusty stool) without a single thing breaking!
I was in awe of him. His motivation was sky high and he was willing to challenge himself in ways he never had to earn his beloved costume. So if that counts as child labor, I am all for it!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shana Hiranandani shares a home with her two boys, her partner of 12 years, a big dog and a small cat in the Pioneer Valley of Western MA. Shana earned a B.A. in Psychology from UMass Amherst and a M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Antioch New England College. Shana is a Board Certified Life and Career Coach, offering consultations from her office in Florence, MA. Her monthly column offers parenting perspectives from a Jewish-Indian-American, 2-mommy household.
[Photo credit: (cc) Jonas Seaman]