I can not even begin to express the freakish reality that is being a mom of teenage boys! Plural! I have two teenage boys (a 7 year old daughter and an almost 2 year old son). My mother always used the “just wait until you have a daughter and she becomes a teenager…” although I still get to experience that in 6 short years… I’m not sure having boys is any easier. Between the locker-room-stench that wafts out of their bedroom to the constant tornado of crap they leave on every chair, step and hallway floor, there have been days I’ve seriously considered pimping them out to the first person needing manual labor within walking distance of our house. It is unreal the number of times I’ve had to give instructions on washing their hands when they come in the house, do their chores before they even think of touching that game console, brush their teeth before they go to bed…. It’s like they turn 13 and they loose any sense of memory or ability to hear!
My oldest turned 15 this year and is in his freshmen year of high school. Like most kids his age he has started to talk about driving and “when I get my license….” Fill in the blank with anything that costs money… of which he has none and presumes it’s going to just appear in his hand from my purse… and his little brother isn’t far behind him. When they were going into middle school my husband and I had decided we wanted them to have as much real-life world-view experience as possible. We wanted to find a school that would help them grow academically as well as in character and vision for their own future. As the middle school years have faded by so quickly we started to realize the gap between what the school had claimed they would do for our kids and where they are now. In short we fell into the age-old put the weight on the school and not the household ideal. Not on purpose of course but we were so confident in what they had promised and were so blown away by our first visits there that we just left it all in their incapable hands. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a very involved parent, however I got so sucked into checking grades that I had failed to check goals. I was shocked to hear my 9th grader say he had no ideas for his future. Not one. Supposedly by this year in school they would have spent so much time helping our boy figure that out through job shadows, internships, counseling and advisory classes that they were expected to be able to take some classes specifically designed to give them college credit in their field of choice. He didn’t even have a handful of possible options. Nothing.
This was when I got the brilliant idea to solve their problems AND mine. They got home from school that day and I informed them that they had a project to do. (Grumbling, sighing, eye-rolling… you name it… they dished it) I had 2 lists of 10 questions and told them that we would be doing this at the end of each semester. The first question: Name a job/career that you can see yourself doing. The first list was light and easy to answer. Questions like does it require a degree? How many years does it take to get that degree? What kind of school would you need to attend after high school? How much does it cost to go to said school and how many years will it take to get the degree? What are the requirements to get accepted by said school? I was trying to draw a line between their performance now and their place in the adult working world. The second list was intended to put their dreams on paper. What kind of house do you see yourself living in? What kind of car do you see yourself driving? Do you see yourself married? Having children? Going on vacations? How much do these things cost? I actually had them looking up car prices online and cold calling insurance companies to ask for a quote. Let me tell you there were some seriously hilarious moments through out this process!! Watching my 13 year old’s face as the insurance salesman put him on hold for the third time and then giving him a quote that was just as expensive as the car he chose and I hear him say “Excuse me? How much? Per month??” This created a sense of value to the money they thought would just grow up out of the ground to give them a car with insurance and gas when they turned 16… it got them thinking about what it actually takes to earn the money it would require to support the lifestyle they want now and the one they want for their future. Then…. I informed them of two recent job openings that they both qualified for. Their faces lit up and finally I was seeing some light bulbs come on. I asked them if they were interested and I got very enthusiastic “yeah!” Good. I told them the requirements for the job and the compensation details were listed on the refrigerator and if they ended up deciding they wanted to apply, they would need to turn in letters of intent. I instructed them to take some time to really consider what they would be committing to before writing their letters.
Do your chores immediately when you get home from school (they alternate weekly dishes and trash collection/removal)
Do your “big job” on Friday before you ask to go anywhere or do anything (they alternate floors and bathrooms)
No missing or late assignments in any class
Make your bed before you leave for school
Turn in your phones and school planners by 8PM to the collection basket
Planners must be complete with teacher initials
3 Weekly goals in your planner every Sunday
Devotional Journal every morning
You will start the week with $15
For each task not completed each day I will deduct 50 cents
This means that at the end of the week if you have done nothing you will pay me as I will have had to do your job for you
You must tithe 10% and save 10%
There will be no reminders. No requests. No “will you please”
I will not nag to have things done anymore.
If you want to get paid you will have to be responsible for getting your work done.
I created a spreadsheet and we keep it in a binder in the collection basket, which sits on the kitchen counter, with their devotional journals in it as well. This makes it easy after they go to bed to look over everything and check off what has been done for the day, and easy for them to check and see how much money they are earning. It was a bit of a rough start with some begging and “Wait I did too do that” I would refer back to the list of requirements and point out a detail they had missed and it would end with some sulking… but they eventually figured out that I wasn’t giving out any free passes. They weren’t going to muscle me into letting them cheat (on the job or on themselves). One morning the oldest woke up late and didn’t have time to make his bed or do devotions…”but I woke up late”…. I explained that even grown ups wake up late sometimes… but that doesn’t excuse us from doing our jobs… I would be missing a client if my alarm didn’t go off. I lose money when I get to work late and so does he. So many good lessons have come out of this structure! It’s not always perfect and there are weeks that get so crazy busy with sports or work that things fall off but we keep coming back to it and I’m always so relieved when we do! It takes the weight off my shoulders to be the sole housekeeper and task manager. As with everything, each household is different. I’d love to know how you implement this into your house and how it works for you!