How I’ve embraced cheap child labor



Oh that glorious moment when you realize your children are finally old enough to really help around the house…



Our sons are lucky enough to have a large extended family, many of whom happen to live close by. This is great when the hubby and I have found ourselves in need of a babysitter, but can be expensive during the birthday and holiday season. Especially as most of the cousins are now old enough to understand the concept of presents and note their lacking. As there are several of them, birthday season now spans from July until February.


Up until very recently our eldest son (now aged 5) had been paralyzed by shyness in social situations preferring to cling to either his father or I during non-family hosted parties. Whatever had been holding him back was suddenly switched off. This change has resulted in him being invited to more birthday parties, meaning more gifts.


My husband, ever our family’s jokester informed our son that he was going to have to give his friend one of the toys he received from Christmas in response to one of his latest invitations. Our son looked at me as if to say “HELP! Dad can’t be serious!” I decided to play along with his father offering our son a deal: If he could complete enough chores to earn ten points by the end of the week, he would be able to keep his gifts and pick out something for his friend.


kindergartener supervising infant labor - _MG_1339
kindergartener supervising infant labor – _MG_1339 (Photo credit: sean dreilinger)


We drew up one of those fundraising thermometer graphs marking all ten points needed to fill it to the top. He quickly embraced the idea doing all sorts of chores around the house like emptying out the dishwasher and dragging the garbage cans back to the house, but was still sort a few points short and losing interest in the game by the end of the week. We had to think up something and think up something fast!


Then my husband had an idea. A brilliant idea. The kiddo could scrub toilets! I just had to show him how much fun it could be. You would have thought we just gave him the keys to the city! Not only was he being given some crazy blue substance that squirted out of a bottle, but Mom and Dad were actually happy he was pouring it all over the sides. If that wasn’t the best part there was a secret brush that was just his size hidden in the back corner of the bathroom.


What started out as a joke turned into a fantastic experience for us all. The hubby and I probably earned a free hour or so in the process, but the benefits to our son were even greater. He worked hard for his points and was more excited to give his friend the gift he had earned and selected than had I just picked something out. He also was able to practice math, and took pride in his results. If he figures out how to outsource work to his little brother, we may well have another budding entrepreneur in the family.


Unfortunately ever since our game, our son has taken over the bathrooms as if they were his own personal fiefdom. Woe on you if you happen to leave it in a state of mess. He will make sure to tell everyone he knows how badly you left it and how important it is that he take care of it right away. We might consider working with him on tact next.




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