Why our kids buy their own clothes (and do their laundry)
When I was growing up, my parents really didn’t have enough money to buy school clothes for my siblings and I. My grandparents lived about a mile down the road, and thankfully, they invested heavily in my childhood, both with time and money.
My grandparents could have done what a lot of grandparents do: spoil their grandkids. They could have just bought clothes for us. But, they didn’t.
Instead, every summer, we worked. Most weekdays from the time I was in elementary school, from about 8 am to 11 am, my mom would drop me off at my grandparents on her way to work. I would weed the side hill in their yard that was filled with Bermuda grass. I would dust every nook and cranny of the house. I would pick the sticky plums off the driveway. I would read out loud to my grandma. I would clean the baseboards and behind the fridge with a yardstick covered with a cloth. I would wash windows and clean counters and organize cupboards. Whatever my grandma could find to keep me busy, that’s what I would do.
It started with a time card
My grandma would keep a time card, and note each day how many hours I had worked. I didn’t get paid until the end of the summer, though. All of the money I earned had to be used for school clothes. Not toys. Not candy. Clothes. She paid me fairly, whatever the minimum wage was at that time (I believe by the time I graduated high school, it was $4.25 an hour).
As a kid, I definitely didn’t enjoy it. As a matter of fact, I hated Bermuda grass with a passion. I still do to this day. But having to work for my own clothes since elementary school taught me that nothing comes free in life. If I wanted something, I needed to be willing to work for it. I never expected handouts, and appreciated pretty much everything I received.
Superman had to buy his own clothes starting at the age of 12. He would use his birthday and Christmas money and buy what he needed. He mowed his grandparents’ lawn and did odd jobs around the house. Just look at the handsome stud on the left in his eighth grade graduation photo:
And so, we are keeping the tradition alive with our kids.
I have to admit, there was (and still is) a piece of me that doesn’t want to make my kids have to work like I did. I want better for our kids. I want them to have a simpler life. We can afford to buy them clothes, but we’re choosing to make them work for them. Sometimes I feel bad. Even though I know a free pass leads to an entitled attitude, there’s just something about giving your kids things that you didn’t have growing up. It’s fulfilling as a parent. But it’s a bit selfish for me to want to “fill” that little piece of my soul while denying my kids something that I grew to appreciate later in life: work ethic.
So, once our kids reach 12 years old, they have to start buying their own clothes. Actually, our youngest son has started to be responsible for buying his own clothes even though he’s just 11. Wanna know why? Because I was so sick and tired of finding his clothes laying all over our property. He was constantly leaving perfectly good shirts out near our pond, or in the dirt somewhere behind our house. Living on 10 acres means there are a lot of areas clothes can be left and forgotten. I told him I wasn’t going to buy him clothes anymore since he is not appreciative of the time and money spent on them. So now, he buys his own clothes.
And not only that, but our kids do their own laundry.
Our youngest daughter is seven, and even she is doing laundry now. It started with just washing bedding. But now, each of our kids has a laundry basket, and a schedule for washing their clothes:
Tuesday: Girls (am), Josh
Friday: Girls (am), Josh
Saturday: Bedding (girls), Caleb
If they miss their day, then they have to wait until their next turn.
I gotta tell ya, my world became a much simpler place when my boys started buying their own clothes and being responsible for taking care of them. If I see their stuff lying out on our property, I don’t care. I’m not buying their clothes, after all. If they forget about their stuff, the best way they’re going to learn is to have to deal with the natural consequences of their actions.
Each of our kids is different.
Our oldest son is naturally self-driven. He had his money saved and tucked away for months before he needed to buy any clothes. Our 2nd son, however, is completely the opposite. He spent all his Christmas money. He spent all his birthday money. And no matter how many times we gently reminded him that he would be buying his school clothes come fall, he just kept saying, “I’ll have the money when I need it!” Well…the end of summer came around, and he realized he was in a pickle. None of his clothes fit him (puberty, anyone??) and school was just around the corner. He had hours and hours and hours of work to do in order to earn enough just for a few pairs of shorts and a few shirts. And that kid has expensive taste.
Our oldest shops deals. He finds coupons and waits for something to be on clearance before he buys it. Our 2nd son has never cared about price, and has always picked the most expensive shoes and clothes. Until now. Now, he cares how much something costs and prefers using shoe sole glue instead of buying a new pair. He wants to get the most bang for his buck. He even asked me to find a coupon for him when he went shopping!
What I’ve noticed more than anything is that our kids are actually starting to take some pride in what they own. They are taking better care of their things because they know they are the ones who will be expected to pay for them when they get ruined. And that’s a good thing.
You may be wondering how our kids earn money at such a young age.
Stay tuned for my next post on ways that our kids earn money. Some are conventional, some not so much.
So, what do you think? Are we mean parents for making our kids buy their own clothes? Am I permanently scarring them? Or do you agree with our approach?
Kim Johnston says
This is awesome! I had never even considered having my kids buy their own clothes, I’m really anxious to hear what you do to allow them to earn money. Do you have jobs around the house? I can’t wait to hear! Excellent post, definitely something I’m going to talk to my husband about!
Shanti Landon says
We do have jobs around our house and property, but our oldest has started doing some more unconventional things to earn money, too!
Sarah Malone says
I think it’s GREAT that you have your kids do their own laundry! I had to start doing my own laundry in high school, but I’m going to have my kids start younger. Do you have them separate lights and darks? Or throw them all in the same bin? Oh, and as for buying their own clothes: brilliant! You were lucky to have such involved grandparents. I think that’s great that they provided that opportunity for you!
Shanti Landon says
Thanks, Sarah! Right now I just give them one laundry basket. Most of them don’t have any white clothes anyway, because white is the LAST color they want to wear living out in the country! lol
Darren S. says
I think it’s pretty awesome. That photo of your husband is classic, too.
Shanti Landon says
Haha. Thanks, Darren!
Mom of 3 says
Wow. Just wow. So basically you’re making your kids raise themselves?? You don’t even buy clothes for them?? Pardon me, but isn’t that considered child abuse??? You’d let your children go to school in clothes that don’t fit them? What about food? Should they buy that themselves, too?
I’m sorry, but this is just flat out wrong. It is your JOB as their mom to provide for them. If you didn’t want to do that, why are you having kids in the first place?! Maybe you should have stopped having kids and gotten your tubes tied and taken permanent measures so that you wouldn’t have the “burden” of more children. Ridiculous.
Sarah Malone says
Really?? She is teaching her kids how to WORK for things in life, and in the society we live in, I think that’s more important now than ever. Oh, and you obviously haven’t even read Shanti’s blog, or you would know she ADOPTED her kids, so getting her tubes tied is kinda a moot point. lol
It is funny how different perspectives can be. I was raised having my mother do my laundry for me, and shopping with me (nothing flashy! and I have to say that my mother is one of the people I admire and adore most.) But when I got to college I felt somewhat naive and un-tried in knowing how to dig into the practical parts of my life. I really didn’t feel I was pulling my own weight in tasks shared by my roommates, though I wanted to, I just didn’t really get how to keep up with it all.
When I read this I was inspired by Shanti’s dedication to her kids, and weighing whether I could be dedicated enough to pull this off with my kids. It takes so much work in the beginning to teach kids to do these things. It’s exhausting. But man does pay off when I manage to stick to it. I really have watched my kids glow with satisfaction and self-efficacy.
I’m sure my perspective has something to do with the fact that I used to live near Shanti. She is so dedicated and proactive and full of love with her cute family, a real-life inspiration. I always strive to have the dedication and energy for others that she has.
Shanti Landon says
Aw, thanks Amber!! <3 You da best! =)
I’m sorry but that is just flat out rude, I believe that this teaches her kids responsibility and the VALUE of money, or did you get everything handed to you on a silver platter
I usually agree with you on most topics but I don’t when it comes to buying their clothes. We brought them into this world and are responsible for clothing, food, and shelter. That said, I don’t have a problem with them doing chores not necessarily work. They need to be kids more than ever in today’s society.
Sarah Malone says
I don’t think Shanti would let her kids go unclothed. And I’m assuming she IS still paying for their clothes, it’s just that they have to earn the money from her and her husband to buy them. I think instead “they need to be kids more than ever in today’s society”, instead, in the entitled, “treat everyone the same and give no awards to anyone” mentality we have, we SHOULD be teaching our kids that it takes work to get the things we want in life.
Kaaron Keene says
Hi there. We did something similar when my daughter was growing up. When she started high school, we gave her a clothing allowance (she did have chores in the household too). We decided what monthly amount was reasonable (more in fall to buy boots, coat, etc.) and that was it. Before this started, she never wanted to look at sales or discounts, but went right to the full-price items. But, once she had that monthly amount and no more, she became a much more discriminating shopper just like your kids and began to make her clothing allowance stretch. It made being a parent much better too, since there was no begging or whining about buying this or that clothing item and sometimes she asked for advice on the best deals. The whole arrangement worked out great.
I have six children. My oldest is 8 and youngest is 3 months. I don’t have them buy their own clothes but I like the idea for when they’re older and in their teens, more adept at understanding the value of time and money. However, we do have our oldest three children do their own laundry. We use these laundry baskets: http://www.containerstore.com/s/stacking-laundry-basket/d?productId=10030934&q=laundry%20stackable each of the children have their own. I assigned a day for each of my children to do their laundry, and while I’m available to help, if for some reason I’m unable to help then they do it all themselves. It also allows my five year old to change 500 times a day because she is the one doing her own laundry. Plus, they love the responsibility of it. And I love the teaching moment that we’re all part of this family and I’m not the maid.
My girls had a very limited clothing allowance with which to buy their own clothes. They learned to buy things wisely, if the squandered their money they had to wear last year’s jeans. Oh well, the next time they were more careful with their money. They learned great life lessons. They also did chores and worked in the family business from an early age. They also help pay for their own college even though we could afford to write the whole check. Why? Because you do not appreciate things that are simply handed to to you. They learned to work hard and although they grew up in an affluent home , they learned some great life lessons from having to Be responsible for their own clothes and from working in the family business.
Shanti is right on with this. If we give our kids everything without expecting them to pitch in and earn their own way, we are teaching them to become dependent and entitled adults. If we teach them to be responsible they will become independent, successful adults. My 3 girls make me proud everyday. They are now in their 30’s, one runs a successful business, one is a teacher, one is an accountant. All three are caring and giving women. They never felt deprived or unloved or uncared for because I made them buy their own clothes. And it pleases me t see them raise m grandkids to be responsible adults too.
Good job Shanti
Shanti Landon says
Great points, Bonni! Thank you!
My parents did this for me starting when I was 10. They gave me the option of having my allowance raised but having to buy my own clothes. They purchased one new school outfit for me at the start of the school year and they usually bought me another at Christmas. Everything else I had to purchase myself with money I saved from my allowance, babysitting, watching the neighbors pets, etc. I am SO glad they did this. I read some of the previous comments and yes, parents need to provide for their kids. But not just physical things, parents need to provide their kids with life skills, including learning how to be wise with their money and developing a good work ethic.
Heck no! I love this so much! I can not wait to implement this. Such a great idea.