Posts Tagged ‘Economy’

7 Rules for Raising Kids: Economist

November 4, 2012

Plenty of so-called experts have documented their rules for raising kids. Most of these lists are just common sense, some are controversial and a few are just plain loopy.

But how often do economists chime in with some rules of their own?

Rule 1: Limit Their Options

We don’t offer a weekly allowance. If our kids want anything beyond basics, they have to earn the money. Make sure to set firm limits on TV watching and keep just one small-screen TV in the house (which discourages the adults from watching, too). And impose tight restrictions on silly video/computer games.

Rule 2: Economic Incentives — Offer Plenty of Jobs

Teach kids chores at an early age and pay them reasonable rates. For us, the seemingly endless loads of dishes — about three every day — became the main chore. Even small children can handle dishwasher take-out loads, at least if you first remove the sharp knives and use plastic glasses. And to them, it is a new learning experience. 

Not tall enough? Just have a sturdy stepping stool and allow them to climb up on the counter to reach most shelves. If they still cannot reach safely, let them stack dishes neatly on the counter.

Seasonal outdoor job have included weeding (a great chore for anyone old enough to enjoy digging with a plastic shovel.) Explain why the root of the dandelion and plantain weed has to be dug up. Ten cents can be reasonable per weed, with extra bonus for big roots. Soon enough they learn not just biology but counting, too, as they see how much more they need in order to afford that toy at the store.

If you live near a town center, older children can be offered work running errands — buying a few items at the corner grocery store, picking up the Chinese food or taking a package to the post office.

Rule 3: Bidding/Auctions

For that run-of-the-mill dishwasher job, we typically had a set price — somewhere between $1 and $1.50 per load — on a come-first basis for getting the job. But at times, there were suddenly many kids competing for the dishwasher job. What to do? Economics offers a good solution: bidding, where the kids put in lower and lower bids for the job, ending when nobody wanted to go below the latest bid.

And if nobody wanted to take out the dishes, the remuneration offered would go higher and higher until there was a taker. But the pay never reached ridiculously high levels, for at some point the dishes would just sit around for a bit longer or a parent would do it. (Perhaps surprisingly, there never appeared to be any collusion among the children to try to get the pay up.)

Rule 4: Encourage Your Kids to Come Up with Ideas

Let them use their own imagination of what they can handle and what might be needed for the household. This works especially well with older kids, who might suggest steam cleaning, window washing or an indoor or outdoor paint job.

On one occasion, I remember the project turned out to be an adventure of sorts. It all started with a contractor bid on some various tree work, including a medium-sized tree to be cut down for the sum of $100. The two oldest boys, in their teens, got the bright idea of proposing to do the work themselves at the same price, using our simple hand saw and ladder. Indeed they did, toiling away some fifteen hours or so between themselves but seemed to have lots of fun in the process.

Rule 5: Respect for Property Rights

The family provides basic family games that anybody can use — chess, Monopoly etc. Beyond that, games and toys are viewed as a luxury and can be accumulated by saving up and buying them or maybe receiving them as gifts one day. However, there naturally arises an asymmetry where the older ones possess much more than the younger ones.

Should the oldest be obligated to share with multiple little siblings, or should the younger ones have to wait until they have saved up to buy their own? Some people might argue that, out of fairness, the older child should share his ample possessions. But if he had to work hard, doing dishwasher loads etc. to buy himself the games, is it really so fair that his siblings would share in the fruits of his labor?

The solution? The budding entrepreneurs figured this one out by themselves: a fee for rental.

Parental monitoring might needed if siblings are a bit too young to understand exactly how much they are charged. The fee can be translated into something easy to comprehend, such as the equivalent of dishwasher loads or weeds pulled.

Actually, there are even more benefits to allowing the pay-to-play setup. Expecting a possible rental market with younger siblings, older ones figured they could recoup some of the purchase price for a new game, possibly even making a profit. That made them consider the tastes of their siblings — i.e. potential customers — when considering investing in new games.

And it went even beyond than that in creativity. Our oldest son even conjured up elaborate board games of his very own, with his younger siblings liking them enough to pay to play.

Property rights also mean you are free to sell off a game or toy to a sibling, as long as the buyer fully understands the consequences of the deal.

Rule 6: The Importance of Long-term Contracts

I confess, it was tempting to hold the seven-year-old to his promise made a year earlier that if he could have a younger sibling, he would change the diapers. Alas, they do have to be a bit older to enter into detailed, long-term contracts.

The twelve-year old wanting cats, however, presented itself with a perfect situation for drawn-out contract negotiations. In the end, we committed to pay the financial expenses but he would perform all the routine care. And we were to care for the cats during college while he would take the cats with him wherever he went after college.

Rule 7: Justice: You Do Bad things, You Suffer in the Pocket Book 

Most families seem to practice “time-out” as punishment. But that requires considerable monitoring and fails to give restitution to the victim. And holding long moral lectures is boring, both for the parent and the child.

Imposing fines instead worked very well. Most cases were trivial and routine. Such a minor offense as saying “bad words” resulted in a quick judgement of a small fine to the household.

A few cases though called for a full hearing in “Mom’s Court,” with plaintiff, defendant and possible witnesses. Hit your sibling, and you end up paying a hefty fine for inflicting suffering.

When fights involved only the younger ones, the responsibility for being judge was sometimes delegated to the oldest child, with some limited right to appeals.

So over the years, all these ways have evolved naturally. We’d like to believe it has contributed not just to make the household run a bit easier but also to instill some work ethic and develop a sense of taking initiative. We never had any talk about “self-esteem” or other psycho-babble, but think the children naturally gained self-esteem from learning how to do tasks, even if menial, and see how it helped out the household.

Click on the link to read Hilarious Parenting Checklist

Click on the link to read Hilarious Video of Twin Toddlers Sleeping at the Table

Click on the link to read Dad’s Letter to 13-Year Old Son after Discovering he had been Downloading from Porn Sites

Click on the link to read Potty Training at a Restaurant Table!

Click on the link to read Mother Shaves Numbers Into Quadruplets Heads So People Can Tell Them Apart

Click on the link to read A Joke at the Expense of Your Own Child

Introducing Late Night Childcare

March 11, 2012

I feel great sympathy for parents working two jobs and unsociable hours in order to feed and clothe their children. I would not want the opinion below to be taken as a criticism of working parents. I believe that parents who work hard to give their children what they need are inspiring.

But as much as I sympathise with late working parents, the idea of late night childcare doesn’t respond to me. I can’t see such a concept working in favour of child or parent.

Happy Faces, in the Brentwood area of Northeast Washington, might be playground zero in a snapshot of a still-languishing economy and the changing realities of the American workplace. Two years ago, five children needed “day care” past 6 p.m. on weekdays. Now there are often 25. Last week, an anxious parent called about needing regular care for a child until 2 a.m.

At 4 p.m. one recent day, staffers escorted little feet to a dining area for dinner, while men in steel-toe boots clomped out of the strip-mall storefront carrying their kids, who had arrived before sunrise. The place sounds like an amusement park and smells like applesauce.

“Leaving your kids here is one of the hardest parts of being a single parent,” said Teresa Williams, 37. She cobbles together hotel clerk shifts and takes classes at Strayer University to provide for Jaylen, her 4-year-old son.

“But nowadays, you have to take the work when you can get it; you have to go to school,” Williams said. “This was the only place I could find that would take my son.”

Happy families give me a great sense of satisfaction. I like to observe happy families interact. My worry is that whilst childcare is necessary, it shouldn’t become a childs’ home. I am concerned that the birth of the 24 hour childcare service will coincide with the death of quality family time.

I’m Glad I’m a Teacher and Not a Parking Inspector

October 31, 2011

Today I was fined by a parking officer for parking in a permit zone. I had only left my car for a few minutes, and clearly that’s all it takes.

On my way back from the shops I noticed a parking inspector processing a ticket by my car. I asked him what I did wrong. I pointed out the 1 hour parking sign. He pointed to another small sign among others that notified those with good eyesight that the spot was a permit zone on weekends but fine during the week.

I told him that I was only gone for a second and that I had made an innocent mistake. He didn’t pay attention. My daughter cried sensing something was wrong and becoming unsettled by the man’s presence. The man ignored her and kept on typing.

$75 – that’s what the tiny mistake cost me!

I realise that the man was doing his job. He probably has a wife and family to take care of and bills to pay. I don’t blame him for his actions or diminish his right to take on this job.

But ultimately, I’m so glad that I am a teacher and not a parking officer.

Parking officers serve no real value to the community. They are employed by council workers who should have enough revenue to waste through our overpriced rates. But no, through parking infringements, they have another steam of revenue they can waste in good measure.

Nobody is glad to see a parking inspector walking around. Nobody goes to lengths to welcome them or engage in small talk. Their job is to prey on people’s mistake and slug for an inordinate amount of money.

Teaching can be so much more than that. We can represent all that’s positive about this world. We can be mentors and role models. We can help children grow to reach their potential.

Unfortunately, we can also do a lot of damage. If we are not good at our job or our heart isn’t in it, we can be the manifestation of what is wrong with this world.

That’s the great challenge for teachers. To be the polar opposite of a parking inspector.

Sometimes Reports Into Education = Good Toilet Paper

December 5, 2010

I am sick of these “doom and gloom” reports into education that pretend to represent children from disadvantaged backgrounds, but instead put them down with cold disregard.

There is no better recent example of this than a  report, entitled “The Foundation Years: Preventing Poor Children Becoming Poor Adults,” by Labour MP and new “Poverty Czar” Frank Field.  According to the report, success in life is determined by the age of 5.  Beyond the age of 5, kids don’t have much say in whether or not they will make a success out of life.

By the age of five, a huge gulf already exists between the abilities of pupils from comfortable and disadvantaged backgrounds.

Research shows “we can predict at three and at five who will be unemployed, who will struggle to get a low paid job,” Mr Field said to the BBC.

Sally Copley, UK head of policy for Save the Children, said it should not have to be a choice between improving services and boosting the income of the worst-off families.  “By the time many children walk through the school gates for the first time, it’s too late for them.”

I don’t know where to start.  Perhaps by making some points on the term “success”.

1.  Mr Field defines success by how much a person earns (as well as whether or not they have employments at all).  In my view, a persons earnings, whilst not irrelevant, is not a complete reflection of a persons success.  Are they good people?  Do they follow the laws of society?  Are they good parents?  Do they treat others fairly?  Do they have integrity?  Using this criteria, lowly paid people can be far more ‘successful” than wealthy people.

2.  This leads me to an important gripe I have with the messages society seems to proliferate.  What job we do has no bearing on a persons success.  A taxi cab driver might not sound like a successful profession on face value.  But that same taxi driver has a crucial role to play.  They help the disabled and the aged, are crucial in keeping intoxicated people off the roads and protect vulnerable people from walking the streets and taking the trains late at night.  A house painter may seem like an ordinary profession, but have you ever looked at the difference a bright, well-painted room makes to a persons mood and outlook?  All jobs have a critical role to play in making life more enjoyable regardless of the pay involved.

3.  As a teacher, I don’t spend any time looking into the socio-economic background of my students.  I also don’t tend to get obsessed over rating the parents.  I feel very confident in my ability to assist all types of students from all types of backgrounds in becoming successful citizens and productive members of society.  I feel that my students have the potential to become every bit as successful as Mr. Field himself!  Mr. Field should not confuse, as he seems to be doing, the quality of a childs academic achievements with the quality of parenting that child is receiving.  There are many parents who aren’t able to spend sufficient time helping their kids with their schoolwork because they are working long hours to simply put food on the table.  In today’s world, we have to appreciate that all too many parents sacrifice what others take for granted for nothing more than to provide for their families.

What Mr. Field has done, for all his good intentions, is needlessly narrow the definition of success, outrage taxpayers for funding students when “it’s too late for them” anyway and provide an extraordinarily negative message to people from low socio-economic backgrounds.

Mr. Field, thank you.  This world can never have enough toilet paper!

Educating Teens About Money

December 2, 2010

At a time when the importance of saving money has arguably never been greater, I am pleased to see a new program with the aim of getting teenagers to becoming more financially savvy. It’s high time that teenagers were prepared for the realities of financial responsibility, were informed of the risks of charging on credit and instructed to spend less than one earns.

FoolProof, a consumer education agency dedicated to increasing financial literacy through the use of multi-media learning modules, has released a new video series Burning Money.

While the free program is designed for use in classrooms, the series strives to tackle teenage financial issues like the twin forces of pointed advertising and peer pressure. This video addresses how much a teenager actually needs to buy designer jeans.

Burning Money tries to introduce students to the potential bad decisions that they make which may hurt their financial health further down the line. The films explain how a late payment now can adversely affect jobs, apartments, and loans in the future. The videos emphasize that it doesn’t take a millionaire to save, just someone who knows how to spend and how to save.

I remember standing behind a woman in a fish shop, eavesdropping on her conversation with the lady at the checkout.  She explained that she teaches adults how to keep control of their finances.  She went on to say that she is currently lobbying for the “savings” account option on eftpos and atm machines to be changed to “spending” account.  Because after all she said, “It isn’t a true savings account if you are constantly taking money out of it.”

As a teacher of nine and ten year olds, this program is too advanced for them.  Instead, I teach them a unit on being aware of the manipulation involved in the advertisements they watch, and helping them to identify when and how they are being used as a tool of the marketing industry.

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