Thursday, September 29, 2011

I Want My Two Dollarsssss....

Please tell me you're old enough to get that reference? Please?

My child--no doubt as a result of our own tendency to be a little too free w/ the purchase of toys and treats throughout, well, his entire life--has started to become a bit pushy with the "I wants" of late. He believes to his core that every trip to Target to pick up toilet paper and a gallon of milk warrants a stroll through the toy aisles and the purchase of at least one Hot Wheels car, if not an Imaginext Batmobile or some sort of super hero paraphernalia. And to be fair, for a long time, I fell into the trap of "If you're on your best behavior while we shop for everything we need, Mommy will buy you a Hot Wheels car." In my defense, they are $1 and provided hours of entertainment, so it seemed like a budget-friendly no-brainer. However, since Ethan's generally well-behaved and we go to Target a lot (which might be the larger root of the whole problem--mama's a bit spendy and that can't be great money-management modeling), we are now living in a house that has a Hot Wheel to human ratio of about 30:1 (yeah, I just used a ratio. Suck on that, math teachers who thought I was hopeless. I'm looking at you, Sr. Eleanor.) (Is that what a ratio looks like? Did I do it right?) (I should have paid more attention to Sr. Eleanor).

So when I'm not puncturing the arch of my foot on one of Ethan's little metal non-explosive land mines that are strewn throughout his room and the hallway, I am sweeping them out from underneath the couch, or having to stop the dryer because one has fallen out of a pocket and is clunking around in there, or listening to one of the cats bat a car around the kitchen floor (where they are sure to leave it for me to step on next time I enter the kitchen.)

So yeah, too many toys. Even though we got rid of quite a bit before our move & even though I've intentionally not unpacked a whole box that's currently residing in our garage. Really, then, I can't blame Ethan for having an expectation of instant gratification when we are anywhere remotely near a store that markets products to his age group.

We've been slowly backing off of toy purchases except for the holidays, birthdays and other special occasions. I can't remember the last time we purchased a toy for Ethan just because we were there and it was available. Each time we meet with some resistance, but its been a good opportunity to talk about gratitude and how we are so lucky to have everything we do. He likes to talk the talk--he can tell me all the things he's grateful for and that there are lot of boys and girls out there who don't have it as cushy as he does. But when push comes to shove, the boy wants the goods.

Things came to a head a couple weekends ago when we were at a toy store purchasing presents for a friend's birthday party. Ethan was intent that he neeeeeeeeded a toy--he didn't even know what toy & couldn't even find anything that he really really felt compelled to have. But those details don't concern him---he wanted a toy and expected to be able to stay and browse until he found something suitable. When Husband and I insisted that we were there to buy presents for our friend, that we had in fact already purchased said gift and were making our way to the store exit, the storm hit.

A few warning gusts of whine. The clouds of the furrowed brows and clenched fists came next. Then the deluge of giant alligator tears. Followed closely by the spinning twister of "I waaaaaaannnntttt a tooooooyyyyyyyy," repeated over and over. Of course, in front of several other parents, no doubt judging us for either the general over-indulgence that would have lead to such an outburst, or for not buying him a toy to get him to pipe down. It was super good times.

And being that he's working so hard to be on his best behavior during the school week, when he loses it at home or on the weekends, he loses it hard. Wild assertions, such as "money DOES grow on treeeeeeees," and "but I don't have ANY toys at home!!!!!!" come flying from his mouth through tears, in a desperate attempt to get us to believe in some sort of alternative reality. He says it with such certainty (as though I am a dumbass for not having planted more money trees in the backyard and how could I not notice that dust-bunnies are the only thing inhabiting his toy boxes?!!!???)

Fortunately for Husband and me, this bodes well for us being able to out-logic our child for quite a while to come. I have friends whose kids are so sharp in the area of logical argument that they are already being stumped by their 5 year olds. Thankfully, our little boy is more of a flights-of-fancy type of kid, based firmly in emotional reaction (he *might* get that from me?! Maybe?) as opposed to logic and linear thinking.

Having had enough of these types of outbursts, Husband and I proposed a chore & allowance schedule whereby Ethan could earn his own money and spend it according to his wishes (after putting the first 1/2 of his allowance in the bank each week). Ethan loved this idea. Perhaps because after the list of chores and what each was worth financially was drawn up, he assumed he would be paid, in cash, every single time he performed one of his chores. He ran to the cat dish, tipped the bag of food over until it was spilling out over the bowl, ran back to the living room, stuck out his hand and said, "Twenty-five cents, please."

Excellent. Now that I won't have to feed the cats for a week & a half, let's make "sweeping up the spilled cat food" part two of that particular chore.

When we informed Ethan that, no, he wouldn't receive a quarter here or fifty cents there, every time he completed one of his chores, the storm of righteous indignation swelled again. "But....but I fed the cats! I did my chooooooore! I want my moneyyyyyyy!!!" Oh, the tears.

We explained to him how an allowance works--we'll tally up the chores he performs and how often on the responsibility chart each week & on Fridays we'll give him the total amount we owe him. Husband explained that even he only got paid every two weeks for all the work he does at his company. This was met with more cries of, "I want my twenty-five cennnnnnnnts!" and Husband and I taking turns leaving the room to snicker at our little workers' rights activist threatening to go on strike almost even before he'd started the job if the terms weren't to his liking.

In the end, to at once appease him and to show him the futility of receiving his allowance in tiny pieces, Husband reached into his pocket, pulled out a quarter and handed it to Ethan. He stood there with the quarter in his hand (at first he was horrified that all his hard work of over-filling the cat dish was reduced to one coin--Husband asked him if he'd prefer 25 pennies instead & the response was a resounding "YES."), I'm sure feeling a mix of satisfaction and confusion. He asked if we could go to Target so he could spend his allowance. Husband and I asked him what he planned to buy with $0.25. Looking down at the shiny coin, he contemplated his purchasing power. Then he put his allowance into his pocket and said, "You can just give me the rest of my allowance at the end of the week."

Excellent idea, little man.

So far this week, I haven't had to feed the cats, pick up any of Ethan's clothes to put them in the laundry hamper, make Ethan's bed or water our plants. Fabulous. The only chore that Ethan's yet to attempt is "Clean Your Room." This chore is worth the most money because its the toughest job--it will be interesting to see how he responds tomorrow when we give him what he will surely consider a puny sum of cash (since Husband told him what his potential earning power was). I wonder if that means next week will find his room sparkly and clean. We'll see.

Until then, we're just doing what we can to help out the economy, right?


Becca said...

We are gearing up for this very thing when Charlie turns five. I think he'll respond well. I hadn't thought about how nice it is going to be to have help with the chores. Now I just have to follow through.

lonek8 said...

I've been meaning to start a chore chart so the kids can earn a little money, but I haven't gotten around to doing it yet. The plan was to make a poster board and we could stick a star up each time they did something helpful, and that would be worth 10 cents. All we've gotten to so far, is they will help me and say "do I get a star?" and then take a sticker and play with it. Which sure ends up being cheaper for me, but doesn't really help me teach them about money at all.

They are really good about asking for toys with me (I'd buy them anything they want except you have to buy three of everything so that gets nipped in the bud pretty quick), but they are terrible with grandparents. Every visit comes with all kinds of gifts and trips to the store always end with little purchases, and Izzy especially is all entitled now. So there are some tough times ahead of limitation until her expectations are lowered a bit.