Honest Pay for Honest Work by Sahmatwork


I have once again found myself in unfamiliar territory as the matriarch of our little clan. Real world life lessons are so difficult to teach when I see them as still babes in my arms. I just want to give them all they ask for, hand over all my pocket change when they want a full piggy bank, or hold them away from the world for their whole lifetime. And then I wake up from this dream, and logic kicks in. I have to prepare them for the world. I have to ready them for what they will encounter…and little of my heart breaks.

This is a conundrum. My mothering instinct is to shield them, but my mind says at the same time, I must ready them. Balancing these two realities makes me feel like that circus performer on a tight rope….leaning left, then right, and then a quick dash to safety….looking back at the success or failure behind me. I think I’d enjoy it much more if I’d be able to wear all the glittery sequence, sparkle make up and a great looking costume. At least I’d look the part of a balancing tight rope walker, even if I fall again and again.

Here’s the scenario:

Over the summer I instituted a ‘chore chart’. (Clearing out our basement, coming across some great Dr. Dobson child-rearing books, I thought it was a grand idea). It was a good idea. The kids were then allowed summer fun time fun after their chores were done. It went well for a while….then of course I had to add motivation. Two of the harder chores on the list were called “money chores”. (I, somehow, wanted to instill the value of a dollar, and have them save their money for things they really wanted, show them the prices of those items, and teach them a thing or two about money management.)

If they completed all their daily chores, and the money chores, they would receive payment for their hard work weekly. Last week, was the first week I paid them for their money chores. They didn’t make very much money compared to what they could have made, since they didn’t complete most of their chores.

Today, I evaluated the check marks for last week’s work. Three children had checked off every single chore on every single day of the week. My five year old, Entertainer, only had one day with completed chores. Remembering last week, I knew not all chores had been completed, but I thought I’d allow them the chance for redemption.

Today, I gathered the four children to the table, as I did last week, and showed them the chart, holding my coin purse in my hand. Then, I looked at each of them, in the eye and asked simply, “Did you all really do all these chores that are marked off?”

Entertainer nodded and said disappointingly, “Yes, Mom, I did only those.” I looked at her sweet face, and said, “Yes, I know, you did a great job. And you were honest. Some days you didn’t do your chores. And some days you did. Thank you for being honest.”

Then I asked, “Did you three do all these checked off chores?”

Serious, 6 years old, overcome with guilt, was the first to shed tears, admitting that she had checked off chores that she never truly did. I hugged her, and thanked her for now, being honest.

I looked at Carefree, age 8, and Thinker, age 9, and said, “And you two?”

Carefree’s eyes welled up, “No, I cheated too.”

I looked at Thinker, “And you?”

Her face reddened, and she replied, “No, I didn’t do them all.”

With three children in tears, I asked them, “Why did you check them off if you really didn’t do them?”

All of them answered that they wanted their pay.

I turned to Entertainer, asked her, “Why didn’t you check off things you didn’t do?”

She simply said, “Because I didn’t do the chores. It’s not right to take the money when I didn’t do it.”

What to do. I sat dumbfounded for a good moment. I figured that a long moment of silence for the three children would have them mulling over their dishonesty while I figured how to deal with this one.

I calculated what each child would have earned based on the check marks on the chart. I informed them of what they would have earned if they had done all that they had checked. Knowing some work had been done, but some had not, I wasn’t sure how to compensate them. Do I deny all the pay due to their dishonesty? How do I reward the only honest child? How do I reinforce to all the children to be honest the first chance they get, like Serious did? How do I instill some kind of penalty for the dishonesty?

And then I asked for suggestions on what would be the fair thing to do. The four children looked up at me speechless, and then Thinker, the oldest, spoke up, “I think it would be fair to pay us half.”

I answered, “I agree.  I’ll pay children half of what they would have earned, instead of the full amount. For the one honest child, she’ll get double of what she earned because she was honest.”

The three older children’s jaws dropped, all the while Entertainer was squealing in delight.

I asked the three children, “Isn’t that fair? Do you all agree that’s fair?”

They all nodded, took their small pay to their piggy banks and hopefully learned a valuable lesson.

We talked more later in the day about it. I told them, “Yes, this is Mom and Dad’s rules, but they are God’s as well. Being honest will always result in reward and just pay. Sometimes that means money payment, sometimes payment in other ways; reward in heaven, gifts of grace, or how God wants to reward you.”

How many times are we finding that lack of value in our day and times? Honest work for honest pay isn’t always seen in the world as so many times people are getting paid for partial or no work. At times, we even see lying and cheating getting rewarded.

It’s so difficult to teach these real world life lessons. I can’t even express it. It seems as though they are too young to absorb it….but then I look into their tear stricken faces as they confess their dishonesty, and I know, they know. It broke their heart to admit they wanted their pay more than they wanted their honesty. And it broke a little of mine too, not that they had lied, but that they needed to learn this important life lesson.

There was one more tid bit of lesson learning. After informing HH of what had happened, he insisted that Serious be given her full pay, since she was the first to speak up and admit her dishonesty. I didn’t realize how difficult that must have been for her to be the first to admit it….until I talked with Carefree.

I told Carefree that Serious would be getting her full amount since she quickly confessed her guilt. I told him I was glad he told the truth, but he wasn’t first. Then he said something that helped me to see why HH’s decision to reward Serious was the right one. Carefree said, “I would have said it first, but I was embarrassed.”

I told him, “I understand.  Yes, it is difficult to do the right thing, and be the first to do it. And that is why she gets full payment.  Next time you’ll be honest right away, right?”

He nodded in agreement and off he went.

This is the Work, with that capital ‘W’ I am always talking about. Due to our kind of Work, we will hopefully put out a workforce into the world that not only knows the value of a dollar, but will only expect honest pay for honest work.

But let’s take it one step further.

It’s about that virtue of Justice. God is just. We must teach our children what is just, so that they can live their lives according to the truth…so when they meet their creator, the criteria will have been clear all along.

Copyright 2010 Sahmatwork


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1 Comment

  1. Great post. We started our children on the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace – earning commissions. We learned early only that the only people who may write on the chart are my husband and myself. Of couse this means we have to remember to do it! We also learned that the “fines” part of the commission form are very important. We were having quite a bit of trouble with our daughters leaving their shoes in the living room – until we started charging a ten-cent fine per pair, each night. When that number impacts their weekly payout, they start to remember to put them away.

    I recently learned about another new children’s accountability system we’ll be investigating: 10-20-30-Go!

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