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February 02, 2011


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I can see both sides to this's a way to teach kids that nothing comes for free in life. With that said, I also think it's possible to use it as a humanitarian lesson; for example, if you have an elderly neighbor, or someone who doesn't have a lot of money, or someone who is physically incapable of shoveling. In those cases, I would teach my kids that it's a good idea to help those who need it. BUT, as far as actually EXPECTING kids in your neighborhood to shovel snow for everyone on principle, no...

We are fortunate to live in an area that has very little snow fall. A similar example, however, is lawn care. When my neighbor goes on vacation, my oldest son and I will mow the yard, pick up the newspapers and look after the property. When we are gone, he does the same. No exchange of money, but it is nice to know someone is looking after the place while we are gone. Further, my son learns what it means to be a good neighbor.

I guess I have never lumped mowing the yard and shoveling the driveway in the same category. I was paid by my parents to mow the lawn and I was paid by my Grandma to mow her lawn, but in the winter, it was just planned that I would help my Dad shovel the driveway and then we would head over to my Grandma's to shovel hers. Sometimes we would help the neighbor.

I'm with you, FMF. Another item for this list is babysitting. I know of people who expect neighbor kids or friends from church to babysit for free or next to nothing, and then complain if a kid isn't willing to do it. I look at it like this: don't expect charity...some kids will do it free, others charge, but for the most part, when receiving a service, you should pre-negotiate a rate so both parties know what they're getting into.

We live in the South and have never had to deal with shoveling snow, but we do help our neighbors with small chores from time to time. We teach out kids to do the same. If I borrow something from a neighbor or have them get out mail, we'll bake them some cookies or send over a little treat when we get home. We have some older folks who live near by, and my daughter and I will clean their yards two or three times a year. Now, when my kids DO get older, and they want to earn some extra money, I think it would be good for them to do yard work, and expect to be paid, from neighbors.

People shouldn't expect free labor from their neighbors kids.

Its OK to voluntarily do something for free if you want, but it shouldn't be expected. If you want the neighbors kid to shovel your snow, mow your lawn, rake your leaves, etc then you should offer to pay them for it.

I think if the neighbor is elderly, then everyone can go over and help shovel. I don't think kids should just have to give up their time to go shoveling everyone's driveway.

We pay our kids to shovel. We do not have a snowblower and our driveway holds about 6 cars so it is pretty long. We pay for mowing the lawn, so it only makes sense to pay for shoveling snow.

Faith without works is dead. Sometimes we need to works of kindness just because.

It is when it is expected that it is an issue.

I agree 100% with the view that if neighbors are elderly/infirm, then the whole family could pitch in to shovel for them. Otherwise, pay a reasonable amount to the neighbor's son or daughter who is hoping to earn a few bucks.

Timely post: As I was drudgingly preparing to go outside yesterday and shovel snow, sleet and ice from our driveway, three enterprising high school-age students appeared at the front door with snow shovels in hand, looking for work. I was certainly more than happy to (financially) support these young Capitalists!

My brother made a good bit of money as a teenage shoveling driveways and roofs for neighbors. Maybe this is because I'm from Maine where snow storms regularly dump feet worth of snow not inches. Shoveling snow is hard work and if a healthy adult doesn't want to deal with the cold and sore muscles then they should expect to pay a reasonable amount for it.

Elderly or disabled neighbors is a different matter and kids should be encouraged to help them out because they are unable to do it themselves and have no choice but to get someone else to. This is especially true if they are on a limited income and paying you be difficult for them (maybe work out that they'll supply hot cocoa and snacks instead of cash).

We had two boys show up at our doorstep this morning offering to shovel for $10 each. We decided that we would do our own, but we paid them the $20 to shovel for the elderly couple across the street. It's a win-win. I wanted to reward these hard working boys and help a neighbor who needed help. It also shows the boys the example of helping someone in need.

I went outside last year to find the 8 year old neighbor kids shoveling my driveway. He proudly said "I'm going to shovel people's driveways to save up money for an XBox".

I told him that he should ask people first before shoveling and that I wasn't going to pay him. He had only done a couple of strips and wasn't doing a good job anyways, but mainly it was because he's kind of an obnoxious kid.

Timely post given the storm that's touching many areas. Where I live, we just got 20 inches of snow.

I think that if a kid or adult volunteers to shovel snow without being asked, then that's a nice thing to do. Not required by any means, and shouldn't be expected of anybody.

Having said that, I think that if someone asks a neighborhood kid to shovel his/her driveway, the kid should be offered money. If the kid turns it down, it's the kid's choice. But a kid should be offered first, as it's labor. Not fair to expect a neighborhood kid to work for free.

As for your own kids, I think it's ok to ask a kid to help out to learn how to do some things that are life skills. But there's a fine line between doing that and making a kid work to get free labor. If it's not help, and the kid will voluntarily be working indvidually to clean a driveway, then the kid should get something in compensation.

I'm not for forcing kids to do physical labor, never have been and never will be. Cleaning up their stuff around the house and pitching in as a family are different things altogether.

Expecting a neighborhood kid to do work - snow shoveling, babysitting, etc - for free? That's freeloading and taking advantage.

This really sruck a cord in me. My husband and I live between two houses and we have the longest part of a walkway to shovel before we get to our driveway - our previous neighbors were very nice and we shared the duty well - they knew we were at a disadvantage, so helped when they could - needless to say, we helped them as well.

Very different story with our new neighbor. There's almost this expectation that we will shovel our areas as well as hers - AND she doesn't thank us at all - we hear nothing. In addition, for some reason, she thinks that because I work at home, I can be the person who receives all of her day packages - uhh, no. (I've stopped answering the doorbell unless I'm expecting something).

I'm a bit more forgiving than my husband, who refuses to shovel in a way that is beneficial to the neighbor. One time I hurt my back shoveling all of the area.

What it comes down to is the attitude conveyed by the parties involved - if you feel you are being taken advantage of, you will tend to steer clear of those activities that lend themselves to those feelings and situations. If she would express gratitude, we would probably go out of our way to assist. But because she doesn't, we avoid assisting as it becomes a chore and in some cases we injure ourselves.

Have we solved this? No. In addition, I believe it won't be solved because the attitude of entitlement that is expressed and shown by our neighbor is not one that will change.

You don't allow editing - sorry for the spelling error in the previous post.

On topic - I think it's inappropriate to expect free labor out of anyone. Assisting someone who is unable to do some chores or as in the case above a quid pro quo of helping when either family is away to ensure there is some oversight, is fair. Charity is something that needs to be given from the heart - but expecting charity is the quickest way to build resentment.

If you do a deed without having a business agreement ahead of time expecting payment, you have made an inappropriate assumption. The young kid who started shoveling before asking is 'donating' and shouldn't expect payment. If he had asked beforehand and negotiated a price, then expectation of payment after having produced is appropriate. Indirectness of communication, especially when dealing with money is fraught with misunderstandings. In my consulting business, the 'business' part of the transaction is understood up front before any activities are started. If you are going to work pro-bono, then communicate that, if you expect to be paid, then that needs to be communicated as well. I call it expectation management. It makes for smoother business relationships.

I agree with you FMF. I don't think people should take advantage of kids that way. Kids deserve to be paid just like the rest of us. It helps them learn that hard work pays off. Although in an elderly or disabled community, I think it would be great for kids to help out for free because it teaches them to give back to those less fortunate and allows them to experience the reward of giving.

For those of you still reading this --

We spent a couple hours yesterday clearing out 15 inches or so of snow from our driveway, then helping the next door neighbor do his drive. We have a huge snowblower (one I was thinking of getting rid of -- but now may change my mind) that did a great job. Another neighbor came over to use it to clean out his drive, then did the drives of a couple other neighbors. Fun in the snow!!! ;-)

Expecting kids to shovel snow for free as a "neighborly gesture" -- unless they volunteer themselves -- is unreasonable (and a missed learning opportunity) with the noted exceptions of elderly/disabled who cannot afford to hire someone. I do help my elderly neighbors shovel as a kindness (that and I don't want to see them fall over from a heart attack!). I think it's good to give your kids some extra money for deep snow shoveling, but if I had kids, I'd classify a couple of inches of snow shoveling as a household chore just like taking out the trash, setting the table, cleaning the house, doing dishes, mowing, etc. That is how I was raised (with a fair weekly allowance that covered the chores my siblings and I performed). And I think it's an excellent way to teach kids responsibility, money management and giving back.

My brother and I were excited to make decent money shoveling snow (along with other outdoor labor) throughout our neighborhood from the time we were old enough to push a shovel, on through college. I lament the fact that so few kids are out knocking on doors these days for any kind of work. (This does not bode well for the health of our nation, economically or physically.) Instead they are inside getting fat and playing x-box or otherwise lazily rotting away. I know very few parents who give their kids household chores and an allowance to go with them. Most of them just hand out money with no work equation involved. This is another missed learning opportunity -- and they do their kids no favors by continuing it.

Snow shoveling, mowing, yard work, and household chores all give kids 1) Exercise, 2) Teach them what a work ethic is, 3) Teach them how to work with peers and "clients" in business situations, and 4) Show them that they can earn their own money. And then take responsibility for properly spending and investing it. What a precious life skill to give our children.

If my child wants to be entrepreneurial and ask neighbors for $$ to shovel snow I'm all for it. I believe having kids do work for others for a little bit of money makes them have good work ethics and morals. I would also, like you did, have my child shovel a neighbors driveway for no compensation from the neighbor to show him that sometimes you have to do things you don't want to do but in the future that gesture will most likely be paid back, sometimes ten fold.

I grew up on a ranch (horses) and my father had us clean the stalls, feed the horses, wash them ,etc. to instill a good work ethic in us that we would carry on into our adult lives. My mom would pay us for this work as she felt we worked very hard and deserved to be paid. Once my dad found out she was paying us he got upset but then understood and saw how much harder we worked since we were getting paid. I sometimes went looking for more work just so I could make more money.

My sons are not thrilled to be out there shoveling with me, but they don't complain much. They realize that we are a family and everyone helps out to keep the household running. They have clean clothes, a clean house, home cooked meals asnd lots of love. This is payment enough.

I say pay them! I wouldn't do it for free, lol. So why make them?

We shovel snow for an able-bodied, yet somewhat reclusive next-door neighbor, who never does it herself. She has never thanked us in 15 years, but we do it just to be kind.

My middle-school age boys go door-to-door after each snow, and ask other neighbors (within a 4-block radius) if they would like to hire them to shovel (they also offer to mow in the summer). They make some pretty good money, and I'm proud of them for taking the initiative. A few neighbors now even call and ask them to come and shovel (or mow), so it's great to see that they're building a loyal clientele.

As a child, my grandmother paid me when I shoveled the snow at our house (we lived in an apartment in her house). I usually saved up my money over the winter and bought myself something nice each year with these earnings. It seemed fair to me, since I was the granddaughter who did the shoveling (my sister never did).
On the other hand, twice this winter when we were hit with big snowfalls, my neighbor (adult not child) used his snowblower to clean my driveway. I thanked him with a gift card for a local restaurant. Had he been a child, I would have given him money (even without him asking).

We got about 20" in NE MO where I live. I spent at least 40 minutes clearing out my very short driveway and my 18 y/o neighbor came over and helped me. I am 73 and shocked myself that I didn't get sore doing it. I don't usually bother because, if I can't get my car out of the carport, I just stay home where it is nice and warm. But this snow, after the street plows went through, was 2-3' deep and I would have had to do the shoveling in spurts.

That evening he came over to ask me something and I had money out to pay him. He refused though. It was his time to give he said. So I thanked him a lot. (I would have paid him earlier, but I had no cash and had to go to the bank to get some.)

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