Why our kids buy their own clothes (and do their laundry)
When I was growing up, my parents really didn’t have enough money to buy school clothes for my siblings and I. My grandparents lived about a mile down the road, and thankfully, they invested heavily in my childhood, both with time and money.
My grandparents could have done what a lot of grandparents do: spoil their grandkids. They could have just bought clothes for us. But, they didn’t.
Instead, every summer, we worked. Most weekdays from the time I was in elementary school, from about 8 am to 11 am, my mom would drop me off at my grandparents on her way to work. I would weed the side hill in their yard that was filled with Bermuda grass. I would dust every nook and cranny of the house. I would pick the sticky plums off the driveway. I would read out loud to my grandma. I would clean the baseboards and behind the fridge with a yardstick covered with a cloth. I would wash windows and clean counters and organize cupboards. Whatever my grandma could find to keep me busy, that’s what I would do.
It started with a time card
My grandma would keep a time card, and note each day how many hours I had worked. I didn’t get paid until the end of the summer, though. All of the money I earned had to be used for school clothes. Not toys. Not candy. Clothes. She paid me fairly, whatever the minimum wage was at that time (I believe by the time I graduated high school, it was $4.25 an hour).
As a kid, I definitely didn’t enjoy it. As a matter of fact, I hated Bermuda grass with a passion. I still do to this day. But having to work for my own clothes since elementary school taught me that nothing comes free in life. If I wanted something, I needed to be willing to work for it. I never expected handouts, and appreciated pretty much everything I received.
Superman had to buy his own clothes starting at the age of 12. He would use his birthday and Christmas money and buy what he needed. He mowed his grandparents’ lawn and did odd jobs around the house. Just look at the handsome stud on the left in his eighth grade graduation photo:
And so, we are keeping the tradition alive with our kids.
I have to admit, there was (and still is) a piece of me that doesn’t want to make my kids have to work like I did. I want better for our kids. I want them to have a simpler life. We can afford to buy them clothes, but we’re choosing to make them work for them. Sometimes I feel bad. Even though I know a free pass leads to an entitled attitude, there’s just something about giving your kids things that you didn’t have growing up. It’s fulfilling as a parent. But it’s a bit selfish for me to want to “fill” that little piece of my soul while denying my kids something that I grew to appreciate later in life: work ethic.
So, once our kids reach 12 years old, they have to start buying their own clothes. Actually, our youngest son has started to be responsible for buying his own clothes even though he’s just 11. Wanna know why? Because I was so sick and tired of finding his clothes laying all over our property. He was constantly leaving perfectly good shirts out near our pond, or in the dirt somewhere behind our house. Living on 10 acres means there are a lot of areas clothes can be left and forgotten. I told him I wasn’t going to buy him clothes anymore since he is not appreciative of the time and money spent on them. So now, he buys his own clothes.
And not only that, but our kids do their own laundry.
Our youngest daughter is seven, and even she is doing laundry now. It started with just washing bedding. But now, each of our kids has a laundry basket, and a schedule for washing their clothes:
Tuesday: Girls (am), Josh
Friday: Girls (am), Josh
Saturday: Bedding (girls), Caleb
If they miss their day, then they have to wait until their next turn.
I gotta tell ya, my world became a much simpler place when my boys started buying their own clothes and being responsible for taking care of them. If I see their stuff lying out on our property, I don’t care. I’m not buying their clothes, after all. If they forget about their stuff, the best way they’re going to learn is to have to deal with the natural consequences of their actions.
Each of our kids is different.
Our oldest son is naturally self-driven. He had his money saved and tucked away for months before he needed to buy any clothes. Our 2nd son, however, is completely the opposite. He spent all his Christmas money. He spent all his birthday money. And no matter how many times we gently reminded him that he would be buying his school clothes come fall, he just kept saying, “I’ll have the money when I need it!” Well…the end of summer came around, and he realized he was in a pickle. None of his clothes fit him (puberty, anyone??) and school was just around the corner. He had hours and hours and hours of work to do in order to earn enough just for a few pairs of shorts and a few shirts. And that kid has expensive taste.
Our oldest shops deals. He finds coupons and waits for something to be on clearance before he buys it. Our 2nd son has never cared about price, and has always picked the most expensive shoes and clothes. Until now. Now, he cares how much something costs and prefers using shoe sole glue instead of buying a new pair. He wants to get the most bang for his buck. He even asked me to find a coupon for him when he went shopping!
What I’ve noticed more than anything is that our kids are actually starting to take some pride in what they own. They are taking better care of their things because they know they are the ones who will be expected to pay for them when they get ruined. And that’s a good thing.
You may be wondering how our kids earn money at such a young age.
Stay tuned for my next post on ways that our kids earn money. Some are conventional, some not so much.
So, what do you think? Are we mean parents for making our kids buy their own clothes? Am I permanently scarring them? Or do you agree with our approach?