A few weeks ago, my daughter landed her first summer job.

She’s not even nine years old.

A mom in our church asked if our eight-going-on-sixteen-year-old would be available to act as a mother’s helper for an hour a week.  She basically just needed someone to go along to the library to keep her one-year-old from pulling all the books off the shelves while she looked for books to check out with her three-year-old.

This generous mom even offered to pay our daughter for her services.  After chatting with my husband, we decided our girlie could go ahead and help, but we asked the mom to rather not pay her for her work.

Here’s why.

We want to instill in our kids a heart to serve.  

We want them to be willing and eager to use their gifts first and foremost to the glory of God, without the motivation for money.

Yes, it’s good and right for a worker to be compensated for his labor, and fair wages are important and necessary.

But we don’t want our kids to develop the mindset that the world owes them something.  

And goodness, that attitude can spring up from the ground faster than weeds.  I once made the mistake of telling my kids I would pay them each a quarter if they picked up all the sticks in the backyard.  It was a big job, and it took a long time.  They did it well, and I gave them the money I had promised.

It was the first time I had ever offered to pay them for doing a chore.  And you know what happened?  After just one occurrence, they immediately expected money the next time.  They started to ask, “If we do this, will you give us a quarter?  If I do that for you, will you pay me for it?”

We do give them a (minimal) monthly allowance, but the primary purpose of that is to teach them how to budget, save and tithe.  The understanding with the allowance has never been, “We’re giving you this money for all the ways you helped out around the house this past month.”  

Our motto is that we should all be “happy to serve,” even when you’re not the one who left the puzzle pieces strewn across the floor, even if it’s not your candy wrapper on the table, even if you didn’t spill the cereal in the kitchen.  

My goal and desire is that when my kids do grow up and start earning wages for their work, that they will still have the underlying principle of being eager to serve, to the glory of the One who “came not to be served, but to serve.”

This post was written for The High Calling, in response to the theme, “Working for Free.”  Do you have a “Working for Free” story?  Share it here by July 12th.