21st Century Childhood Allowance: Contracted Labor

A few weeks back, I wrote a blog about motivating my children to do work around the house.  None of them are very motivated, and I have found in the past that offering a blanketed amount for a week’s worth of duties left me with less money in my wallet for less than par performances.

My two younger daughters, nine and eleven-years old respectively, have finally learned that saving money for something they really want has a higher sense of gratification than running to the dollar aisle at Target every time she has a buck or two.  Maggie recently saved for a Captain America Build-A-Bear, and Lizzie saved for an American Girl gymnastics set.  However, they have each learned that without a regular way of earning money, it is difficult to set her sights on something big because she is unable to make a timeline and work toward that goal.

This morning, after a very long conversation with Lizzie, the nine-year old, I decided to reinstitute allowance.  However, I refuse to allow for the handing over of moneys for the same level of effort I am getting at present.  Hence, I drew up two unique contracts for each girl, I had their father act as witness and legal advisor, and he, on their behalf, agreed to the wording and terms of my contract.

They have been signed.  Schedules have been made, and who knows what the results will be.   Hopefully, the girls will learn that their performance effects their pay; they will learn that economic survival is about one’s willingness to perform; and they will learn that earning money is actually rewarding and can lead to an early retirement!

Here is Lizzie’s contract:  (Moms, feel free to borrow my idea!)

I, ______________________________, not bound by the contract of habeas corpus, do agree that by the signing of this said legal document, that I will do my best to perform each activity listed so that I can earn a fair wage in the Huffer household.

I understand that by signing this document that I am aware that if I perform each activity to the best of my ability, I will be awarded a bonus for each activity a week. Likewise, I understand that if I do not meet said criteria, not only do I forfeit my bonus, but that my weekly allotment will be less because of my laziness.

In addition, mother and/or father have the right to ask me to take on an up to two extra duties a day that do not meet the requirements for compensation. These duties include, but are not limited to: picking up wet towels, taking paper to the paper pile, hang up my coat, taking cans and glass to recycling, etc.

If at any point I feel that I am asked to do an activity that is time consuming, it is in my legal right to negotiate for compensation for said activity.

Compensation Schedule:

I will make my bed and pick up my floor every morning for $.25. At the end of the week, if I have performed said activity each morning, I will have earned $1.75. However, I may also earn a bonus $.25 for performing this job for seven consecutive days, taking my earnings for said activity for the week to $2.00.

I will at the end of each evening, pick up all of my belongings off of the kitchen table, the tables in the living room, the living room floor, and the basement floor and put them in their specified locations: books should return to the book bag, toys to their proper location, and any other belongings should be placed NEATLY in my room. This assignment will also earn me $.25 a day with a bonus of $.25 at the end of the week if I perform my activity for seven consecutive days.

I will empty the dishwasher every day. As with the other activities, I will earn $.25 a day with a bonus at the end of the week of $.25, after I have executed my responsibility for seven consecutive days.

Lastly, on laundry day, I will be afforded $.50 for putting all of my laundry away NEATLY and appropriately. I must bring down my hamper to have my clothes washed, and I must bring down all hangars in my closet that are not supporting my clothing at the time.

If I perform all of these activities each week, I have the opportunity to earn $6.50 a week. However, I understand that my pay is solely based on my diligence to perform each activity each day.


Print your name ____________________________                    Date _______________________________________


Signature _________________________________                     Witness _____________________________________


Mother ___________________________________

Dear Ishmael,

You don’t know me, yet I feel like I know you.  I recently had the opportunity not only to read A Long Way Gone, but I had a chance to experience its pages in a way many people do not.  My co-teacher in the SITES program chose your book in his study of global issues.  Having never read the book, I chose to read it with our students, so that I could engage in conversation in class.

As a child of literature yourself, you may know that sometimes, a book can speak to us in a way we do not expect.

For me, maybe it was that I had just finished teaching Paul Rusesabagina’s Ordinary Man and I found the parallel between the two stories haunting.   Maybe it was the moment in our first discussion when one of our students pointed to a passage that I myself could not shake, “We must always strive to be like the moon,” and a ten minute discussion followed analyzing the truth and wisdom of these words.  Maybe it was the fact that you wrote so poignantly that I was able to transcend the delicate refinements of my life to see what I think you want everyone who reads your book to see: even though mankind can terrorize one another and bring pain and hardship, what matters is what we do after the experience.  This book, your book, stays with me because by the end, I felt strengthened by a feeling that already existed in my heart: if I only allow myself to experience man when he is at his worst, I may never know man for the potential he has: for his beauty, for his amiability, and for his love.

Last night, I had the opportunity to hear you speak.  As someone who is constantly analyzing my own place in the world, I felt like a child in a classroom.  Your story and strength of the first book were inspirational, but the limitlessness of your spirit is profound.  You are correct in your theory that happiness should not be measured by stretches of time.  It is not to be measured, but it is to be experienced.  Ultimately,  you were the victim of childhood captivity; without an alternative, you were forced to be a soldier. Yet, despite the reality of your past,  you have allowed yourself to heal, you have allowed yourself to eclipse a world speckled with hatred so that you can live again.

Standing in line with my students eagerly waiting to get your new novel Radiance of Tomorrow signed, I felt renewed.  I felt that within the hour of listening to you speak, my understanding of mankind deepened.  Ishmael, for me you rejuvenated truth:  Many people will enter our lives and they will see the flicker of our eternal flame.  Some of those people will want to extinguish it, and if given the opportunity, they will.  However, others will see us for what we are, for what we can be.  These people will take one of two actions: They will either do everything in their power to relight the flame, or seeing that it still flickers, they will protect it, nurture it, and wait for it be what it was meant to be.  Each of us has a light inside, and with the proper guidance and nurturing, it will blaze and we will live to our full potential: hopeful creatures, dedicated individuals, and spiritual heroes.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for not only signing my book but for touching my life.

I Believe in Slave Labor.

Okay.  Okay.  Don’t get your panties in a twist.  I am not an advocate of slave labor, in the true sense of the term.  I do not believe that any human being should be bought or sold to any other human being.  Nor do I believe that “the boss” should make the working conditions so horrible that it is impossible for a human to live in any other way than in squalor.

What I am referring to is a much more humane practice: Childhood Slave Labor in my household alone.

You see, I have three very entitled daughters.  They basically want-for-not and worry very little.  When they express interest in an activity, I find a way to enroll them in a class, sign them up for a club team, or get them into a camp.  Their curiosities are often satisfied, and in many ways, I am proud that I have this ability to offer my children life-experiences.

However, what I am not proud of, and what I have not been strong about insisting upon is enlisting their help in the day-to-day activities of running a household.  They are very neglectful of chores., and I am somewhat of a lenient mom who allows for this behavior.

Some mothers believe that children will not neglect responsibility around the home if they are given an allowance.  These mothers boast that it gives their children a sense of empowerment: a $5.00 payment every Saturday morning, a pat on the head, and a “Job well done.”

I tried giving an allowance to my girls at a few different points in the last five years; however, for me, it turned into the handing over of money for mediocre help that I still felt I was nagging to get.  In addition, I struggle with the idea that I should pay the kids for helping around the house.  We are a family, and as a family, we should all want to pitch in to make our house, our world, clean and manageable.

So, what happens if I do not give allowance and I get insufficient help?

I do the lion’s share of the work.

I pick up.  I wash.  I fold.  I hang.  I vacuum.  I dust.

However, certain weeks when I have extra work at the job that I do get paid for, I come home exhausted, and I find the house…. well, trashed.

I think to myself, I did not sign up for this.  I cannot do it all.  And whether I am actually doing it all or not, I feel like I am, and this feeling makes me lose it.

Literally.  I freak out.

I find that I am standing in the kitchen barking orders like a drill sergeant.  I am not your slave!   I work hard, for what?  Ungrateful kids who cannot lift their princess fingers to help!

Magically, things start happening, and they happen fast.  Laundry not only makes it into hampers and baskets, it makes it to the laundry room.  The living room carpet and the basement floor get vacuumed.  The Tupperware cupboard gets organized, and the sink gets cleaned.  In the matter of an hour, the bedlam that was my home has been tidied.  The nervous sensation in my stomach has been quelled.

So how does any of this relate to slave labor in my home?

Well, this past Friday, I came home from work and Carson was on-line looking at a Fault in Our Stars sweater that she was coveting.  She explained how her friend told her about this website, and how cool it would be to own this particular sweater.   She said it with a bit of resign in her voice.  For whatever reason, she hasn’t landed many babysitting jobs lately, and her coffers have dwindled.  She is very aware of how much money I spend on her dance classes, costumes, shoes, and competition fees, so she does not like to ask for a luxury item for the sake of said item.

However, while listening, I thought of a plan that could work to my advantage.

“Carson,” I said.  “I can buy that for you, but then, you will be my slave.  You will have to do whatever I ask without complaint.”

“Really?”  Without hesitation, she clicked the order button and started to enter her name, our address, etc.

Since Friday, she has dusted and vacuumed the rec room, put away two baskets of laundry, and shoveled the driveway.  We did not discuss a timeline.  At some point, we will come to an agreement that her services rendered is equivalent to the cost of the sweater.  However, when that happens, there will be something else to order.

I cannot wait for Maggie and Lizzie to catch on.  I may never have to lift a finger again!