Last week it was a stuffed elephant. The week before that, a princess dress. And now it’s a felt play mat with little animals.

The list of stuff Lily longs for seems to grow on an hourly basis.

Every time we set foot into a store — even the office supply store — she wants something. Target is absolutely off-limits now (thank you dollar spot right by the front door) and even the grocery store gumball machines pose temptation.

And my habit of caving easily (especially on vacation or special occasions or just because it’s Friday) has helped create a little monster. The “but I waaaaant it pleeeeeeease mommeeeeeee” monster.


And whoops.

Despite the fact that this is totally normal behavior for a kid Lily’s age, my tendency to indulge my girls is also to blame.

I’m trying. Really hard. But it goes against every fiber of my being to deny them anything. I want to give them the world. If I could buy Lily every single Lalaloopsy doll that ever existed, I would do it. The pull is powerful. But so is the reality of spoiled kids.

I want grateful children. Hard workers who understand that it’s important to earn your share. And who appreciate gifts and special treats as the exception, not the rule.

Good thing I married a very sensible man who is very good with money. He keeps me honest, and together we’ve developed a little system of chores for Lily to do when she wants to earn money for whatever princess/stuffed animal/dress-up outfit her little heart desires at the moment.

Helping Daddy scrub the car (the whole thing) earned her a buck. Folding a basket of laundry is 50 cents. She also does yard work and dusts and wipes down the bathroom sink. And what a sweet day it will be when she’s big enough to push a vacuum cleaner.


Of course there are things she’s expected to do every day after which the only compensation is a hearty thank you. Stuff like cleaning her room and carrying her dishes to the sink. It’s important that she identifies herself as a valuable contributor to our family.

But we also want to give her an opportunity to earn cash doing extra chores. She’s getting there.

And I’m learning that I HAVE to say no, especially to the dollar-bin junk that has taken over our home and to the things she wants just because (insert friend’s name here) has one. When it becomes clear that she has her heart set on something, like the Cinderella castle she bought with her entire piggy bank last month, we help her earn it.

I hope it’s working. I hope she is starting to understand that whining gets you nothing, that there are more important things in life than *things* and that she is a super special little person, no matter how many dolls or legos she owns.

This is tough work, parenting. Send wine.

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8 Comments on earning her keep

  1. I was born when my parents were still in college, and my mom frequently apologized to me for the five dollar toy box I received for my first Christmas (as if I even remembered) and more than made up for it with entire outfits from the Buckle when I was in high school. I frequently have to remind myself that Liam does not need every Batman item in Target. I think a chore system will be perfect once he’s old enough.
    Amber recently posted…Songs for SummerMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts! It’s funny … I’m discovering that the more stuff she gets, the less interested in it she becomes. Like on our trip to Ohio, she got spoiled with all kinds of treats, and now that we’ve been home for a week she hardly touches them and is already on to pining for the next thing. Seems like less *is* more, especially at this age. We also work with her a few times a year to gather up toys to donate, which clears out space and gives all that stuff a bigger purpose. Lily seems to get it — that she’s giving toys and books to kids who don’t have much — and that makes me happy.

  2. We started non-chore based allowance ($2/week) when the boys turned 4 and it has been AMAZING in our house. We never, ever get the wants, because we tell the boys they have to pay for things. Now that we’ve done it for 3+ years, it’s interesting to see what lessons they’ve learned. Nate willingly spends money, while Alex is much more reserved. They’ve also learned to share costs on things they want to share.

    Once they get more than $30 in their wallets, we make them put it in their bank accounts. Two lessons on that – keeping money safe and earning interest. I’d rather have them learn these lessons at 7 than at 17!
    Laura Case recently posted…Leaving, on a jet plane. Don’t know when I will parent or post again.My Profile

    • That is such a good idea! An allowance would give her more autonomy (in small doses) and help her understand how much things really cost. Right now price tags are just a jumble of numbers that don’t mean anything to her, despite our efforts to teach her to count money and what “afford” means. I’m curious to see if Lily will be a spender or a saver. And starting bank accounts for the kids is so smart. Thanks for weighing in!

  3. Oh hiiiii there! (sorry I’ve been away from your blog but as I catch up now I feel like I’m the one who was suffering without knowing what’s been going on in your world!)

    So I did chores growing up to earn money as well, and I turned out pretty damn well, if I do say so myself. I scrubbed toilets and I distinctly recalled that cleaning the bathroom mirrors also feel under my jurisdiction. Most of all I remember pretending to be Cinderella…which may or may not be a good thing. 😉
    Vicki @ Crowning Victoria recently posted…Random Acts of KindnessMy Profile

    • So happy to see your face over here!! And special thanks for that UH-mazing Will Ferrell vid. Excuse me while I go watch it again …

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