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My stepdaughter was washing her hands in the bathroom. She said she felt a sharp pain in her hand and reflexively opened her hand and dropped the phone in a toilet. The phone is worth $85, and I told her she would not receive a new phone until she paid for the old one. She doesn’t receive an allowance, although she does chores, and she could earn money doing yardwork or other chores for neighbors. She won’t do any work for the neighbors, claiming that all the people in the neighborhood are creeps or perverts. Should I stick to my guns on this one?
For the purposes of this discussion, let’s assume the phone-in-toilet act was truly an accident, although why someone would hold a mobile phone while washing their hands is mystifying. While your demands are not unreasonable, you might be better served cutting the girl some slack.
Why aren’t you paying her an allowance or commissions for the chores she does? You didn’t reveal her age, but even young children should receive either expense money or direct compensation for chores. Some parents have trouble with this idea, arguing that children should perform chores simply because the kids are part of the family and share responsibility for the keeping of the home. That’s a very good point, but in the long run a hard-line stance on this issue can do more harm than good.
As they get older, children will want to buy something, be it a toy or an ice cream cone, a good read at a school book fair, or a movie ticket. You don’t want to give your children everything they desire – that foolishness leads to an entirely different type of trouble. But by not allowing them to make any purchases at all, you risk creating anger or resentment in your child.
Everybody – from a 2-year-old toddler to a 99-year-old grandfather – likes to feel appreciated, and likes to have some freedom. The older the children become, the more important it is for them to receive at a least a little latitude to earn and spend money. By the time a child is old enough to possess a cell phone, her lack of spending money has probably become a problem – at least in her eyes.
Here are a couple things you can do to address this problem:
- Start paying your daughter a commission. Not on all of the chores, but on some select jobs. Yes, children should work because they are part of a household. But by paying a commission on a few of those chores, you both give the girl some spending money and help her learn the real-life lesson that if you’re willing to work, you can get paid. If she doesn’t do the chores, she learns the other half of that lesson.
- Give her some additional opportunities to make money. Nobody wants to work for creeps or perverts, and you can assess the quality of your neighborhood better than I. If your neighbors really do make your daughter uncomfortable, it’s not fair to make her go to work for them. Of course, she could simply be complaining in an effort to avoid the work, hoping you’ll just buy her a new phone. You can address both of these problems by giving her the opportunity to do a job for you. Tell her if she cleans out the garage, you’ll pay her $35. It doesn’t need to be the garage, but let your daughter know that she can earn some extra money by doing a big job that is not normally her responsibility.
Requiring the girl to pay for the phone is certainly fair. But if she has no reasonable means to earn that money, your punishment becomes a suspension of phone privileges, which may not be your intention.
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