Early Job Training Produces More Than Money.
Former CF staff member Brian Houts shared this story with us of teaching responsibility through mowing lawns.
It’s ugly. It’s a gray lawnmower with a 5 horsepower Tecumseh engine and a 20 inch deck. The perfect balance of size and power for a… 10 year old?
Buy a lawnmower for a 10 year old? Why not? My son Jacob continually asks me for money (sound familiar?) and continually aspires to buy things from new baseball equipment to new video games. So, what do you do? I could give him a big allowance, but that would just teach him that money grows on trees. I figured it was high time he learn some real-life responsibility.
We brainstormed together how to make money without me giving it to him. I described a few ideas I had, and Jacob decided that he liked lawn-mowing – a business which, if he takes responsibility for it, will provide regular income for years to come.
Together, we scoured Craigslist for a used lawnmower in good condition that was about the right size. Together, we drove across town to check one out. $70 dollars later, we had a lawnmower riding in the midsection of our mini-van as we drove home.
Once home, I gave him and a couple of his buddies (who come from an impoverished home) a lesson in lawn mowing by helping me mow my yard and my neighbor’s yard without any sort of compensation. We discussed how to dress when mowing, how to treat the lawn mower, how to push it, how to turn it, how to be careful, etc.*** It isn’t easy to push the lawn mower. They have formed their own lawn crew and call themselves The Mello Yellos (because they like to drink Mello Yello).
Reasonably satisfied that Jacob and his two buddies could do the job, we began to go through our neighborhood looking for lawns that needed some attention. We found one customer who let us mow his yard (his mower had broken down) and paid the boys $25. The first $20 went to pay off what I had spent on the mower – they have to pay me back! The last $5 was split between the 3 boys.
Since then we’ve put an ad together and have put them in every door in our neighborhood trying to generate business especially for those who will be out of town from time to time this summer. It’s fun. It’s outdoors. It’s three-dimensional. It’s active. We’ll see how it goes and if they get some jobs. If so, great! If not, we’ll figure out other ideas.
Here’s a few key goals that I am trying to accomplish with these boys.
- I want to be with my son and his buddies. I love just being with him and his friends – having fun together and building memories.
- I am thoughtful about the life skills I am trying to teach – here’s what I want these boys to learn:
- How to talk to a customer.
- How to manage money.
- What it means to be responsible.
- How to work hard and do an excellent job – even when you don’t want to.
- What it costs to run a business (your income and your expenses) etc. He has to pay me back for the mower and will be paying for expenses like gas, blade sharpening, oil etc.
- How to maintain your equipment properly – we’ll change the oil and sharpen the blade together!
- Learn to give and to save: Jacob will get to keep ½ of what he earns from his business. Of the remaining 50% , 10% will be given to our church, 40% will be saved for college
- Our family has been blessed and I want to be a blessing to these neighborhood boys who don’t have a father and who are over at our house all the time, constantly asking for free stuff. I want to teach them some of the same goals. If I give without teaching them to help themselves, I cripple them.
- I want my son to have not only fun this summer but to find productive outlets for his energy. A busy child is much less likely to either fixate on video games or drive his parents crazy!
This idea could work with ambitious young ladies too!
And oh! – if you need your lawn mowed by the Mello Yellos and live in the St. Louis Park area, look for our signs and give us a call!
***Lawn mower safety is not to be taken lightly. If you choose to do this, be sure to teach kids the destructive nature of spinning blades, and the combustible danger of gasoline.
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