This is the second part of our story of kids and money, but I am sure it will not be the last. To understand how we established family jobs and our general philosophies, read this. Once we moved beyond the basics of truly owning our work, we find ways to get out of it!
There are times when, due to travel or a full homework or work load, someone can’t do (or wants the luxury of choosing not to do) their family job. In this case, the person is responsible for getting the job done another way. With the eager labor pool we have, the easiest path is hiring another family member to do the work. This process started organically as a solution after a full tantrum from a child protesting that he just didn’t want to wash the dishes. He hired his dad to do it, and instantly felt relieved that he could choose whether or not to do his work. He chose to spend his money and enjoy the luxury of a night off. An amazingly real-world solution.
Other kids soon got wind of this, and what we thought would be an abandonment of jobs as they paid us to do them, became a competitive labor market instead. They now race to do their work to get it done in case someone else doesn’t want to do theirs. When at a sleepover and wanting to extend her time with a friend, Caroline texted me to ask Sam if he would do her chore for 10 cents. “No way” was his reply.
“Ask Pedrom then” she texted back.
“I won’t do it for 10 cents, but I would do it for 20” came the response.
The deal was made.
When Sam found out later that night, he said he would have done it for 15. All three of these children learned something that day about negotiating. We carried that conversation to its conclusions over dinner— Caroline could have saved some money, both Pedrom and Sam could have earned something more than the first offering because Caroline was so motivated to hire.
They’ve become quite sophisticated in their negotiations lately, and it’s fun to watch the lessons unfold as they teach themselves the world of real business. Babak was preparing to travel for work. Before leaving he did the portions of his family work which could be done ahead of time, hiring Sam and Caroline to do the rest. Sam neglected to ask on what schedule the dogs needed to be walked before agreeing to the job. A 6:30 am departure was not included in his understanding of a single-Euro chore and he was sorry he took the job. Caroline quickly stepped in to say she’d take it, inquiring how much it paid first.
“How much will you do it for?” Sam replied.
“How much is Babak paying you? That’s what I want.” She retorted.
“That is irrelevant. I asked how much you would do it for.” He returned.
Caroline saw the intent of making a profit from her work, a cut off the top, a subletting of the job, and turned the conversation 180 degrees in reply. She asked for more than what he was getting paid, arguing that he was holding the responsibility for doing it now, and that she was the only other person in the family able to take it on at that late hour. It WAS an inconvenience after all to get up so early.
Sam had met his match. He decided to do the job himself, valuing the pay above sleep. When I went to wake him to complete the work there was not even a sigh nor a complaint uttered. Instead, he dragged himself out of bed and called the dog to put on her leash.
There is so much value in this system for our family. Our children are learning it is really ok to talk about money openly. They are learning the value of having control over their money and where they get to spend it. They are learning the art of negotiation. They are learning to both win and lose gracefully. They are learning to value other people’s work, and to manage their time so that if extra opportunity becomes available, they are able to jump on it. It is not lost on me, either, that my daughter is learning to negotiate and hold her own in business deals where she is the only female, and our boys are seeing what a savvy negotiator looks like— and that image is not gender-based.
Outside of parenting, there are bigger lessons for us all here. Money is meant to be used as a tool, one of many we have and need to live rich lives. Negotiating doesn’t always mean there is a winner and a loser, sometimes the pie is just bigger, and we all get what we wanted in the first place.