Kristina Beers: Chores have value above and beyond allowances

We live in Michigan, so it should not ever take us by surprise when our weather is a little bit tumultuous; as can be the personalities of those who endure each vibrant season. It’s as if we experience not only the four seasons, but the four seasons in Technicolor.

So when the schools are cancelled due to snow days, especially on my work days, I tend to make a very elaborate chore list for the boys, mostly to keep each one from various things like playing with matches, watching TV all day, or having a wrestling match and breaking all the china.

When I was a younger mom, I saw all these cute ways of having kids earning allowance: Each chore is worth a certain amount, reading books earns money, keeping rooms clean, etc. Especially when they were young boys, I actually felt bad we didn’t have much room in a tight income to support even $5 for each kid for an “allowance.”  So I fretted: How would I teach them the value of money? Teach them the value of saving? Giving? This really bothered me!

Until the light bulb went off: If I am scrimping, saving, budgeting, working hard, making do, doing without, why am I worried about not having enough money to give these little people just because they live here?

And there it was, my epiphany over allowances: They are not for me or the Beers family. We have (in summer) seven people living in one house. I buy clothes, shoes, provide for education, shop for groceries, cook and clean for them.

They have use of laundry facilities and their own bedroom. (Yes, they must do their own laundry. For each boy’s 13th birthday, he got a laundry basket and specified laundry day — happy birthday!) All needs are met with love and devotion. The least they can do is assist without reward.

You see, I’m not only completely against allowances for those who cannot afford it, I am against them for all families. I see the fruits of a person who has grown up with the knowledge that ‘what I do in an act of service helps another’ and not for simple selfish gain. It’s not something that rewards them, it is for the good of the family.

I also know when you expect help from a 5-year-old, you’ll get a 5-year-old’s help: Not much. But it’s still well worth the effort to train a child in the ways of helpfulness and simple chores because by 15 you can expect him to be skilled at any and all household chores, inside and out.

I also have learned firsthand Mark Twain’s adage that if you ask one boy for help, you get one boy’s help. If you ask two boys, you’ll get half a boy’s help and if you have three boys, you get no help. It’s amazingly true. Hence, the chore chart and vigilant supervision, lest they start wrestling.

It’s easier to struggle through the arguments, whining, and complaining about chores when we have actually seen the fruit: A boy complaining about his roommates in the dorm and how they “Never do the dishes, mom! They don’t clean up!” or see him filled with joy when he comes back exhausted from cleaning up an inner city playground. No allowance would accomplish that.

Kristina Beers lives in the Remus area with her husband and five sons. She shares her thoughts on parenting teenagers and young adults on the first and third Saturdays of each month on the Pioneer’s Family and Friends page.