Use Your Summer Wisely

Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts Sheridan House Family Ministries

Every time we head into a summer, and a school year, the reality of how short a time we have with our children hits me. We have 13 summers with them at home under our roof, and goodness it goes by so quickly. A wise parent once told me, “The days are long, but the years are short.” That is such a true statement! Because of this, it is imperative that we use our summers wisely.  We need to use them to create memories, for family time but also for training. One of the ways we can use our summertime is to teach them about money and business sense.


Teach your children about business

Much of the book of Proverbs is wisdom of a father being passed down to his son.  In reality, Proverbs is one of the first parenting books. Much of Proverbs offers advice about money and how to handle business. That alone should be a parent’s clue about the importance of teaching children about business.

Generations ago, children grew up working for the family-owned business and learned how to handle the business of the farm or the general store. They had on-the-job training from an early age. Today, are we training a child to handle business transactions or are most children left to be eaten alive by the sharks of sales? Parents must prepare the next generation how to speak up and negotiate proper business deals. If not, our offspring will become sitting ducks for the shysters and schemers who are lying in wait for the business illiterates.

In this world of big corporations, parents might not be able to bring their children into their business world.  However, parents can certainly bring business transactions into the world of the family.  It is important to teach our children how to negotiate business deals even if they are only parent/child transactions.


Opportunities to make money

Every weekend, my son had the chore of washing his mother’s car.  Our philosophy was we never paid our children to do their household chores.  Their payment was the fact that they got to eat and had a place to sleep.  They were family members and that meant they had to pitch in and help.

However, there were always extra opportunities for our children to make money.  When my son went out to wash his mother’s car, which was one of his monthly chores, I often asked him if he wanted to make a little money and wash my car.

“After all, you already have the bucket and the hose out.”  This is where the training began. “Why not wash my car and make a little extra money while you’re at it?” My son would follow my offer with a question, “How much would I make?” In other words, how much was I offering to pay him to wash my car?

I always started by offering less than the job was worth. It was not just the car that I wanted washed. I wanted to take care of teaching my son how to negotiate a business deal, how to speak up, and how to ask for what is fair. 

There are so many people that have not gotten a proper pay increase because they do not know how to ask. They deserved a raise, and they see other people getting a pay raise, but they just do not know how to approach their boss and ask.  Business, however, is not all about making money.  Much of business is about taking and negotiating.

“Five dollars,” I would answer.  “I’ll pay you five dollars to wash my car.”  

“What?” he would respond, acting as frustrated as he could, “It cost more than that to get your car washed by a machine at the gas station, and they don’t do it by hand.” Then he would begin negotiating.  “I think since I’m going to wash your car by hand and even dry it by hand, it’s worth at least $20.00, don’t you?”

That is when we would haggle back-and-forth until we agreed on a specific amount of money.  I will never forget the time I had just returned from Orlando and the front of my car was covered with bugs.  That was the day he discovered the law of supply and demand.  I desperately needed my car washed and he knew it was worth more to me than the usual amount.  

Was I mad at him for taking advantage of me?  Not at all! He was already washing his mom’s car and doing all his other chores for free.  This was a separate business deal, and he knew he had me.  It was training at its best and it was great.

Teach your children to speak up and then take advantage of other teaching opportunities.  When their school is selling something, do not do it for them.  Teach them how to ask…how to make the sale.  Let them learn to speak up when selling Girl Scout cookies or school candy.  They will learn to deal with the disappointment of rejection, as well as the elation of making the sale.  



At the same time, teach your children to be fair and even generous to the people around them.  Years ago a man knocked on our door and offered to pressure clean our walkways, and deck for a certain amount of money.  I knew the amount he offered was much too low for the job.  I accepted his offer, and when he was done, I paid him more than he asked for.  When one of my children asked why I paid him more, I told them that I did it for two reasons.  First of all, to be fair towards others; it is the right thing to do.  Second, because it is good to be generous towards others.  Being fair and generous towards others makes for good business.

Children need to learn how to speak up and not only make the sale, but also negotiate the contract.  They need to learn to talk in a winsome way, looking the potential buyer in the eye, and at the same time be respectful.  These are skills for adults to have, but more important, these are skills for parents to teach their children.

God gives each of us skills to use for His glory and for our own livelihood.  It is important to be taught how to be good stewards of what God has given.  Business is just one more arena where it is important for a child to be taught how to deal in the world without acting like to world. 


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