I have a fourteen year old son who earns money by doing chores around the house. This week we had an agreement that he would clean out the garden shed and organ- ize the gardening equipment and other odds and ends. He completed the work and although he took a lot of time to get it done, I was satisfied with the job he did.
In the mean time however, I got a call from the school that he had skipped several classes. I haven’t paid him yet. He had asked that I pay him on the week- end as he wanted to be sure that he would have some money to spend with friends. I’m thinking that I shouldn’t pay him at all because of his truanting. My husband thinks I am wrong to with- hold the money, but I want to teach my son responsibility. What do you think?
I would say that one of the first aspects of responsibility is keeping one’s word. You and your son had an understanding and he has kept his part of the bargain. Skipping school has nothing to do with the agreement you had with him and punishing him by withholding his earnings means you are taking responsibility for his education. How does that teach him about accountability?
He has already demonstrated responsibility by completing the task and having the foresight to ask for payment to be delayed so that he can have it to spend later. Instead of focusing on what he has not done, build on what he has done. Denying him the agreed upon payment is arbitrary and unjust and you would never tolerate it from an employer. The qualities of responsibility are not different for children and adults, and though our children seldom hear what we say, they always see what we do.
The truancy is a separate issue and I suggest that you deal with it separately. Let him know the school called and pay him his earnings while acknowledging a job well done.
More importantly, examine what you mean by responsibility.
It is a word parents toss around without giving much thought to what it means and how they are demonstrating it. If all it means to you is having your son do what you have decided is best for him, you can look for- ward to a future spent with a son who never grows up or leaves home.