I couldn’t have been more proud as a Daddy than this moment right here;
Obviously, there is a story to this picture. About five weeks ago, my wife and I began teaching our four-year old son, Ethan, principles of finance via a “commission” plan. Every day he was responsible to complete four chores; make his bed, set the table, put away his toys, and throw away the trash. For each completed chore, he received $0.25, or a $1 total per day in ‘commissions’. Gone was the concept of allowance which we felt could breed a sense of entitlement, even at this age. With commissions, you get what you earn. On top of the earned commission, he was also subject to “fines” of $0.25/occurrence if he misbehaved or threw his toys. He had been telling us that he wanted a Lego Zurg which is a character from Toy Story which had a cost of about $28. So, if he was perfect, he would earn enough to earn his prize in four weeks.
After seven days, Ethan was doing very well. He had earned $6.75 in commission but had also incurred a couple of fines for throwing toys. So, with $6.25 to his name, he was a very happy little guy.
It was funny because a teaching moment occurred when he saw another little toy that he liked. It only cost about $4 or 5 and I told him that he was free to buy it but that only meant that it was going to take longer to buy his Lego Zurg. He decided against it because the Lego Zurg was his goal! Nice! Instant gratification averted, but I was still praying that this was a principle that was being burned into his value system.
Well, Ethan did really well with this commission plan. Every Sunday evening, I got such a kick when Ethan would look for me in the house only to say, “Daddy, I want to get paid”. I was proud every week as the principles of saving, delayed gratification, and the value of money were being absorbed. One time, as he ate a McDonald’s happy meal, he got distracted by whatever was on TV. He wanted to leave his hamburger after only two bites. I explained to him that I had spent money to pay for his Happy Meal and asked if he was going to pay me for what he didn’t eat! He jumped back in his chair and finished his meal. Was this manipulation? Not at all. I was trying to teach him the value of money and I think that was was catching a little of the concept.
After five weeks, he had earned $34. Part of this was a $5 gift from his great-grandmother, but it didn’t matter because Ethan was learning some valuable lessons. He was very excited on pay day last night. Today, at his grandparents’ home, he emptied out the piggy bank and counted his money.
After saying good-bye to all the family, we made our way to the mall. As we exited from the car, Ethan was about to burst he was so excited. I was careful to set some expectations that the toy may not be at the store and, if so, we were going to have to order it online which meant a little delay. I said this a couple of times praying that the toy would be there.
Well, here is what we found;
Ethan, was ecstatic! He kept repeating, “See Daddy, I was right! It is here!” My wife was laughing at me saying that I was going to make a big ceremony out of this simple purchase! “You got that right”, to me this was a big deal and I was going to chronicle it!
Ethan took his toy and waited in line. When it was his turn, he placed the toy on the counter and waited to pay. He took out $27.25 and handed it to the cashier.
It was apparent that she didn’t appreciate how momentous this occasion was for the both of us, and she was distracted as she was being relieved for break. It didn’t matter to Ethan or I. Ethan grabbed his Lego bag and we headed for home. Of course, I had him stop for one more picture!
When we arrived at home, we started right away on building the toy. Of course, my help was NOT needed because Ethan is a great builder. He especially didn’t need the assistance of his two-year old bother. After one hour, the Lego Zurg was completed and free to fire his fire balls! I have never seen Ethan so excited. He even had me put on the “Toy Story 2” DVD to honor the occasion.
I tried to explain that I was very proud of him because he worked very hard and learned to wait until he had all his money. I told him that it is very easy to want things right away, but it is more fun when we can save for it and buy it ourselves. I don’t think Ethan really understands how proud I am about this occasion. I don’t think that he truly understands the principle that I am trying to teach him, but its a start, and I am okay with that. Still, it is my proudest Daddy moment so far!
Now, on to the GIVING lesson!
Ethan’s Dad and Financier, Steve