What to do When Grandchildren Keep Asking for Money

Sep 23, 2022 by

What to do When Grandchildren Keep Asking for Money

by Joseph Heirling

We jumped into it feet first. Yes, we’re talking about myself and my wife, Grandma, adopting a sibling group of three young grandchildren ages 5, 7 and 9. Our three young grandkids came to us undisciplined, malnourished, needy, wanting, starving for attention, and above all — constantly asking for money and other things that they desperately wanted. It was heart-wrenching.

Their constant asking wasn’t unexpected. The young siblings had never received anything from anybody. They had essentially been “orphans” in their parents’ home. The parental neglect had been that severe.

It’s a common occurrence in society today: Out of simple loving-kindness and compassion, millions of Grandparents have been inadvertently drawn into their grandchildren’s lives as permanent caretakers.

How were we going to get that behavior turned around? It had to be done quickly. Letting our grandchildren continuously badger for money and other things would only reinforce unwanted behavior.

However, our youngsters could not be psychologically pushed away with an endless series of “No’s”.  They had heard “No” too often from their biological parents, usually with a raised voice behind it. Something had to be done that would stop the continual begging without further damaging the children’s delicate egos.

After a lot of thought, we finally came up with a rather innovative approach that not only turned things around, but paid some rather unexpected dividends.

What did we do?

First, we explained to our grandchildren that since they were now part of a new family, they “had the right” to clean their own personal spaces. That’s right. We’re talking about their bedrooms.  We further explained to the kids that the best way to show everybody that “they really belonged” in their new home was to keep their bedrooms neat and clean all the time. No exceptions.  Keeping their personal space tidy was simply a basic expectation of belonging to, and being part of, their new family with us, Grandma and Grandpa.

Second, we explained to the three young siblings that the “House” did not pay allowances. We felt that the payout of allowances tends to breed an attitude of entitlement in the one receiving the allowance. We didn’t want the children going through life thinking that they were entitled to this-and-that, just because they could fog a mirror — breathe in and out. In our Western capitalistic cultures, people are expected to work for what they get.

Third, we explained to the children that money could be earned in a far more interesting way — a way that gave the kids a certain authority and independence.

How did that work?

Once the children had demonstrated that they could keep their personal space (their bedrooms) constantly neat and clean, they “qualified” for paying chores.

The children were expected to go through the house and yards looking for things that needed to be done to keep the overall home and property looking like their own bedrooms — neat and clean all the time. Once they had selected a possible chore that they would like to do, then they simply had to negotiate the price and permission from one of us.

Let’s look at a typical example of how this actually worked out in practice.

The 9-year-old wants some money to buy a $10 goodie at the local toy store. The youngster decides that s/he would like to vacuum the family room, and asks my wife, Grandma, if that would be worth 10 bucks to the House. Grandma says “Yes,” if the kid throws in dusting and cleaning glass surfaces, such as table tops and mirrors — and keeps the family room neat and clean like that for the next 7 days. The deal is struck. The child does the work satisfactorily, Grandma approves the results, and the House (one of us, the Grandparents) pays the kid the 10 bucks.

This creative approach led to some interesting results.

First, the children enjoyed the sense of authority that came from picking out their own paying chores. It was far more empowering to choose a chore, than to have a chore rammed down their throats. It helped build their sense of self, and the kids desperately needed that.

Second, the children enjoyed the sense of independence that comes from “looking” for chores to do. Instead of choosing a chore from someone else’s chore list, they could come up with chores on their own — showing the initiative, so to speak. Being allowed to show the initiative in coming up with paying chores bolstered the youngsters’ sense of independence, and further strengthened their sense of self.

Of course, there were some wrinkles along the way.

The kids had to be gently and constantly reminded that they could not get paying chores unless they had kept their rooms neat and clean all the time for at least a week. We studiously avoided the “No” word, and simply brought the children back to our expectations. We felt that keeping our expectations front-and-center was a more positive way to deny a request than to simply throw the “No” word out again and again. . . keep the focus positive — on the House (Grandpa and Grandma) expectations.

With the children showing the initiative in looking for paying chores, many times a youngster would come up with a ridiculous chore, and ask for a lot of money to do it. By carefully controlling which paying chore was approved, and for how much, the children quickly learned what kind of chore we were willing to pay for. A kid might ask to keep the family room neat and clean for a week, but be told that the House wasn’t ready to pay for that today. But, a chore that the House was interested in paying for would be to keep the cat box clean for the next ten days — for a dollar a day.

Paying chores could not be performed lazily or sloppily. If a child didn’t “measure up” on a paying chore, that kid might have to wait a certain period of time (depending on the kid’s age) before the child could petition for another paying chore. And of course, in the meantime, keeping the child’s personal space (bedroom) clean and neat at all times was still expected. The upshot was that the kids, through expected behavior, had to “earn” the right to get aid for doing certain chores.

The children quickly fell in with the new routines, and steadily became empowered actors with a strong sense of self that revolved around the feeling that “I can do this!”

One of the children got so good at measuring up to the House expectations that s/he started asking neighbors if they had some paying chores to do. The kid would go over to visit, see something that needed to be done, and offer to do it for a price. The neighbors got so enamored with that youngster that they would ask us to send the kid over, and when the kid got there, ask the child to look around for things that needed to be done, and quote a price.

That clever youngster stayed in neighborhood money well into young adulthood. Interestingly, one of the neighbors wondered and complained that she could not get her own kids to lift a finger around the house. Her own children got steady, weekly allowances.

We enjoyed a surprisingly unexpected benefit. When distant visitors would come over, they often would ask, “We thought you had adopted some kids? Your house is always so neat and clean. It’s hard to imagine that young children live here!”

We just loved hearing that. Our innovative approach to handling kids asking for money had paid off in many ways, and so strongly that our friends couldn’t help but notice the results in how our home stayed so neat and clean.

Our grandchildren didn’t ask for money anymore. They looked for, and negotiated for, chores that would put money in their pockets. This was much better than begging for a weekly allowance. And, it provided much better preparation for an adult world that increasingly rewards both initiative and performance. Try it. You’ll like it, and your kids will quickly learn to like it, too!