Nathan and Ryan came home a little dejected. They had spent three hours working for Tom and they didn’t get paid for the work.
Tom is our neighbor. He’s retired and does a lot of stuff around his house. The boys work for him from time to time and love it because Tom pays them $13/hour. But they have to earn it. When they come home from a day at Tom’s, they sleep well that night.
Last month Tom and his wife Margie skipped around Europe for two weeks. Nathan and Ryan were tasked with feeding their cats while they were gone in addition to a few other minor things like covering the patio furniture if it rained. So when Tom returned from his trip he paid each boy $50. Yowza. The kids thought they hit pay dirt.
But Tom mentioned, as he handed over their earnings, that there were some minor things the boys could do for him and then they’d be even. So on Saturday, the boys went to Tom’s to finish up their “cat sitting”.
Three grueling hours later, they returned sans any compensation. ”I knew Tom wanted us to do a little extra for the money he gave us feeding his cats, but I had no idea he would put us to work like that,” said Nathan. ”That’s a total of six hours of work we did for him.”
I felt a lesson coming on. ”Tom’s been good to you. Sometimes we need to do a little extra without feeling like we must be compensated for it, as hard as that is to do. Even if that little extra turns out to be a big extra. It’s like investment in your future. You may not see it now, but the habit of extra effort will pay off in the long run.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
”When you least expect it, something good will happen that was a direct result of your extra effort. Like the time your self-portrait was chosen to hang in the school office because you went above-and-beyond the assignment. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it’s nice and can lead to other things. The trick is not to expect something every time you put in the extra effort. Put in the effort and one day it will pay off.”
These life lessons are sometimes hard to teach kids. It requires them to trust you because the results aren’t immediately apparent. That’s why it’s important to look for opportunities to make connections for our kids.
For example, the next time you see your children do a little extra, tell them that you’re proud of their work and the extra effort they put in. And when they receive recognition for going above-and-beyond, make the connection between the effort and the “reward”. Then when they come home from the neighbor’s house a little miffed that they didn’t get paid, remind them to be patient. Investments take time to grow and much can come to those who are willing to wait.