Teaching Kids Responsibility

Boy did I get angry at the kids today.  Both were wearing new clothes and both decided to go ahead and ruin their clothing in one way or another.  I literally felt bad for the clothes.  Did the kids care at all about the clothing that we (well, their grandparents, actually) spent their hard earned money on?  Did it occur to them that there is a recession going on for God’s sake?!  I knew I had to teach them how to be responsible for their things…and fast.

But here is how I initially reacted.

“What, you don’t care about your clothes?  We work very hard to pay for the clothes you are wearing.  What are you doing cutting your shirt and pants with a scissor?  You look like a homeless person.  Maybe we shouldn’t buy you any more clothes.”

I went overboard.  I reacted.  I got mad.   There go my wonderful coach parent tools.  Right out the window.

My daughter (age 5) cried.  Her offense:  deliberately coloring on her dress.  She really did NOT like the part about not buying any more new clothes.    My son (age 6 1/2) was walking around without a shirt.  I walked into my room, closed the door behind me and cried (that’s one of the ways I let off steam.)

What was so upsetting about this to me?   It’s just a shirt and pants.  I know that both the shirt and the pants cost less than $10 each (on sale at The Children’s Place.)  So what was it?

My conclusion: It REALLY bugged me that the kids had no clue or appreciation for the cost and value of things.

My solution:  Start giving them an allowance.

I got myself together and told the kids to meet me on the couch upstairs.  My coach parent tools, and relative calm, were slowly drifting back in through the window.

I explained to the kids that things cost money; that when we do not respect the items that we have and treat them poorly, it is like we are throwing money down the toilet (they giggled.)

I brought my wallet with me and took out two shekalim. I held them out and told them that they would each be getting one shekel (the equivalent of approximately 25 cents) each week.

The rules:  1) they could use the money however they wanted to;   2) if they lost that money I was not going to replace it that week; 3) they could earn more money by doing work around the house outside of their general responsibilities in the home (i.e. help with clean-up, etc.); and 4) if they intentionally ruined something that we bought for them that they need, or something of ours, then we would ask them to pay ( a reasonable amount, of course) for some of the damage from THEIR money. (I thought this last one was a clever one.  They gasped.)

But they totally went for it and seemed to really get it.  I felt calmer; more in control.  We all felt better and were able to refocus ourselves.

I have been putting off the allowance thing (not intentionally, just never got around to it) for quite some time now.  This seemed like the right way to deal with this problem.

I felt good about the fact that I stopped myself from reacting even more.  I felt good about being able to focus on moving forward, relating and teaching, rather than focusing on how to punish them as a way of teaching them a lesson.

I am curious to see how this develops.   I will keep you posted.

*****

How about you?

What are some of the things you do to teach your children responsibility?

Share your ideas with us here.

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