I had an interesting experience today that made me evaluate the way I hope to influence and raise my children. It is the first of the month so my son who is almost 6 is due his allowance. I know lots of people don’t give their kids allowances anymore; they just get them whatever they want whenever they want it. We, on the other hand, have a system whereby our son can earn money each month. Given that he is not quite 6 years old he can only earn a maximum of $10 a month. Out of that money we are teaching him to give 20% and save 20%. We figure when he is an adult giving 10% and saving 10% will seem like a breeze.
The money that he is saving cannot be spent on a short term goal. He is required to save for something long term like college or a car (He’s finally got enough money to open his own savings account which we will do sometime this week.)
In addition, earning an allowance is a privilege not an right. We have a list of daily, weekly, and monthly chores that are done simply because he is a member of this household. “You live here; you work here,” is a phrase my children hear often. Once the required chores are completed with a pleasant attitude (no boss would be happy if his employee finished his assignment but did it with a terrible attitude.), he can choose to do some extra chores that have each been assigned a monetary value. At the end of the month, we see how many of these “extra” chores he has completed; and we pay him accordingly. We believe this system is great for teaching responsibility.
But I digress – back to my original story. Because I needed to pay my son his allowance and because of the 20% save/20% give policy we have, I had to run to the 7-11 (a common convenience store in our area) down the street to break the $20 in my purse. When I walked into the store, the man working behind the counter greeted me with a cheerful “good evening” and a smile, something he did when anyone walked in. When I checked out, he engaged me in a pleasant conversation, thanked me for coming, and encouraged me to have a nice evening. I was in shock. Do people do that anymore? Was this guy serious?
I cannot tell you how often I walk into retail stores where customer service employees hardly make eye contact much less talk to me while they are kind of waiting on me. It’s hard to tell sometime since they are playing on their phones or talking to friends. And if I engage them in conversation, most of these employees mumble or even grumble something back at me about how they can’t wait to get off.
So my hat’s off to the night clerk at the local convenient store and the parents who raised him. What a pleasant surprise to see someone who isn’t working that glamorous of a job work hard at it and have a good attitude. It made me think that he takes pride in what he does; and I respect a person who works hard to provide for himself and his family, assuming he has one, and does so with a dignity.
That is a lesson worth teaching my children. And trust me, tomorrow morning over breakfast, my son will hear about this man and my experience at 7-11 tonight. I want my son to know that it matters not what he does. He can be the CEO of the latest and greatest American company, but if he’s a jerk then what he does is worthless. He can be the world’s most trusted brain surgeon; but if he treats his colleagues poorly and has poor “bedside manner” then his talent means nothing.
On the other hand, if he digs ditches and treats his co-workers with respect, or if he works hard scrubbing floors with joy and pride day in and day out, then his work is of great value; and he is a man of honor and dignity. This is the kind of lesson my parents taught me growing up, and it is a lesson that needs to be dusted off and taught again to the next generation.