Summer is almost here! I delight in seeing the last-day-of-school photos, graduation celebrations and hot, sweaty faces soaking up sunshine. And without masks! I’m seeing smiles, teeth, new braces and true joy.
Summertime means big deep breaths of warmth and sunshine and long exhales as we relax into longer days. What does summer mean for you and your children? If it were up to my kids, summer might mean endless days of X-Box, processed food and Netflix. And believe me, there will be some of that. Let’s be honest, Yellowstone is about to begin…who’s with me? But summer is also a great opportunity to encourage your kids to contribute to larger tasks now that the pressure of school and homework are over.
Parents often ask me about chores and allowance. And, here’s what I tell them – children need to contribute in order to build resilience. Contribution takes different forms depending on the age and ability of a child; but it’s important for growth and development. I don’t believe in allowance for activities that generally help children grow and develop autonomy; nor for chores that are expected as part of your family structure. For instance, brushing teeth, getting dressed and other activities of self-care should be encouraged, modeled and expected; but not rewarded with money. As well, jobs that you’ve decided to give your child that are developmentally appropriate and help your family need not be paid. Examples include doing their laundry, taking out trash, helping to clean the house or putting away dishes. Allowance, in my opinion, should be tied to “extra” work and chores that go above and beyond. An example might be mowing the lawn if it’s typically someone else’s job, washing your car for you, or filing paperwork. I try to differentiate with families “jobs that are expected because you’re part of this family” and “extra jobs that could you could earn cash for because they go above and beyond and help me out”.
Go ahead. Throw tomatoes at me if this rubs you the wrong way – I welcome questions!!
Contribution goes beyond chores too. Contribution can begin as toddlers and should continue throughout a person’s life. A toddler can help sort recycling, sort cans to donate money to charity, or help bathe animals. Contributions for older kids might mean volunteering at a club, in a neighborhood or at a place of worship. Older children can mentor younger kids, go on service trips and begin seeking jobs.
Why is contribution important? It builds resilience because it begins to connect the child to the larger world. It pulls a child out of egocentric needs and into the needs of their family, community and world. Contributing to others, systems and organizations helps a child build confidence, provide support and make meaning. Children can see their impact by helping their family, their church, their school, a homeless shelter, or their team. And every time they do so, they’re building an important muscle – connection and locus of control. They begin to see that what they do has an impact on a larger piece of the puzzle; and they see that their actions matter and have important outcomes. As a bonus, children who begin to contribute at an early age and continue to do so are shown to be more mature, selfless and focused on philanthropy in many forms.
So, this summer, think about ways your child might begin to contribute. That might mean chores, volunteering, mentoring or organizing. It is all meaningful work for them in their lives. It encourages growth and development in a way that builds resilience. And feel free to blame me when they ask “Who said I shouldn’t be paid for this?”
They’re earning so much more than money.
With kindness & compassion,