Savvy womens Magazine

How to Recession Proof Your Family and Develop Kid’s Strengths

By Jenifer Fox, Author of Your Child's Strengths: A Guide for Parents and Teachers

Remember the movie Karate Kid? Wax on, wax off? The Zen master prepares the boy for a Karate championship by having him repeat endless chores that seem meaningless like rubbing the wax on a car and rubbing it off. Later this motion is used as an expert Karate move.

When I was a girl, my father had us cleaning plate glass windows with a squeegee. Surprisingly, later in life, this simple activity has helped me save all kinds of money. Because of it, I clean my own windows, wash my car myself, love doing bathrooms. My friends pay people to do these things. I pay people to do other things, but I know what I like to do myself.

So what does this have to do with the recession? Two things. First, you can save money right now by engaging your kid's strengths in simple household chores that you would otherwise pay people for. This will not only save you money now, it will help keep your child recession proof throughout his or her life. This recession will pass most children by unawares even though it may be hammering your family. But kids need recession endurance for the long haul. Secondly, some of the ideas here may earn them money.

Parents can begin by making a list of their children's strengths; do they like to cook, clean, listen to music? Are they interested in art, animals, acting, writing? Do they like photos? Any of these strengths can easily be turned into jobs that can save parents money or make them money. Remember, it is very important to let children choose among a variety of activities because they will like doing them and be more likely to keep doing them if they had a role in the decision-making.

Here are some services children can do for others to earn money:

  • How much money do people spend on greeting cards? Your 3-5 year old may be a budding artist. You can take her drawings and make a variety of kinds of cards out of them. You can save money yourself on cards, or have your older child sell them.
  • Too many CDs taking up space and not enough time to transfer them to an iPod? If your child can work an iPod, he can offer this service to others. I'd pay someone between $25-30 to put all my CDs on my iPod.
  • Everyone I know has boxes of photos. How about having the child who likes to organize offer to put all your photos in albums for a small fee?
  • Babysitting is sometimes too risky for younger kids, but pet sitting is not. If you will take my pet into your home, I'd be happy to pay you. If you care to stay at my home, I'd pay more.
  • Come in and completely organize my closets? Yes. I'll pay you.
  • Forget the lemonade, on Sunday morning sell Starbucks on the corner for half the price of the store down the street. A child with business strength will take to this. Get the kid with the strength in math to crunch the numbers and find the cheapest way to do it. Add an herbal tea selection, and you're in business. If you live in an apartment building, offer to deliver the readymade coffee to the door in the morning.
  • What about the windows? I would pay someone to wash them if it didn't cost too much.
  • Some high school kids are real whizzes at film editing on iMac. Have them advertise that they will edit family videos into a show. Better yet, advertise that you will take photos and make a wedding video for a rehearsal dinner. Most teens can scan and create this.
  • Is your child drawn to plants? Care for plants while you are away or prepare your garden in spring. These are services we need, but many people need to cut back on.
  • High school kids who are especially good at art can sell their services as graphic designers of invitations and posters.
  • Good places to advertise services are Craig's List, schools teacher's lounge, school parking lot, grocery store bulletin board, church bulletin, and the good old fashioned sandwich board.
  • People have come to pay for all kinds of luxury services that they are going to have to cut back on unless your child can think of a creative and less expensive way for them to afford it.Have a child who likes to fix things? Why pay someone else, how trying to tackle it at home and get your child to help. Go out and get a repair book with your child and show her how to help.
  • Dinner out cost too much? The number one growing profession for boys is being a Chef. Watch a chef show and then have your children pretend you are at a restaurant and make you dinner. Middle school kids love to combine imagination with real world work.
  • Going to the theater suddenly off the list? How about getting a play and acting it out with the family? Hold auditions, the whole act.
  • Sewing used to be a boring home economics class. But now kids are drawn to sewing and the fashion industry. Encourage your daughter to get into sewing, make some of her own clothes, save money.

These simple things may earn a little extra cash in the short term, but long term they may really tap into children's strengths and steer them toward a career.

The key to all this is getting kids involved in the decision-making and making it hip, cool and relevant. Kids want to know what's in it for them. If you can show how a simple chore like shopping and making dinner can be turned into practicing to be a world class chef, then you are likely to get their attention.

If you want to save money on a housekeeper by having your children pitch in, write all the jobs down and have them choose which one they like. Have them explain why they like it. Hidden in that conversation is a strength that will lead them to the future.
Copyright © 2009 Jenifer Fox, author of Your Child's Strengths: A Guide for Parents and Teachers

About the Author:
Jenifer Fox, author of Your Child's Strengths: A Guide for Parents and Teachers, is an educator and public speaker who has worked in public and independent schools as a teacher and administrator for twenty-five years. She is currently the international leader of the Strengths Movement in K-12 schools. She holds a B.S. in communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an M.A. in English from Middlebury College's Bread Loaf School of English, and an M.Ed. in school administration from Harvard University.

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