Author Topic: Kids and Free Labor  (Read 17871 times)

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CocoCamm

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Kids and Free Labor
« on: September 26, 2013, 02:51:38 PM »
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

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Re: Kids and Free Labor
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2013, 02:57:02 PM »
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.
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CakeBeret

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Re: Kids and Free Labor
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2013, 03:01:21 PM »
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.
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atirial

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Re: Kids and Free Labor
« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2013, 03:02:16 PM »
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?

Sharnita

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Re: Kids and Free Labor
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2013, 03:06:27 PM »
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.

Library Dragon

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Re: Kids and Free Labor
« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2013, 03:11:22 PM »
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.

Yes.  It's the family business, just as much as a family farm, store, or restaurant. 

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lmyrs

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Re: Kids and Free Labor
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2013, 03:15:23 PM »
I think there's a difference between a paid babysitter and a family member first of all.

Second, if the dad spent his whole life doing work on this type of thing, he really shouldn't have been surprised that the same was expected of his tween. And he likely thought that the tween could deal with it. When I was younger, I used to stay with my grandparents for a couple weeks every summer. I did a lot of the housework, helping to cook, did the vacuuming, dusting, etc. And you know what? I did it at home too, so why shouldn't I do it at grandma's? If I'd gone in and said no thank you, well, I can't even imagine the result.

Another, more relevant comparison: I grew up on a farm. My siblings and I did the work of making the farm run our whole lives. We drove trucks and tractors, hauled grain, chased cows, fed cows, harvested, seeded, etc. Sometimes, in harvest time, we even skipped school to finish the farm work. This work started at around 7-8 years old (younger for the more "domestic" tasks like feeding pets, cutting grass, clearing tables, etc). Now, a couple of my siblings are involved in farming and their children help out around the farm in age-appropriate way (though I think our definition of age-appropriate would shock some people). If I were to send my (imaginary) 13 year old to the farm for a few days (especially during harvest), you can bet that I know that kid is shovelling grain at the very least. And that's probably why I'd send him/her. It's not going to damage the kid to shovel some grain for a weekend in order to help out the family. Just like it wouldn't hurt him to hammer some nails or do some kitchen clean up.

Sharnita

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Re: Kids and Free Labor
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2013, 03:20:06 PM »
I do believe there should be balance, FWIW. If parents were keeping kids out of school, Hramdpa had him working in unsafe conditions those things would be red flags.

WillyNilly

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Re: Kids and Free Labor
« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2013, 03:26:05 PM »
I think its pretty traditional to put kids to work - I mean isn't that why farmers and such had lots of kids? To get more free labor on the family farm?

I also think when you start talking about "free labor" the pendulum swings both ways - were grandma & grandpa being paid to babysit the tween? Because child care is labor too. Perhaps that puts the tween in the middle of a wage issue between Kate & Tony and their grown son, but its still a valid point in this situation.

personally I think so long as the labor the tween was asked to do was age appropriate (sweeping, painting, mowing the lawn, etc) then its perfectly fine. The grown son knew this how Kate & Tony expected children to spend their free time long before he asked them to mind his child. And plus now the kid has some skills under the belt which will only serve to help them as they go through life.

EllenS

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Re: Kids and Free Labor
« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2013, 03:28:50 PM »
I believe children are family members and responsible for making the house/family run, at an age-appropriate level.  I dont' get paid do their housework, cook their meals and wipe their behinds. I am also not a slave, I do it because we are family and we love each other.  I also STOP doing everything for them, when they are capable of doing it for themselves. Unless Kate and Tony kept their kids locked in the basement and fed them gruel while they went on cruises, then the profit they made from flipping houses was for the kids benefit as much as their own.

If the dad was raised this way, he had a reasonable expectation that his parents would set the same expetations for his son that they set for him.  Sounds like he turned out OK and doesnt' have a problem with it.  Otherwise, why would he ask them to babysit?  Many families find projects like this to be great for bonding time and giving kids a positive self-concept, as well as skills and a "DIY" attitude.

I think it would be a good thing and an excellent teaching tool for the grandparents to offer to pay the tween for his work, which might help increase his sense of responsibility.  I also think it is OK for them to just expect him to pitch in.

CocoCamm

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Re: Kids and Free Labor
« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2013, 03:33:52 PM »
Sorry I wasn't super clear, Kate and Tony did this for a living while their children were young. Once the kids were grown they moved on to other endeavors. Cynical me thinks it's not a mere coincidence these projects stopped once the free labor was gone  ::)

So the house they purchased when Tween came to stay (this was a coincidence, paperwork on the house started before they were asked to watch Tween) was the first house in almost a decade so Son really had no reason to think Tween would be used for labor.


I only had one friend growing up whose family owned a business that the kids worked at. Kids were paid minimum wage for their efforts and treated like real employees. This sort of thing I have no issue with. Something about making your kids work for their own care (like a roof and food) just strikes me as wrong. I believe parents should provide for their children not use their kids to bolster their own income. But like I said in the OP I do believe that to be a personal family matter. I think it's a whole other ball of wax when a babysitter (family member or not) is the one doling out the work.

that_one_girl

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Re: Kids and Free Labor
« Reply #11 on: September 26, 2013, 03:38:00 PM »
It depends ... if I am asked to "babysit" I assume that I am being asked to entertain said child or help them with their homework or whatnot, especially if I am being paid.

If I am too busy to entertain the child, and a friend asks me to babysit, I'm more likely to say, "I can't babysit, I have such and such to do, but if child is self-entertaining or wants to come over and help me out with such and such (in an age appropriate way), that is fine."   Then I wouldn't be expecting to get paid at all (or at least not as much).

Slartibartfast

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Re: Kids and Free Labor
« Reply #12 on: September 26, 2013, 03:38:51 PM »
This exact issue actually put a huge wedge between DH and his sisters, by the way.  My SILs (half-SILs, actually) are both ~15 years older than DH, so when my ILs got married they were in their early teens.  FIL had them doing a ton of renovations on rental properties - not just painting, but actual work like helping grout and lay bricks for walkways and the like.  Then by the time DH was born, my ILs were better off financially (so they could hire people to do the worst of the jobs) and FIL refused to allow his precious little boy to do any of the same work my SILs had been required to do at the same age.  DH still had to help his dad quite a bit, but he was allowed to say "no" sometimes.  The result - granted, made a lot worse by FIL being blatant about loving DH more - was a rift between DH and his half-sisters which took decades to lessen.

When Babybartfast was born, DH made very sure FIL was clear on the fact that Babybartfast was not going to be doing any roofing, drywalling, floor-tiling, etc.  She may choose to help a bit as she gets older, and she's certainly "helped" on occasion with things like raking leaves, but she's not going to be expected to spend all her free time working in my ILs "family business."

shhh its me

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Re: Kids and Free Labor
« Reply #13 on: September 26, 2013, 03:39:58 PM »
   I think it depends a lot on the situation.  Kids go to spend 3 weeks on aunties farm , I'd expect they might do some work. (this applies to other people who have business that the child will be going to )

 If I'm paying a "stranger" to babysit I don't expect the kids to work besides " pick up your toys."  or can you "pass me ...".  I also think day care at a facility vs in a  home is a little different too. I'd expect maybe some "help make sandwiches for lunch " and "Can you watch the little ones while I use the bathroom." I would expect the babsiter might still be " living in the home" while the kids where there and the kids might be doing chores with the babysitter ie loading a dishwasher , water the garden but not being treated like an employee and  change 20 diapers feed 4 babies twice a day and do all the related laundry of have 4 infants.

 Free or discounted babysitting I think the kids would be treated a lot more like family and may have  more significant chores.

CocoCamm

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Re: Kids and Free Labor
« Reply #14 on: September 26, 2013, 03:41:22 PM »
Oh and when I said Tween was used for free labor I mean hard labor. Demolition and it's resulting clean up, putting up sheet rock, laying down floors, acting as an apprentice for electrical and plumbing work, patching up the roof, etc.

I agree it's good practical knowledge to have. The grown kids are glad to have the knowledge but are somewhat resentful that so much of their childhood was spent doing this work. They definitely wish their parents would have just gotten "real jobs" so that they could have just been kids.