How to Get a Child to Understand the Value of Things


How do you go about your child working off a debt?

Our 6-year-old has an old iPhone that he uses like an iPod. it basically only has music on it (and he loves music). He changed the passcode, forgot it, and we had to get it fixed, costing $30. I want him to understand the value of that $30, so I told him for every chore he helps me with, it's $1 off the amount. Every time he puts away clothes, or unloads the dishwasher, or cleans a mirror with Windex, it's worth $1 each task. He's proud of the "work" and is getting closer to getting his "Music Phone" back, but my husband and I also think chores are a way of life and he shouldn't be "rewarded" for it. How else can we get him to understand the value of paying for what he's broken? We don't really do an allowance or even regular chores, which is a problem, but I want him to be more helpful around the house. Thank you.


Hello, and thank you for your question. There are a few aspects of your situation that I'd like to address.

First and most importantly, your son needs to have regular chores for which you hold him accountable. If you search this site for "Chores" you'll find lots of resources and recommendations to help you develop a plan that will work best for your family. Now that you have witnessed his ability to help around the house, assign him one daily and one weekly household chore. As he's working off his $30 debt, determine which chores are best suited to his current abilities and will be done as instructed. Give him a few choices as to the tasks that he'll be responsible for and teach him exactly how to do them to your standards.

As for his "music phone" I recommend you don't give it back without some definite rules. First, you set the passcode, not your 6-year-old. Disable internet access so the only possible thing he can use it for is to listen to parent-approved content that's already downloaded on the device. You've already spent the money to have it operable again, but if there's another child-driven malfunction, be sure your son knows that he will not be getting it back. Ever.

The best way to teach children the value of a dollar is to give them ways to earn. donate, save and spend those dollars. Another search on this site of "Allowances" will take you to lots of advice on how to implement a system that will give your son real world money experience and help you raise a fiscally responsible person. It's an admirable goal.

Wendy Faucett
Certified Leadership Parenting Coach

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