Always Real, Money, Parenting Gone Awry

Growth Spurts, Money Jars, The Circle Of Life And Other Things

About a year ago, Sean’s grandmother gave him a money jar which sits on top of his dresser. It is a big plastic jar that looks like a pickle jar, only it has a slot on the top which shows a digital reading of how much money has been deposited.  The digital reading is about as accurate as taking a wild guess, or basically the same formula we are using to determine the actual cost of national healthcare.

Be that as it may…

Like his father, Sean likes to hold on to his money, so after a year of saving, the jar was half full with about $40, mostly in change.  Some of the money he earned from his towel folding business but most was given to him with impunity from recalcitrant grandparents, aunts, uncles and other nice people.

Last week my favorite five-year-old was in a growth spurt or something was up because we had some attitude and obedience issues.  Normally he is a pretty compliant and polite little guy and doesn’t delight in giving me too much trouble. Which works out well for him since I don’t abide much nonsense.

But, last week there was an incident involving the carpet in his bedroom.  I won’t say what the offense was because I don’t think anyone deserves to have their misdeeds recorded for all the internets to analyze and comment upon forever amen.  But it wasn’t an accident; it was premeditated, willful and on purpose. An accident I can easily forgive because who among us hasn’t knocked over a perfume display in Sanger Harris? Accidents happen. But this was no accident.

I was in a quandary as to what to do about the incident because it was so far out of character for this child. I was really interested in getting to the bottom of why he would do such a thing more so than issuing a swift punishment.

I was baffled.  I took a day or so to figure out how to proceed.  The side benefit of this delay was that it allowed him to stew just a little and meditate upon his actions.

Finally, I recalled that one time my brother shot out the neighbor’s picture window with his BB gun and I believe my parents made him pay to replace it.  My brother is not now, nor has he ever been in jail, so I decided to go the personal responsibility route.  Rather than punishment, I decided that the appropriate thing to do was to have him take responsibility for his actions and make him pay to have the carpet cleaned. And that meant I would have to confiscate his money.

He cried when I told him I would have to take his money to pay for the carpet cleaning.  “I was saving that money for an iPhone!” he wailed.  I told him that was really sad with as much sympathy as I could muster. And then I took away his money.

The rest of the week passed with no further incident.  And although I never got to the bottom of why he did what he did, I did see in him a contrite heart. He was sorry.  So Saturday, I took all the silver coins and the dollars to pay for the carpet cleaning, but I let him have his pennies back for seed money for his iPhone.

AD and I talk to Sean a lot about spending and saving so that he might grow into a financially responsible man. But we have some concern that because he lives a privileged life, that he doesn’t know what it is to want and to wait and to do without — which in our view are not bad things.

So sometimes, in an effort to remind Sean of how good he has it, AD will tell him that when he was growing up, he just wanted to have enough money to be able to get a snack out of the vending machine at school. That was his idea of being rich.  But you know, these kinds of stories tend to fall on deaf ears.  All they hear is “Iwalkedtoschooluphillbothwaysthreefeetofsnowblahblah”.

We are genetically programmed to say these things.  We cannot stop ourselves.

This morning, for the first time in 11 years, AD’s work took him out of the house to work on a project.  All Sean has ever known is AD working in his office upstairs.  So this morning, as AD was heading for the door, dressed and carrying his brief case, it shocked us all just a little.  Sean stopped him and asked him to wait.  He disappeared into his room and when he came back, he handed AD a fistful of pennies. “Here you go dad, in case you want to buy a snack out of the vending machine.”

So, maybe he was listening after all.

I’m not really sure what in the heck happened here this past week.  I think we might all be going to through a growth spurt.

Note: Sean is not getting an iPhone until he can buy me one too.

46 thoughts on “Growth Spurts, Money Jars, The Circle Of Life And Other Things

  1. Aww! I love that. I saw a really neat blog post lately that I should have bookmarked–it said basically that sometime when you talk to your kid you’re talking to his future self. What you say won’t make a difference now, but it may years from now. So keep saying it.

  2. Well-handled AM, as always. I think Sean listens more than you imagine.

    Besides, if he buys an iPhone now, it will be a piece of junk by the time he has enough money to pay for the calling plan. You saved him from himself.

  3. This is the kind of post that encourages me, kids are SO smart and us parents have to think out of the box to keep them on a good path…
    I love your consequences that you gave Sean… very fitting !
    What is an iphone… I hope my kids don’t knwo what one is … yikes…!

  4. When I got to the part about Sean giving AD all his pennies, it made me tear up a little bit. It is clear that you and AD are doing a great job raising him.

    I love that he is saving for an iPhone.

  5. Is there any greater reinforcement for a parent than having such a sweet and selfless child remember what meant much to you at their age? :wub: Great job with the payment, that’s what we do and it sort of works 😉 Attitude has been rampant here, too, and I applaud your lack of airing the laundry. You ROCK, as always. GL!

  6. Sometimes kids do things just because they are kids… and there doesn’t seem to be any better explanation than that.

    Yes they know better… but even adults who know better have a hard time not doing stupid stuff sometimes. At least Sean has the advantage of age… LOL

    * * *
    This is true. I’m all the evidence you need of that. ~AM

  7. How did you keep from laughing when he said “But I’m saving for an iphone”? Because it certainly cracked me up.

    Kids make mistakes. If they show remorse, it means they are learning. Sean showed remorse. Good job.

  8. Okay, this is a kid after my own heart. Culturally aware enough to know that iPhone hits the top of the cool scale, forward-thinking & disciplined enough to SAVE for one AND generous enough to share the meager remains of his money jar. I bow to your awesomeness for both creating and raising such a creature.

    The carpet thing? I bet it was the result of some fascinating combination of curiosity and creativity. Be interesting to find out and let us know sometime.

    Kudos for handling the whole thing so effectively.

  9. Aww! That brought tears to my eyes when he handed AD the pennies – so sweet. It is so nice to see our teachings getting through. And I seriously cracked up about him saving money for an iphone. My 9 year old asked me if he could ask Santa for a cell phone, and I told him absolutely not. Then he asked how much the monthly service would be, and I honestly don’t know how much it would cost to add a phone to our plan, so I guessed about $25 and then added, “And that would be a cheap one.” My son looked at me in astonishment, “Who ARE you?” he said, “Because MY mom would never say $25 a month was cheap!” I had to laugh, because though he didn’t understand what I was trying to say, he was quite right! (Although I would love to have a $25/month cell phone bill, but for me – not him!) Anyway, thanks for sharing!

  10. What a wonderful young man you have there. I like your parenting skills, and I agree that kids should be taught (not just told) how to be fiscally responsible.

  11. Great lessons! Though I also think of one of my favorite Calvin & Hobbes, where he was banging nails into the coffee table. His mom, of course, freaks and yells “What do you think you’re doing!!??”
    And he just has an empty bubble above his head, no clue.

    I can remember just idly, without thinking, doing some dumb stuff like that myself as a kid. Though it’s no excuse, you still have to take responsibility!

    * * *
    So true. The visual of the Calvin and Hobbs cartoon was spot on.

  12. I had about the exact same thing happen except the misdeed was different with my son. He crushed one of my husband’s contacts. He is 7, very “handsy”, and feels like he has to touch and explore everything. The first time it happened we thought somehow my husband had actually crushed it by accident. The same thing happened 3 weeks later after replacing the first contact for $100. My husband and I were talking about it thinking how could he have crushed a contact twice. My son fessed up then (I am proud that he did finally although delayed)that he just wanted to look at the contacts and then crushed it by accident. We took all his money as well except for the pennies to help “pay” for the twice broken contacts. I really wanted to make an impact on him, and even through the tears, I think it made more of an impact than punishment.

  13. That is so stinkin’ adorable?

    I’ve got a 2 year old girl, I think we’ve talked before about arranged marriages??? 🙂

  14. Yes, as a mother of great huge boys nearly as tall as myself I can confirm that THEY DO LISTEN. Even if at the time, they were rolling their eyes.

  15. Very good post! So far consequenses for misdeeds have been minor, but I’m not so cocky as to think that bigger things are not just around the corner. I’ve been worried lately that my 5 yr old has no concept of money and what I do to earn it. I’m a single mom and we live on a very tight budget so as of yet nothing has trickled down to her. Then on Halloween she received $50 from my former MIL. No I did not mis-type, $50 for Halloween! My daughter has been longing for one of those very expensive dolls that represent historical periods – you all probably know the ones. I told her that this money could be the start of her savings for that doll. Her response? “Can’t we just ask God for it? He might be faster.”

  16. What a cute kid and what a great mothering story! I think it makes such a difference when we allow ourselves time to pause and think of natural consequences in response to our children’s choices. So, put a star on your chart, AM:) Or buy some Bugles from the vending machine:)

  17. When my brothers were around 8, we had a rule: the car does not move until everyone is snug in their seatbelt. We worked by the honor system. We’d holler to the backseat, “Are you ready?” “Ready!” we heard from both the boys.

    So one day, after getting the ready scream from the backseat, we pulled out of their school parking lot, headed home. Only to be stopped by a motorcycle police officer that noticed that JK did not have on his seat belt. We got stopped and ticketed for a minor not wearing his seatbelt. Needless to say Mom was furious that not only did he NOT have his seatbelt on, but that he lied about it.

    His punishment: to pay for the $50 ticket. $50 to an 8 year old child was/is a major deal. JK cried about it for weeks. But let me tell you…BOTH those boys learned from that mistake and talked about it for years. From that lesson, they learned to be responsible for their actions AND to save money. They each had close to $5k saved by the time they left for college. And looking back, I really loved my Mom for actually making the punishment fit the crime. Becuase in adult life, that is exactly what would have happened…you pay for your mistakes.

    Today those two boys are married with children, are frugal with their money, responsible and loving Godly men, who adore their Momma who did right by them.

    AM, you have many good things to look forward to if that is what you’re doing with Sean. You’re a good Momma!

    * * *

    Thanks for the kind words MM. Lord willin’, maybe Sean will turn out to be a good man, inspite of my clumsy efforts at parenting.

  18. I LOVE that Sean’s actions had consequences. Too many times have I watched friends shrug off what their kid has done and it truely bothers me but not being the parent I have bitten my tongue on more than one occasion.
    How very cute that he gave his Dad his pennies.

  19. Thanks for sharing this story! I love the picture of you and Sean in the top corner – it’s beautiful.

  20. That sweet little boy just brought tears to my eyes. I don’t know what it did to you and AD but oh my, how tender and sweet.

  21. I laughed that he is saving for an iPhone. Just doesn’t seem like a typical “Sean” item, from what I read.

    Currently studying the (rather controversial) book “Shepherding A Child’s Heart,” and this struck me as a classic example of shaping influences (how you reacted to Sean’s misbehaving) vs. Godward orientation of the heart (how he responded in the circumstance because of his heart’s orientation toward God). Not that that’s what you were going for, but it just struck me that it tied to something else I am learning.

    * * *
    We read that book and found that our views were similarly aligned with the author’s.

    The “program” that we found worked best for us is Love and Logic which is centered around the idea of allowing the child to make as many mistakes as possible when young while the cost of a bad choice is low. The parent does not rescue or berate but sympathizes over the bad choice and resulting consequence. Which was great for me because I get tired of being the bad cop. Sean suffers a consequence because of what he did, not what I did.

    Behind the L&L theory is that the price of teen and young adult mistakes/bad choices is often extremely high — drugs, drunken driving, teen pregnancy, a screwed up life, if not life itself, so better they get lots of practice with choices and consequences early on.

    L&L has worked like a charm for us. So far. Stay tuned.

  22. Sounds like a perfect consequence to me. It’s always the hardest to think up the natural consequences, follow through on them and then also mourn with them. It’s a lot easier to yell and get it over with.

  23. Great job AM! What a thougthful boy to give his daddy his pennies. 🙂 Y’all are doing a great job from the things posted on here.

  24. Figuring out how to make the punishment fit the crime is often a very tough thing to do. Sounds like you nailed it!!! What a great lesson in respecting property. My daughter would have argued that it was her room and she could do what she wanted with it. Our argument is that it is our house and she is allowed to use the room in our house. When she grows up she can do what she wants in the house that she pays for!

  25. What a great kid Sean is!! I like the towel folding business idea, I think I’ll get someone in my house to start a sock folding business!!

    * * *
    Sean’s Towel Folding Inc. has worked out well for us. He’s learned how to fold towels properly (i.e., my way) and I’ve learned to not be so uptight if the towels are not folded perfectly symmetrical. But I only pay him for the towels that I find acceptable. Sometimes he has to go back and fix his work to keep the customer happy — no one wants to pay for shoddy work. I pay him a penny a towel/wash cloth/dish towel and two cents for a beach towel. I recently added in socks, also a penny a pair. He’s also practicing math since he has to figure out how much he has earned and request payment. He takes great pride in his work and it makes laundry a lot more fun!

  26. Loved the way you handled this, loved Sean’s sweet generosity with his remaining pennies, and loved the “Calvin and Hobbes” comment from Brigette. (I think it is too often true!)

    Reminds me of a time I was visiting my kids, and had my 8-year-old granddaughter with me when I stopped to pick up something from the grocery store. When Ashton spotted the Twinkies, strategically placed at kids’ eye level at the checkstand, she wanted to buy them with her birthday money. Doubting that mom would approve, I nixed the idea, until she explained. Her teacher had shared a few weeks previously that had grown up poor, and had scrounged in the garbage after school one day and found the one treat she had always craved and never had – a package of Twinkies. Ashton felt sad that her teacher had been Twinkie-deprived as a kid, and wanted to buy her some Twinkies, just because – and Grandma let her, ready to explain all to Mom. Mom just laughed and said that what Ashton didn’t realize was that her teacher was now a health-food junkie, and probably wouldn’t even eat the Twinkies – but Mom recognized her generous heart, and didn’t say anything to spoil it. And of course, neither did the teacher. I think my kids and you would probably see eye-to-eye on a lot of child rearing issues. Seems like you are both doing a pretty good job!

  27. My very favorite role model mom/friend had almost this same scenario and her reaction was almost exactly the same as yours. And though I hope that your carpet got clean, I must say her couch forever had a faint ballpoint smiley face on it…

    I love that he gave his Dad those pennies.

  28. I too am marveling at the way you handled this situation and also by Sean’s actions at the end of your story. Wow.
    And I love the way you tell a story.

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