We were always careful about paying our children for jobs they did for the running of the home. We never did allowances…but if done correctly, I think it could work. We don’t want to raise children who are entitled and who expect money for everything or just that their services are worth more than they actually are. Gift-giving was moderate and so our children and our grandchildren are grateful for the smallest gift!
by Mary Reed Newland, How to Raise Good Catholic Children
Discourage Greed in Your Child
I heard a mother say, “I never allow other people to take advantage of my child. Send him on their errands!” This is the beginning of “let George do it.”
Children should be encouraged to do work for others, and not just for pay. We are our brothers’ keepers. How else are children to discover what it is to serve Christ in their neighbor?
When they’re little, they don’t even want to be paid. They like to do things for people because it gives them a feeling of usefulness. Pay for such tasks should be primarily satisfaction, perhaps a piece of cake and a glass of milk. Maybe, on rare occasions, a very small amount of money.
Too many youngsters overpaid for work in the years of elementary school emerge from high school and face the world with one idea only about work: “How much am I going to get?”
There’s time enough to earn money, and there are jobs for the high school years that involve real work and a just wage for it. But spoiling a child’s opportunity to experience the real satisfaction of working for love of neighbor is doing him a grave injustice, and it’s rarely undone.
Overpaid, he will not work well, and he will work only until he has what he set out to get — not until a job is finished. He’s a clock watcher in the making, and he will so overrate his worth as a workman that he will never be satisfied to do anything for a just wage. It won’t be entirely his fault.
Parents of children who work for their neighbors should make it clear they don’t want them overpaid. Character training, learning to respect a job for its challenge, is far more valuable than a little extra money.
Paid baby-sitting is another custom that has made great inroads on the doctrine of neighborly charity. Responsible baby-sitters deserve just wages, and there are many who have no other way of earning money that’s badly needed.
But in the rush to grow up and join the ranks of the wage earners, many young girls are being deprived of their opportunity to serve with love, of even the idea that there are deep rewards in service for love.
Mothers are now so frantic for baby-sitters, at whatever wages, that they’re on the defensive. It’s no longer a privilege to sit with a neighbor’s baby; it’s an act of condescension, and if — as has happened from time to time in our town — local industries slow down and family wages are reduced, mothers and fathers who are vitally needed members of a PTA or a church society cannot afford to pay babysitters and so drop out of organizations in which their talents are needed for the common good.
A better way of breaking in potential baby-sitters (when mothers are timid about accepting service for no pay) is baby-sitting for barter. I have paid baby-sitters with coffee cake, with homemade bread, with drawings, and with baby-sitting myself. (Learn how to make homemade bread: all baby-sitters are dead ducks within sniffing distance of homemade bread.)
We have two baby-sitters extraordinaire whom we love with all our hearts, worth every nickel of their pay (and when you baby-sit with seven children, you deserve your pay). They endeared themselves to us for all time this past Christmas.
One said, “I’m not going to take any money from my friends for sitting anymore. I get a wage, and I don’t need their money, and they have families and more expenses than I.” Another gave us a Christmas box with a fat bow and inside a year’s baby-sittings “for free.” There is joy in serving, but only those who try it find out.
Help Your Child to Find Joy in Serving God and Family
Allowances, when a family can afford them, raise another question. Should children be paid for the week’s work, or should they receive it in any case?
Our feeling about this is that allowances are, in part, a sign of appreciation for cooperating with the work of the entire family. They’re also a token share of the family wealth, when there’s any wealth to share.
But there are certain restrictions as to how they may be spent, what portion should go into the Sunday offering at Mass, and so on. Obligations incurred through carelessness, such as the lost screwdriver or a broken window that resulted from playing ball in the house, must be paid for out of allowance money.
Children are encouraged to share their allowances with the poor, sending some off to the missions or to some particular family that we know is in need.
Such things as second-hand wheels needed for homemade jalopies, material and pattern for a skirt, seeds for planting one’s special stand of corn, are bought with allowance money. And, of course, there are weeks when things are very tight, and there’s no money for allowances at all; then everyone goes without.
Then there’s the problem of the child nearby who doesn’t have to do any work. “Why doesn’t she, and why do I?” This isn’t always easy to handle. In the face of a living example of someone who’s quite happy without having to do any work, all the high-minded theory seems to break down.
The value of training in work, the joy of service, the serving of God are attractive ideas until someone else is waiting outside to play while you still have to wipe the dishes and feed the baby. But they are the answer, just the same.
It’s hard to apply them to this situation without seeming to make ignoble comparisons, and we mustn’t do that. We have found the most convincing persuasions to be loyalty to the family cause (we all need to do our share so that the family will be happy and things go smoothly) and using the work for a heroic intention.
“Remember the children in poor countries, who need your prayers and your love. Remember our missionaries, who are trying to do so much with so little. It won’t take long to do these few dishes, and then you may play. Do them for the love of children who have no homes to work in, no lovely outdoors where they may play, who don’t even have dishes to wash or the food to put on them.”
Inviting the guest in to wait, or, if she wishes, to help, often solves the problem. Indeed, children who do not have to work at home frequently discover that it’s fun to help at the home of someone who does.
If I am not capable of great things, I will not become discouraged, but I will do the small things! Sometimes, because we are unable to do great things, heroic acts, we neglect the small things that are available to us and which are, moreover, so fruitful for our spiritual progress and are such a source of joy: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful over a few things, I will now trust you with greater. Come and share your Master’s joy.” (Matthew 25:21) -Fr. Jacques Philippe, Searching For and Maintaining Peace
“Sacrifice means compromise. Maybe you’d always be willing to subjugate your own wishes because of your love, but your partner, in turn, should be willing to deny his (or her) wishes so that you can have your way. Thus the act of giving is shared, and the act of taking is shared too.” -Rev. George Kelly, 1950’s
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