Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Let 'em Work for It

I'm so proud of my 10 year-old.  On Monday his school was the beneficiary of a fundraiser held at the local frozen yogurt shop.  So after finishing his homework he took his wallet, which contained his own money that he worked for, got on his bike and rode to the yogurt shop with some friends so that they could buy a yogurt and support their school.

Now, I'm not deluding myself into thinking that the only reason he went was to support his school.  I'm well aware that it was a chance to go “somewhere” with his friends.  However, as he was getting ready to leave, I noticed a slight air of confidence in him as he put the money in his wallet. He doesn't have to ask or beg for money from mom and dad.  He has his own.  He gets to enjoy the fruit of his labor at a carefree time in his life.

Having his own money has also greatly reduced the “Can you buy this for me?” when we go shopping.  In fact, dare I say that it's almost non-existent. On one rare occasion he forgot his wallet.  He so desperately wanted to buy a package of Hot Wheels that with tears in his eyes he asked if we could go home so that he could get his wallet and then come back to Target.  It was a moment of truth for me: do I play hard ball and say “No” or do I have compassion and say “Yes”?  I said “yes”.  Why?  Because I have gone grocery shopping only to realize that I had forgotten my wallet and had to go all the way back home.  I said “yes” because I was proud of him for asking to go back to get his own money instead of asking me to buy it for him.

He has been receiving an allowance since he was 6 years old.  We started him off at  $1.25 per week for doing the same two chores each day.  In the beginning I put a chart on the refrigerator and marked off when he completed a chore.  Then every evening after dinner we would go over the chart and I would pay him.  Now that he's older, we no longer need the chart; he has different chores; he gets paid more; and payday is every Friday.  This method works for us because kids with Asperger's like rules and they like knowing what to expect.  He is learning that he is expected to work for his money because that's what he's going to have to do when he goes out into the real grown-up world.  Paying him for his work also puts pressure on me (in a good way) to ensure that I have the money every Friday.  It's like a contract or an obligation that I'm less likely to flake on.

We've started this process with my youngest son.  Even though he needs assistance from us, he feeds the cats every morning and gets paid $0.25 per day, or $1.25 per week!  What a bargain!  And the cats are so happy that they are finally being fed the same time everyday.

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