Joshua gave Jonathan cars he painted with whiteout. The only problem: they were Jonathan’s cars to begin with.

Joshua gave Jonathan cars he painted with whiteout. The only problem: they were Jonathan’s cars to begin with.

I had to bake six dozen cookies for the annual Airman Cookie Drive and at the time, my youngest two, Jonathan and Joshua were toddlers.  I decided to let them “help” me so I put on their aprons, washed their chubby hands and sat them on a stool so they could reach the countertop. Their “job” was to take the balls of sugar cookie dough and toss them in a gallon-sized bag of cinnamon sugar in order to make Snickerdoodles. Then they took the balls out of the bag and put them on a special place on the counter. They loved to “help” mama even though most of the sugar ended up on the counter and floor.  This simple activity also paved the way for a good work ethic in their future—one that will help them earn a living for their families one day.

My philosophy is that we should teach our children to help while they’re young so they will be of genuine help when they’re older.  Today, as young adults, both boys know how to create a pan of brownies, mix and frost a cake, make their own sandwiches for lunch and cook a three course meal. Both these boys, along with their older brothers and sister, have the same work ethic that helped them learn diligence and earned them full ride scholarships. This all started when they were toddlers helping mom cook and learning a good work ethic. As the school year is well underway, it is always a good time to be teaching the kids lessons at home, as well.

Your child’s basic work ethic could be expanded into many different areas. Here’s an abbreviated chart that can help you get started, for a free expanded edition, just email and request “Fiscal Fitness for Kids.”:

Age 2 to 4

  • Picks up toys cheerfully
  • Is on a schedule for sleep, play, and work (or school)

Age 4 to 6

  • Makes bed in a basic way (not necessarily neat)
  • Picks up room regularly
  • Brings clothes to hamper
  • Knows how to set and clear the table
  • Knows how to take out the trash

Ages 7 to 10

  • Knows how to sort laundry into whites, coloreds and darks
  • Can fold laundry and put it in everyone’s room
  • Is given an allowance
  • Has a savings account at home and at a bank
  • Manages a fun kid budget (restaurant, zoo, amusement park, etc)

Ages 11 to 12

  • Begins to do additional “jobs” for hire within the home and occasionally for friends or family.
  • Has a savings account with at least $200 to $250 in it.
  • Is learning the meaning of delayed gratification
  • Can save up for half of a larger ticket item they want (bike, skates, video game, etc)
  • Is regularly contributing to a community organization either through volunteer hours or donating goods (clothing, toys, money)

Ages 13 to 15

  • Can manage and balance their own checkbook with supervision
  • Has enough in savings to take out $200 to $300 to start a mutual fund
  • Is able to do outside jobs for hire among approved “employers” in the neighborhood
  • Regularly pays for <non-family> outings (movies, theme parks, etc)
  • Is saving for a vehicle
  • Is aware of the fact their grades in high school will impact their ability to get into college and earn scholarships for college

Age 16 to 20

  • Can balance a checkbook without supervision
  • Has an additional credit card (on parents account) and can use it responsibly
  • Can manage and balance a clothing budget and personal financial budget
  • Regularly works inside and outside of the home during breaks from school
  • Has paid for 1/3 to 1/2 of the cost of their car
  • Maintains a good GPA (or what they are capable of)
  • Has a regular volunteer position (hospital, coaching, church involvement, etc)
  • Can use social media to learn ways to save money


Keep in mind that even though it “costs” you now, in terms of time, energy and attention, it can pay huge dividends later when they are earning their own way and know the value of a buck.

©2016-2020 Ellie Kay


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