I saw this over at Scoutinlife's and thought I'd borrow that idea for my own use.
Kids need to learn to work and need to learn how to use tools and need to learn responsibility. The very first jobs I remember having were as a young kid working for my grandparents. One grandfather gave me a coffee can with a couple of inches of gasoline in it and told me to go down the row of potato plants in his garden and put all the stink bugs and potato bugs I could catch in the can and he would pay me something like a penny per bug. I filled that can up with bugs and took it to him. I was amazed at how fast he could count. He looked in that can for about 3 or 4 seconds and then gave me a $5 bill. The other grandfather once handed me a hoe and showed me the plants in my grandmother's flower bed that he wanted and told me to get rid of everything else. What seemed like a long time and a few blisters later I had $10 in my pocket and a new and better understanding of how a hoe works and what labor really is. Not bad for a kid who was 7 or 8 years old. Later, around 10 or 12, I mowed yards in the neighborhood. I had about 12 regular customers and several others that would hire me once in a while when they went on vacation. I worked almost every day. This was obviously back before lawn care companies were common. I learned a lot about work and scheduling my time and about doing the job right the first time so the boss/customer didn't have to call me back to fix something.
The most difficult part of having the kids help is patience. You really have to forget about the amount of time you scheduled to finish the task and just concentrate on the kids learning and having fun. I've had mine helping since they were about 3. In some ways that is easier because when they are that age they can "help" drill a hole or drive a screw by resting their hand on the drill while you do the work. When they get older and want to do it themselves then it can take longer. Make sure you have plenty of drill bits on hand. Breaking one yourself while they are helping might be a good investment.
Don't forget to have them wear eye protection. When they start using loud tools like chop saws make sure they use ear protection as well. A lot of guys don't use eye and ear protection because they don't think it looks manly or something, but being blind or deaf is not so hot either. My dad has several friends that wouldn't wear ear or eye protection while shooting and hunting. Now one of them is so deaf he bought some electronic muffs but can't hear even with the volume cranked all the way up. Start your kids off with the habit of proper safety gear.
My kids started helping out when I was building a wooden train playset for them in the back yard. They drilled holes, drove screws, carried tools, and helped hold boards in place for me.
My oldest, age 9, has been mowing for a couple of years, and number 2, age 7, started last year. I like to keep 3 to 5 acres mowed short around the house, orchard, and garden, to help keep the critters away and reduce the danger of fire in the summer. The kids help a lot and I pay them according to how much they do and how well they do. If they miss spots they have to go back and fix them or they don't get paid. They use a reasonable sized riding mower and mostly they do the open areas that don't have many obstacles. They wear ear and eye protection when they mow. In fact, they are so in the habit of using that gear that they won't mow without it.
I started them whittling last year with a pocket knife. Scary. I remember getting my first pocket knife. I was about 6. It was an old scout knife that my grandpa found in some junk while cleaning out his garage. My dad said I could have it and warned me "Don't cut yourself and don't tell your mother." Of course I cut myself while whittling that same afternoon. Of course my mom found out about the knife, but I got to keep it. I still have it. Sometimes getting cut is part of growing up and part of using tools. Telling someone when you are hurt so you can get medical attention if needed is part of growing up and using tools, too.
The kids also help with feeding and watering the chickens and rabbits and dogs. Responsibility has many fronts and kids need to have some responsibility. Taking care of the needs of animals is a great learning experience for kids.
Kids helping out can be a learning experience for them on many different levels. They learn to use the tools, they learn to use the safety gear, and they learn the responsibility of taking on a job, doing it right, and finishing it correctly. I understand from people with older teenagers that fast food and other entry level, low skill jobs are hard for kids to find due to the jobs going to illegals, and now the number of people losing their jobs to the economy is making it worse. Helping you out on projects around the house is one way for them to learn to work.
My kids have also learned the lesson of credit. All of them have asked for something at the store when they didn't have enough money for it and my wife has bought it for them, then made them pay back the "loan" while keeping a written record of it. Honestly, she is the toughest and most heartless banker in the world. Having to work while the money goes to pay off a loan instead of going into their bank has helped them out. They don't ask for loans any more.
My parents taught me the same lesson when I was in high school. I wanted a car like any other guy my age. They told me they would match whatever I saved, up to a certain amount. I saved up to that amount and we went shopping. Pretty soon it was apparent they had underestimated the cost of a reliable car by quite a bit. They agreed to co-sign a loan for me. The loan was big to me, but small enough that they could easily pay it off without any worries. The deal they made was that I would make the payments and pay the insurance, and if I missed one payment they would pay off the car and sell it and I could kiss the money I had in it goodbye. My folks are hard nosed and I have no doubt they would have done it without thinking twice. I think the load was for 30 or 36 months. After about 4 or 5 months I was so sick of that payment I couldn't stand it. I paid it off more than a year early just so I didn't have that debt hanging over my head. I have hated being in debt ever since. Thank you for the lesson Mom and Dad. I will try to pass that on to my kids.
Teach your kids to work and do the job right. Teach them responsibility.
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