“Jaw With John” – Adventures In Teen Babysitting

My twin 13-year-old daughters earn a few extra dollars baby-sitting neighborhood children.

After my daughters completed the daylong Red Cross baby-sitting class last summer, I sent an email to a few moms who live close by, advertising my daughters’ services. I set their hourly rates at $8 an hour for one baby-sitter, or $12 an hour for both girls to baby-sit.

My husband and I both feel these are appropriate wages for their age(s) and services. The girls only baby-sit a few times per month because homework, sports and social activities are greater priorities.

After baby-sitting fewer than 15 times (for no more than two children at a time, ages 4 and older) they are complaining because their peers are making $12 an hour (which is true).

Since the age of 6 my daughters have received an age-appropriate weekly allowance for doing a short list of chores. The amount grows each year with age and responsibility. I urge them to save a few dollars each week.

Every so often, we make a trip to the bank, and they deposit their savings. I don’t badger them to do their chores, and some weeks they earn little or nothing.

I’m not sure what to do about the discrepancy between what my daughters and their friends are earning for baby-sitting. In our affluent area, I know that $12 is the going rate, but I wish it weren’t.

Should my daughters negotiate with their clients for higher wages? Should I set some parameters if they earn more money? What is the right thing to do in this situation? — Perplexed in Suburbia

Dear Perplexed:

When I was their age I was only making $5 a week by taking out, and bringing back in, the trash once a week. $8 an hour sounds pretty damn good to me.

If these kids want more money then they can negotiate their desired new price with their clients. You could present the argument that by charging less they could earn more than their counterparts. But that only goes so far as they could wind up working more hours, but still earning less than their friends.

You have already started them on the right path by having them deposit their money at the bank. If they do end up earning more, advise them to only withdraw what they need and keep some money stored away for a “rainy day” or emergencies (I don’t know what kind of emergencies 13-year-old girls would have but it’d be there in case).

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