Single parents: helping kids learn responsibility

When you are a single parent, one of the many problems needing attention is what to do about the children's pocket and management money. I had two sons, then eight and almost 10, a teaching salary, mortgage, parental responsibility, seemingly monumental bills, and shaken confidence.

One of my aims was to help the boys accept responsibility for yard and house chores. I did not feel they should be overworked, nor paid for everything they did.

"I was not meantm to work!" Tom, the youngest told me grandly.

"This is your home as well as mine," I told them both, pointing out that my portion held the controlling interest along with almost total responsilibity. Their activities were expanding, their horizons and boundaries widening, yet they were not quite old enough for outside jobs. Our household work needed doing. I needed help, and I felt that they needed the sense of contributing.

Through school, community, and friends I had a panorama of parent-child relationship before me. I had seen parents bargain with their children, bribe, wheedle, ignore, and indulge them.

I tried to think the entire matter through, and one Sunday evening presented an idea that had come through. First, I told them how I felt and then suggested we talk over their requirements and the needs for the house for the coming week. Could we agree on expenses and tasks? It was worth a try. Today the technique is labeled "family coucil." Then it was just a Sunday night tying together of the week, preparing for the next. We talked over problems and issues, as well as progress we felt we'd made.

It worked fine. Each child listed his expenses for the following week: Scouts, school bank, daily milk, lunch in the cafeteria when Spring Garden Special or hamburgers were on the menu. "And you need some money in your pocket for spending as you wish," I told them. "It's as important to learn how to spend money as well as to save it." They were impressed.

"But there are tasks you do here just because you are part of the family," I added. We worked those out acceptably to all. They did them, I quit nagging, and we all evaluated.

Each Sunday evening, I wrote a check including 35- cents cents pocket money for the youngest, 50-cents for the oldest. This continued until they began to find neighborhood jobs.

There was something special about having that check for each. There was a heavy responsility, too, for it had to last the entire week. The week time slot was just right for boys that age.

The school secretary told me later that Tom rushed to her office from the bus. "Mrs. Ford! I've got a check!" (Probably for a little over $2 in those day.) Mrs. Ford listened to the story and showed him where to endorse it. In his excitement, and unused to a pen, Tom put his signature straight down the middle. Mrs. Ford cashed his check, and Tom stepped into a new world.

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