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Parenting is complex, to say the least.

As a parent, we want our kids to have everything.  I think in some way, it feels like a measure of how we are doing.

I know as a mom, I want my kids to feel good and have the things they need, and want.

On the other hand, I want to instill in my children a sense of gratitude, work ethic and the understanding that you don’t just get things, you have to work for them.

So what do we do when our plans to instill hard work and gratitude backfire on us?

To step onto my soapbox a little ( I have been doing that a lot lately!), I really feel that as a society, we have lost sight of the fact that children need to earn the things that they have.   We have gotten into the habit of just giving our children the things that they want without the expectation that they have to do anything for it.

A Toys "R" Us at Bridgepointe in San...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I see children with all the latest “toys”, I mean BIG toys.  Motorcycles, quads, bikes, trampolines, and toy rooms overflowing with more toys than they can even know what to do with.

My kids are no exception.

I too, have gotten caught up in wanting my children to have the things…

I have, however, tried to let find ways for them to earn the big things in hopes that I could teach them the lesson of hard work and gratitude.

Last night, I realized that our best-laid plan was a failure…

A year and a half ago, Brayden wanted golf clubs.  That is not a small investment for a 6 year old.

We explained to him that there are things we do around the house because we belong to the family, and then there are additional things that he could do to earn quarters.

Once he earned $50 worth of quarters, we would pay the rest and buy the clubs.

He worked for 6 months to earn the quarters and finally got the clubs.

The next thing was a motorcycle.  Brent had received a 50cc motorcycle from a family member and we let Brayden know that if he wanted it to be his, he would have to earn it.

Go Mom and Dad.


Then, when he earned his quarters, he decided he wanted legos instead.   Ok.

Maddox jumped on board and decided he was going to earn the 50, since his brother changed his mind.  And he is just about there now, 1 year later.

This all sounds good, I know.

But yesterday when Maddox was talking about wanting his own golf clubs, it all went downhill.

I suggested that Brayden sell Maddox his golf clubs (since he never uses them!).  Maddox would have to earn them and we could work out a way for him to pay us and Brayden an amount for the clubs.

Still sounds reasonable right?

It all fell apart when Brayden said ” Yeah, Maddox, I will sell you mine and just go get a new set”.


Looking at it with a closer lens, I also noted that there are a lot of days when I would offer to allow the boys to earn quarters and their response is ” nah, I don’t want to earn any right now” .

So they aren’t really earning the quarters and doing the work because they want more than anything to have the golf clubs or the motorcycle.  They are earning the quarters when they are in the mood, when it’s convenient, all the while knowing that they WILL get whatever they want eventually anyway.

This parenting stuff is so complicated!


basketball (Photo credit: gagilas)

The reality is this:

The boys would be absolutely happy just playing outside in the dirt, shooting hoops, or running around pretending to be pirates.  

I have to remember to keep that in mind.

How do you instill a great work ethic and gratitude in your children?