You’ll Like This Kid

Hi Folks — I sure liked him! Liked what he’s all about! – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids:  I wanted to share a great interaction we had this past Saturday with a Free-Range Kid.  My son and daughter-in-law were moving from their apartment, and while we were over there packing and taking boxes and furniture down the U-haul truck, a 9-year-old boy and his little sister stopped by and asked if they could help.  The little sister took a couple of small things down to the truck, but quickly lost interest.  Her brother spent 4 hours with us, packing boxes (he emptied an entire closet by himself), carrying lots of stuff down two flights of stairs, helping me tip over the loveseat to get the crumbs out of the bottom, helping us disassemble the lamps, the dinette table, etc.  At first I wouldn’t let him use the packing tape because of the sharp blade needed to cut it, but thinking of you, I showed him how to use it properly, so he was able to put the boxes together without any adult assistance.

He is the son of the building superintendent, so I think his family might not have the resources to send him to camps and summer activities, and because they are immigrants, they might not know that kids are supposed to be locked up “safe” all day.

He didn’t ask to be paid — he was just helping us because he wanted something to do — but I gave him $5, and after a few minutes he turned up with a slice of pizza and an eggroll from the take-out places down the street — very proud of himself for having the wherewithal to get his own supper.  When we left for the day, he kept thanking us for the fun afternoon he had had, working his butt off with the grown-ups!                                                                                                                                                                                         All the best, Bella Englebach

News Flash: Kids LIKE helping out.

29 Responses

  1. In the winter when we really had a big snowfall and they actually closed school in Yonkers, NY we would all go outside, grab shovels and ice scrapers and help all the adults clean off their cars. We would dig them a path through the plowed snow and push them out. We didn’t ask for money but just about everyone gave us a few bucks. They were grateful for the help. By lunchtime we had enough money to walk to the pizza place, buy a full sized pizza for the group of us, a pitcher of soda as well as a tip for the waiter. We were quite proud of our self sufficiency. If we had any money left over we went to the candy store next. I sure miss real snow days.

  2. That’s a wonderful story!! It’s so nice to hear stories about kids understand old-fashioned principles like hard work, being a good neighbor, and staying out of trouble. That’s what Free-Range is all about!

  3. $5?????? Try a $20 bill to start with. And you should by buying him lunch. Really $5?

  4. My children get $1 everytime they pick up the leaves and twigs in our neighbor’s front yard. They get $5 a day for pet sitting (feeding, cleaning litterboxes, and spending time with the animals) for another neighbor. I think $5 was a nice surprise for a boy they didn’t even hire to do a job.

  5. Aww! He is such a nice kid! My kids HAVE to help with things, like picking up tumbleweeds off the fence, laundry, getting in hay, cleaning house.

    There is a boy who used to live with his grandmother next door. Yes, he was good friends with my youngest. But, as soon as he saw us out doing stuff, he was right there helping out. Because he wanted to. At home, no work was expected of him – not picking up his toys, or laundry. He really liked the chance to show people that he was capable and willing. It also stopped my kids from whining that they wanted to stop when the kid who didn’t have to be there was willing to keep on going. A good example for all.

  6. “And you should by buying him lunch.”

    Presumably he could have walked into his own apartment and had lunch anytime he wanted. Antsy’s right — Bella didn’t ask him to help and didn’t in any way prevent him from going off and doing whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. Certainly it was appropriate to give him a small reward for his helpfulness, but paying him as though he was hired is not necessary. And frankly, I’m not even sure I’d be thrilled with a stranger giving my 9-year-old $20 — not because of the “stranger” thing but because that is more money than my kids normally handled at that age except at holidays (when it was still generally given in a way that allowed me to supervise their spending), and I would want to have some say in whether they suddenly became responsible for that much money. I’d say $5 is just about right.

  7. “Certainly it was appropriate to give him a small reward for his helpfulness, but paying him as though he was hired is not necessary.”

    Clearly you have not moved in many years. 4 hours of packing and moving would have cost hundreds of dollars if hired, not $20. $20 would be about right. I’d be kinda insulted by $5. Give me nothing for volunteering to help and let me enjoy the pleasure in giving of myself or give me something that properly reflects 4 hours of hard, good 9 year old labor. They may not have asked this kid to help but they certainly benefited from it.

    If the kid blows it all on something stupid, who cares? He earned the money by hard work. I talk to my child about good money choices and make her put some in savings but ultimately she can spend her money on whatever she wants. Like most things, she’ll learn a lot more from her stupid money choices and getting taken than she will ever learn from me closely supervising her spending.

  8. You are right that kids LIKE helping out. I hadn’t given it much thought, but I loved assembling the succot as a kid. That wasn’t easy work, but we were accomplishing something beautiful and often my friends came over wanting to help (we didn’t pay them, just fed them.)

    Even so, it always amazes me how much my (17 month old) daughter wants to help out. Thankfully I read a few Montessori books while pregnant and was somewhat prepared for this, just not as early as it developed. At 11 months old we had a real fight on our hands keeping her out of the dishwasher so I got down and told her she could take the silverware out of the basket and hand that to me, that she must not put it on the floor, and she must not put it in her mouth, and if she did she would be taken away from the dishwasher. To our amazement she proceeded to properly do the assigned task. Now she unloads the smaller bowls and plates, using both hands (that was a hard concept, but she got it). Frankly she begs to help with the dishwasher and has from the moment we showed her how.

    In the yard, when we trim bushes we just drop the clippings onto the sidewalk, and she proudly puts them in the bucket for composting. When we harvest leaves for our guinea pigs, she neatly piles them on the doorstep. Last weekend she helped us scrub the hardwood floor. Most mornings she even sets her place at the table for breakfast, and most afternoons she feeds the guinea pigs. It amazes me how much happier she is doing “chores” than she is “playing.” But I don’t think she knows the difference. Whatever she sees us doing, she WANTS to do. She has been much happier, and much more fun to live with, when we started showing her how she could help.

  9. Contribution, and the sense of purpose, joy and meaning it can bring, is definitely its own reward. Sometimes, money can impede the true savouring of the joy of serving.

    We live in a money economy, so true giving and receiving is awkward for us, and we expect so little of children, we cut them off from both their ability and satisfaction in contributing meaningfully to others.

    This is a huge issue, I think, in the way our society is structured. We want kids to stay out of the way so we can do things efficiently, then suddenly, when they reach sexual maturity, we narrow our eyes at them and say, “Why don’t you do anything to help out around here?”

    Because we’ve shown them that they are useless, that’s why, and they don’t have a built-in understanding of how beautiful it is to do things for others, just for the joy of doing it.

    This child was fortunate: he saw an opportunity, he seized it, he got a sense of meaning and appreciation and contribution, and everybody wins. Whether he was given any money at all, or the amount of money he was given, is immaterial, in my view. He had already received his “reward” : his gift was received. This is the greatest things we can do for each other, give and receive from the heart.

    Let’s reconnect to that ourselves, and invite our kids to experience this as well. The world will be a more joyful place!

  10. Donna, It doesn’t matter what you would have liked to have been paid, the fact is that the kid was happy with the $5 and proud of his work, so who are you to argue with that? That kid worked hard and got something a lot more valuable than money that day.
    Why try to ruin an event that made everyone happy with the outcome.

  11. We moved across town with a removals firm based where we live now – when they arrived at our home, a whole bunch of them turned up, including a boy or 11 or 12 who seemed to be having a great time helping unpack (and helped make it a really quick job).

  12. As a kid I helped a guy clean out a neighbor’s house after the former owner died. My payment was all the weird stuff the guy collected. Magazines, old radios, a skull, tons of junk I thought was really cool. That was a fair trade.

    But I think Donna got it right. $5 is just a strange amount. It was $1 per hour worth of work? Not only that but anyone who has lived in a NYC building knows tipping goes hand in hand with the Super. If this is the super’s kid he was expecting to get tipped. His dad doesn’t go help out for free and nor was he.

  13. Why are some of you taking something beautiful and positive and turning it into an argument? Are you trying to make Bella feel bad over such a spur-of-the-moment decision to say thank you? Maybe some of you have forgotten when you’re moving, you don’t necessarily have everything on hand — a $5 bill may have been all they could find to give him. Either way, everyone in this story turned out happy. Why on earth would you seek to damage or mar that? Maybe you would have done something differently; hurray for you. The world has enough negativity already. Please keep yours to yourself!

  14. Love the story… not that it matters, but I would have given the kid a $20 in a heartbeat. And I would have found his parents and told them (in front of the boy) what a great kid they had raised.

  15. In my hometown it was just normal for kids to help with yard work, painting, installing pools, etc. When I did yard work this weekend not a child was in sight. I suppose they were all indoors playing video games. sigh…

  16. What a wonderful neighborly story!

  17. I think the amount sort of depends on where you live.

    I’m here in Southern California. $5 wouldn’t even get you a combo at the local burger shack. But there are plenty of places in the US where $5 can still get you a decent lunch. Since he ended up with a slice of pizza and an egg-roll (where is this? Little Italy/Chinatown?!), I assume he was happy.

    Personally, around here, I would’ve given more than $5. $10 will get you a good lunch with maybe some change left over. But it all depends on where you are.

  18. “Why are some of you taking something beautiful and positive and turning it into an argument?”

    Welcome to the Internet. You must be new here!

  19. In many cultures, kids are just expected to pitch in without money/compensation being involved.

  20. @Spice-x, you’ve got that right for sure, couldn’t have said it any better!

  21. The little neighbor boy used to come over with his little rake and help me clean up. It never occured to me to pay him. Now he really big and his little son comes over and enjoys our pool–it never occurred to me to charge him for it until I read some of these comments. Just sayin’….

  22. “Clearly you have not moved in many years. 4 hours of packing and moving would have cost hundreds of dollars if hired, not $20.”

    For adult professional movers, of course. I meant “paying him as though you had hired him *as a nine year old kid,* not as an adult who does it for a living.

    “If the kid blows it all on something stupid, who cares? He earned the money by hard work. I talk to my child about good money choices and make her put some in savings but ultimately she can spend her money on whatever she wants. Like most things, she’ll learn a lot more from her stupid money choices and getting taken than she will ever learn from me closely supervising her spending.”

    That’s your approach. Mine is to more closely monitor them at that age, giving them increasingly responsibility over time, but not that much at that age. I’d appreciate someone who respected the idea that I might feel that way, rather than just assuming and projecting their own way of doing things on me. So I would do the same for others.

    “I’d be kinda insulted by $5.”

    Where I grew up, when someone gave you something, ANYTHING that was not a condition previously agreed upon, you were thankful, not insulted — unless you had reason to believe insult was intended.

  23. “And I would have found his parents and told them (in front of the boy) what a great kid they had raised.”

    Yes. This. And I would have also done something friendly and non-monetary to thank them for their child’s time, like sending them some cookies or something (when I was settled and had time.) It’s not that I want to be stingy, it’s that I prefer to keep community, non-professional relationships like this not on a pure money basis. Making everything a monetary exchange makes us all employees of one another, rather than neighbors.

    Again, that’s just my view, I’m not saying anyone doing it differently would be wrong. But I don’t think there’s reason to say that Bella was “wrong,” either.

  24. […] We need more govt funding so the Dept. of Labor can stop this ruthless exploitation of children   If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it! /* […]

  25. Bella, I applaud your kindness, friendliness…and courage. Given the hysteria that surrounds us these days, I am not certain I would have let that boy help me out. Not that he couldn’t handle it – clearly, he was willing and even eager to do so – but because I’d be too afraid how it would appear to others. Isn’t it sad that anyone should have these fears about positive interactions with children?

  26. From my experience, kids mostly like to help adults who are NOT their parents. The same kid who moans and groans about dishes or laundry at home, will happily do it at someone else’s house.

  27. I did think about how much to give him — he clearly volunteered to help, and I thought deserved to be thanked. I didn’t think of it as a tip or a wage! I didn’t “hire” him, and did ponder if I should give him more, but I was struck how he worked with pleasure just because it was more interesting than whatever else he had to do on Sunday afternoon. He seemed surprised when I gave him the money – I don’t believe he wasn’t expecting to be paid. And Chris, I will contact his parents – thanks for the suggestion. If you are interested in learning more about the relationship of money (and other rewards) with motivation, I suggest you read Daniel Pink’s “Drive.” or watch his TED talk. (

  28. I mean Saturday. Golly, can’t even tell the days of the week any more!

  29. Here’s an interesting description of what children are fully capable and able to do if you put faith in their abilities. Also shows what expectations does for a child’s development.

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