We’re concluding our mini-mini series today on chores – and on paying children to do chores, which leads us to larger conversations about money. If you missed the first part of this then then you might want to go and listen to last week’s interview with Dr. Andrew Coppens, who explores the ways that families in different cultures approach chores and what lessons that can hold for those of us who want to encourage our children to do their chores.
Today we’re going to take that conversation to its logical conclusion by talking about money, and what better guest to do that with us than Ron Lieber,who wrote the book The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids who are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money (affiliate link). It’s a really practical guide to talking with your children about money – from what information they should have at what age, to what to do with a child who always wants you to buy them something at the store, to what to say when a child wonders why homeless people don’t have enough money.
Other episodes mentioned in this show
021: Talk Sex Today
034: How do I get my child to do chores?
This episode is the first in a series on the intersection of parenting and money. You can find other episodes in this series:105: How to pass on mental wealth to your child107: The impact of consumerism on children112: How to Set up a Play Room115: Reducing the Impact of Advertising to Children118: Are You Raising Materialistic Kids?ReferencesCarl Richards’ cartoons for the New York Times
Lahey, J. (2016). The gift of failure. New York: Harper.
Lieber, R. (2016). The opposite of spoiled. New York: Harper. (Affiliate link)
Lythcott-Haimes, J. (2016). How to raise an adult.: Break free of the overparenting trap and prepare your kid for success. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.
Jen: [00:37] Hello and welcome to the Your Parenting Mojo podcast. Now before we get going with today’s episode, which I’m actually really excited about, I wanted to start with some housekeeping items. Firstly, I wanted to update you on our progress towards the goal that I set a couple of weeks back to double the number of subscribers to the show and I wanted to check back in with you and let you know that I’m about halfway towards my goal. So if you subscribed to the show recently, then thank you. I really appreciate it. And I also wanted to remind you that if you subscribe through iTunes, then I actually can’t count that towards my goal because the subscription on iTunes kind of disappears into a black box. I never hear about it and I have absolutely no idea how many subscribers I have there. So if you enjoy the show and are subscribed through iTunes or if you aren’t subscribed at all, would you mind doing me a huge favor and subscribing through my website at YourParentingMojo.com
Jen: [01:26] You’ll also get a free gift for doing it through my website, which is a download of seven relationship based strategies to help your child thrive. So I hope you find that useful. The other thing I wanted to mention is that I’ve been doing some soul searching regarding the show. This is episode 38, which means we’ve been running for about nine months now and I really loved working on it. I completed my masters in psychology focusing on child development several months ago and it’s really not an exaggeration to say that I learn more from producing the average episode for you than I did for the average paper for my degree. I love reading and researching and synthesizing and I really get a kick out of having the show. I also love hearing from you and I’m honored that a number of you have taken the time out of your day to thank me for the work that I do and also to make suggestions for episodes which you know, I take seriously as many of the episodes I run these days are based on those suggestions, but I’m coming to a period in my life where things are about to get kind of busy.
Jen: [02:23] I’m working on a master’s in education because when I say I love to learn, I’m really not joking and I still have a full time job and of course I’m a parent and underlying all of this is my desire to shift away from having a full time job and toward being self sufficient so I can homeschool my daughter. So I’m trying to come up with ways to keep doing the podcast, which so many of you seem to find useful and also have it continue to help support my own goals. I’m considering a number of options here. One might be to drop the episode frequency down to every other week instead of every week, and since it takes about 12 hours to research and write an average episode, that really would be quite time saver. I’ve also thought about accepting advertising, but honestly I’d really hate to do that because most of what I advocate is that you have everything you need to effectively parent your child and it would feel really disingenuous to turn around and then try and sell you stuff on the show.
Jen: [03:16] I’m also thinking about releasing each episode for a week or so publicly and then putting them behind a pay wall for ongoing access. Perhaps this could be combined with a membership to a private Facebook group where I post information about research I find that’s relevant to child development and where we could even have conversations on topics that interest the group. The membership fee might be something like five bucks a month, which works out to about a dollar 25 an episode, which really doesn’t seem like an unreasonable investment to me as I’m thinking about it. I reached out to several listeners who have been in touch with me with some frequency – some of you have a lot of suggestions for episodes and you know you guys are pondering on your answers and I’m looking forward to seeing those. If you’re a subscriber to the show, then you’ve probably also received an email because you guys are the ones who support me by showing up here week after week and learning about parenting alongside me.
Jen: [04:04] If you have strong thoughts about ways that I can continue to make this work, then please do drop me a line and even if you’re just a part time listener and you drop in every once in a while to see what’s going on, then welcome and please feel free to cast your vote by sending an email to email@example.com, or using the contact form on YourParentingMojo.com. If you’d like to cast your vote one way or another, then feel free to let me know or if you hate all the ideas and would stop listening if I use any of the ones I’ve mentioned, you can let me know that as well, or if you have any amazing ideas that I haven’t mentioned yet, then please let me know those too. Thank you so much for your support as I work on figuring this out. Now onto today’s episode, we’re concluding our mini mini series today on chores and on paying children to do chores, which leads us to larger conversations about money.
Jen: [04:52] If you missed the first part of this, then you might want to go back and listen to episode 34, which was my interview with Dr Andrew Coppens, who explores the way that families in different cultures approach chores and what lessons that can hold for those of us who want to encourage our children to do their chores, and today we’re going to take that conversation to its logical conclusion by talking about money and what better guests to do that with us than Ron Lieber, whose website tells us that he is a husband, a dad, and the your money columnist for the New York Times. He’s been that your money columnist for the New York Times since 2009. But his bio actually doesn’t say how long has held the first two. How long have you been a husband and dad, Ron?
Mr. Lieber: [05:30] I’ve been a husband since 2002 and I’ve been a dad since 2005. I have an 11 year old daughter and a toddler who turned 20 months old yesterday.
Jen: [05:41] Awesome. Double punishment. So Ron also wrote The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids who are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money, which was an instant New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller when it was released in 2015. I found it to be a really practical guide to talking with your children about money from what information they should have at what age to what to do with a child who always wants you to buy them something at the store. To what to say when a child wonders why homeless people don’t have enough money. So we’re going to talk about all this and more in today’s episode. Welcome Ron and thanks for joining us.
Mr. Lieber: [06:12] Thanks for having me.
Jen: [06:14] All right. So we covered some of this ground and our topic with Professor Andrew Coppens recently, but I just want to ask you the same question and just make sure that we’re kind of in alignment here. So should children be paid to do chores?
Mr. Lieber: [06:28] No. And here’s why. It creates a problematic negotiating position for the parents first and foremost, right after a couple of years have been paid for chores and having treated chores like a job, these increasingly Smart Alec children will at a certain point, come to the realization that if they have managed to save a whole bunch of money and they can then go to their parent or parents and say, you know what, I have enough now for a couple of months so I’m not going to do the chores anymore. Right? And if the point of the exercise, or at least part of the point of the exercise is to make sure that they know what it means to contribute in a significant way to an orderly functioning household, you don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you can be negotiated depth into that corner there, right? Because then if you stomped your foot and say, well, you’re going to do the chores anyway, then you’ve lost the whole connection between money and work that you were trying to create in the first place.
Jen: [07:30] Okay, good. So I’m glad that there isn’t a misalignment between what we presented it in the last episode on this topic and your thinking as well. And so that sort of leads the natural question. If, if we want to start teaching about things like handling money irresponsibly, how should we deal with allowances? Is it always wrong to pay children or should we just give them money just for being our children?
Mr. Lieber: [07:55] Well, so I wouldn’t necessarily put it the way that you just put it. We’re not giving them money merely because they are our children. We’re giving them money because allowance and money is a teaching tool the same way that books are a teaching tool or, or musical instruments, right? Or art supplies, right. We would not yank those away necessarily because the chores are not being done. So if you’re not a parent that punishes their child by taking away their books when they haven’t made their bed, I would not take away the money either. And I guess this is a, you know, a difficult thing for many people to get through their heads, right? Because we all have so much emotional energy invested in money in a thousand different ways, right? But I would just encourage people to continue saying to themselves over and over again, money is a teaching tool, and if we’re not going to punish kids by taking away their books so we shouldn’t punish them by taking away their money if their chores are not completed.
Jen: [08:59] Wow. I would never have thought about it… Equating money with books and using them as a teaching tool. So. So under what circumstances is it okay to pay children?
Mr. Lieber: [09:11] I think it’s okay to pay children for a one off chore like a particular really nasty one that has to be done occasionally or seasonally, but for regular things that have to be done on on a daily or weekly basis, I think you ought to do those things for free. So many parents will ask whether it is okay to pay their children for good grades, for performance in the classroom, in effect. And most of the best psychological research has been done are says that that is bad idea. It reduces what psychologists refer to as intrinsic motivation, right? The desire to do things for their own sake, for the pleasure of having learned them and done them well. But some people are willing to make exceptions for particularly difficult and rote academic tasks, right? Multiplication tables say, or I know one parent in my neighborhood here who made the mistake one might say, I’m telling his high school age daughter that for a dollar for every digit of pi, every decimal point of pi that she managed to permanently implant in her brain because she came back a couple of days later having won the pi contest at school, and memorized it to about 120 places.
Jen: [10:26] Ouch! That was an expensive mistake.
Mr. Lieber: [10:28] It was an expensive mistake for Dad.
Jen: [10:34] He won’t do that again. Okay. So parents, we’re saving you from that potential pitfall. Okay. So two instances then where it’s not the best approach to pay children is for on a regular basis for doing chores and also for grades. But if we want to use money as a teaching tool and we want children to learn how to manage their money, how then should we deal with allowances?
Mr. Lieber: [10:56] Well, I think you start at an earlier age than you might think is appropriate. Right? You know, we always wonder when are kids really ready to wrestle with this or people say, well, my kids don’t want anything, so why should I bother with allowance? Well, you know, the reason why to bother is that, you know, in terms of thinking about how money is or is not like books or musical instruments. I think about it this way, right? We buy our kids sports equipment or are we buy them a violin because we want them to practice. We want them to get good at these things because there’s value in learning to particular discipline. You should think about money the same way we want them to practice money and get good at it because making mistakes with money when you’re a teenager, I’m thinking about college and certainly afterwards; those mistakes can have long lasting effects, so we want them to have as much practice with that for as long as possible.
Jen: [11:52] Okay, so what your question says to me then is that we should be talking with children about money maybe before they’ve actually indicated a readiness to have that conversation with us. What kind of age do children normally start