There is something that has bothered me ever since my children started school. I don’t know whether this is a wide-spread practice, but our school has this thing called ‘Bob-A-Job’ week, which is a fund-raising week during the school break in May-June, when the children are supposed to be getting paid for doing various chores at home and bring thus ‘earned’ money to school. Just before the holiday, the school hands out to the children tubes of Smarties and asks them to fill the empty tubes with coins which they are to get for helping at home.
I just hate the idea.
First of all, I don’t want the school to give my children sweets – I hardly ever do it myself and I think it’s wrong for the school to try to rot my children’s teeth. Secondly, it seems to promote the view that the only time children are supposed to help out around the house is during the holidays and only when they are given something in return. A completely wrong attitude, if you ask me.
I refuse to pay my children.
I understand the school is trying to raise money for various projects, but this particular way of doing it seem very wrong to me. In a way, the school holds parents to ransom because most of the time the Smarties get eaten even before the parents get a chance to collect their children, so we owe the school a pack of Smarties per child. I feel uncomfortable taking something for nothing and I don’t want to pay the children for helping, so I end up putting enough money in the empty tube to cover the cost of the Smarties and sending it back to school after the break.
Why does this bother me so much?
I am trying to teach my children to give without expecting instant gratification in return. I want them to develop a sense of duty stemming from being a member of a community – even if, to start with, that community is just a small family group. How can we have a cohesive, caring society if we teach young children that they should be paid for whatever they do? Doesn’t this make them grow up focusing on their individual gains and largely ignoring a possibility of contributing to a ‘greater good’? Doesn’t this promote the young generation’s wide-spread selfishness and the ‘me, me, me’ attitude? A lot of people will say that there is nothing wrong with children learning that they have to do something useful in order to earn money, but there is a right age and a right place to do that sort of thing. Paying a five-year-old for putting dirty dishes in a dishwasher is not the way to do it.
Nobody ever pays me for doing household chores.
I do what I do at home because it comes with me being a mum. When I was a child, I did whatever my mother asked me without ever dreaming of getting something in return. I was a member of the family and whatever chores I did as a child, they were my contribution to the family life. I was given a small amount of pocket money since I was twelve or thirteen, but that had nothing to do with helping out at home. I started earning my ‘proper’ money at the age of fifteen, working 2-3 weeks in the summer picking strawberries and raspberries on a plantation, for up to eight hours a day. That gave me a very clear message that money came from putting in some serious effort and made me think very carefully about how I was going to spend it.
So what’s the upshot of it all?
My children are very lucky – they get all they need and probably more. They tried to persuade me to pay them for dealing with the dishwasher or taking the rubbish out, but they didn’t get very far. I told them I was happy to pay them as long as they paid me for cooking their meals and doing their laundry. They figured out they would have to pay me by far more than I would ever pay them. I’m glad they at least got that one right.