R was waiting with his dad and T for me to finish shopping for some shoes a few weeks ago. They wandered into a video game store, where R played "the most awesome game ever!" He asked if he could use his own money to buy the game. After all, he told us, he had eight five dollars in his piggy bank. (I know, it's hard to believe that all of that birthday, Christmas, and other random holiday dollars add up to so much.)
M and I talked about it and decided that he could use half of his own money and he could earn the other half by helping out around the house. He was a tad bit disappointed at first, but then quickly warmed up to the idea. We also told him that in order to earn any money, he had to do the assigned job with a great attitude. He enthusiastically said, "sure, no problem!"
I must say that the next day was a blast -- he'd do anything that we said, and with a happy attitude. His video game will cost $30, so he needed to earn fifteen bucks. That first weekend, he earned three dollars and was thrilled -- "only twelve dollars more to go." He's been helping to clean out the toys in the basement to get ready for the neighborhood garage sale this weekend, he's cleaned the bathrooms, mopped the kitchen floor, vacumed a few times, weeded the garden. We don't tell him how much a job is worth, but award him what we think is appropriate based on the difficulty of the job, his attitude, and how good of a job he does. He doesn't always get paid: for example, today he was supposed to pick up sticks in the back yard before M mowed the lawn. It's a tough job because there are hundreds of sticks after the wind storm we had over the weekend. He didn't even get half of them picked up before he gave up and "got distracted, dad." So, he didn't get the money. What's great is that he understands that. I asked him how his day was and he said that it was good. "I earned two more dollars for cleaning the two bathrooms, folding the towels and putting them away, and helping dad move the furniture back in the living room. But, I didn't get anything for picking up the sticks because I didn't do a good enough job."
He's now only "a buck and a half" away from his goal. He thinks he can get there by this weekend. I think he can too.