General Etiquette > Family and Children

Kids and Free Labor

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I know a couple Kate and Tony who have three grown children. When their children were younger Kate and Tony made their living flipping houses. Flipping a house (for those who may not know) means purchasing a house at a much reduced rate due to the home needing repairs. You then fix up the house, or hire professions to do so, then sell the house at a profit. Kate and Tony also purchased there own residences this way. Kate and Tony would do the work themselves while using the children as free labor. Every minute of spare time was spent doing this.

Fast forward a number of years and Kate and Tony's son has a tweenaged child of his own who needed supervision for the summer. Kate and Tony agree to watch him. At the same time the details are being ironed out Kate and Tony purchase another home to flip. Unbeknownst to Son, Tween is used as free labor on this project. As you can imagine Son found out right away (but after labor had been done). Luckily Son was ok with this, Tween not to much  ;D

Now I personally don't think that kids should be used as free labor in their parents ventures but I think that is a private family issue. I guess I just don't like the idea of kids being used as servants just because they are kids and not in control of their lives so to speak.

My real question is what is the obligation on a "babysitter" to let a parent know that they plan to use their child for labor? Does it matter if it's for their job as opposed to say cleaning their home, or doing yard work?

I have no children but I think it would really chap my hide to find out that my kid was used for free labor of any sorts. If you agree to watch my (non existent) child I would never imagine he or she would be put to work.

Outdoor Girl:
I have no problem with children being put to (age appropriate) work, as long as the parents are cool with it.

However, I do have a problem with it being unpaid work if it is over and above what a kid should be expected to do.  I think the tween should have been paid something.  And he should have had the option to say he didn't want to do the work (and thus, not get paid).

Growing up, my brother and I had a weekly allowance.  We were expected to do certain chores each week to get that allowance.  Every spring, we made maple syrup in our (5 acre) backyard.  It was a lot of work!  We both got what my parents called a 'sugarbush bonus'.  One year, we each got a bike.  In later years, it was cash.  It was recognition that we'd done extra work.  Sure, it was fun, too, but it was work.

As a kid, I often spent summers at my aunt's house, where I had to do most of her housekeeping. I really resented it.

If I'm being paid to watch someone's child, I would not expect them to do any chores aside from picking up after themselves. If I'm watching a relative's child as a favor, I might ask the child to help me with a chore that resulted from their visit (washing the dinner dishes, for example) but I would not see the child as a source of labor.

In your example, I kind of think Son should have anticipated that Tween would be used as a source of free labor, given his background. I know that when my son gets older, if I send him to my aunt's house for any length of time, he will probably be required to do household chores. So I think that as a parent, you kind of have a responsibility to be aware of what you might be getting your child into.

I have no problems with children working with the parents' prior approval. In this case it does not sound like they had it. If my child was put to work without my consent, then there would be trouble, since I'd be concerned about injury or insurance invalidation if they got hurt.

If it's work to make a profit, especially if it saves the babysitter time and money, then the child should get something for their efforts whether it's wages or a reward. They should also have the right to say no - and if the babysitter is working are they really keeping an eye on the child?

In a family situation it isn't "just because" kids have no say pver their lives, it's because the whole family, including the kids benefit. Maybe it means the parents can afford to live in an area with better schools or a.more reliable car.

In the case you.desctibe  the babysitter was grandpa and "free labor" was an established pattern of behavior. It shouldn't have been a huge surprise.


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