Rule #33: Use Your Child As Cheap Labor

in Rules of Parenting

Unlike other children his age, this one actually deserves his dinner tonight.

Unlike other children his age, this one actually deserves his dinner tonight.

The shameful truth is that American children get a free pass these days when it comes to hard labor with little or no pay.

Which is why you always feel free to tell anyone who’ll listen about your hard-labor travails as a child. It usually goes something like, “When I was 5, I worked sun-up to sundown in a codfish plant beheading and gutting the day’s catch while an old codger with an eye patch and a mallet stood guard so I wouldn’t flee. Frankly, the experience made me a better person.”

This is a lie, naturally, and you’re pretty much a dick for perpetuating it. The truth is that you once ate codfish sticks when visiting your Uncle Hector, the funeral director who wore an eye patch, in Toledo. But in the gray area of truthfulness that comes with parenting, this hardly matters.

Instead, what you know to be true is that your bank account isn’t exactly flush with Benjamins right now. Sure, you could work some extra hours or maybe spend fewer dollars at massage parlors or at the dog track, but this would impact your lifestyle negatively. You need more time lounging, not less.

It’s high time your young children began to fill the family coffers with cash garnered from the sweat of their yet-to-be-developed brow.

Building Character, One Broken Back at a Time

Lots of socially weak parents think it’s perfectly acceptable for their children to earn money by setting up lemonade stands, babysitting, or mowing the occasional lawn. Please. The sweat is minimal, and the cash is laughable.

To make real cash—and maybe skirt a few child-labor laws—introduce your son or daughter to moneymaking endeavors that free up more time for you to sip endless mojitos while playing Guitar Hero in the middle of the day. Child labor has never been more profitable:

The devil mommy wants knockoff Prada…

Careful with the needle, honey. Mommy doesn't want blood all over her new purse.

Careful with the needle, honey. Mommy doesn't want blood all over her new purse.

You have three kids under the age of 12 and two sewing machines you swiped from your grandmother’s house in 1993, with the intent of taking them to a pawnshop.

You forgot.

Now they sit in your basement, so put them—and your children—to work.

Buy some cheap fabric, leather, and knockoff patterns to create your own sweatshop for clothing and accessories. Paying your child a quarter for every Prada knockoff she creates will give her a sense of “accomplishment” and learn an early lesson about “wanton exploitation.”

It beats the hell out of a taxi (sort of)…

Traffic snarled in your town? We hear you—and have a solution that will make your child stronger, if not exactly more emotionally stable: a rickshaw service. You know, those human-powered buggies seen all over super-cool Asian countries like China, Vietnam, and San Francisco.

Passengers will marvel at your 8-year-old’s stamina as he takes hills with the speed of a raccoon caught in a trap. Your son will bring home a few dollars, as well as an appreciation for “clean transportation” and the historic Bataan Death March.

Introduce dirt farming…

What are you waiting for? That dirt won't farm itself.

What are you waiting for? That dirt won't farm itself.

Our reliance on “foreign energy” has never been greater, so our country needs more than a few heroes to lead us down the “path of righteousness”—even if it involves smelling like a pole cat and getting filthier than, well, dirt.

There’s no better place to begin searching for new forms of energy than in your own back yard—literally. But you don’t want to get your Tevas dirty.

That’s why it’s all about the kids: Twenty-four-hour digs should be the order of the day, with only one-minute breaks each hour for water and assorted seeds. Hand your child a shovel and tell him he’s now officially a dirt farmer until he strikes something harvestable, oily, or shiny.

Which may be never, of course, but at least no one will be hogging the Guitar Hero.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Mommielicious a.k.a. Niki February 5, 2009 at 12:15 pm

My daughter has been clearing the dinner table for the last year. She is 5. She no longer thinks that a gallon of milk (8 pounds) is heavy. This is FANTASTIC because she now gets to help unload the car after i go grocery shopping. Her brothers main duty is during the warmer months here in FL when the grass starts to grow. We live on a corner lot and he gets to mow the entire 1/2 acre with the non-self propelled mower. Did i mention we live in Florida?? Yeah it sucks to be him


jason February 5, 2009 at 12:36 pm

You forgot child escort services. Oh wait, did I cross the line?


Mad Woman February 5, 2009 at 1:31 pm

I’ve been having the kids vacuum and unload dishwashers for awhile now. Not to mention doing the veggie garden. But it never occurred to me I could have had them making high fashion knock offs for me. And the oil?? Oh my…what I’ve been missing out on.

Thank you thank you!


Father Knows Worst February 5, 2009 at 3:38 pm

@Mommielicious: What you really need to do is somehow hook him up to a turbine. That way you can get a discount on your utility bill by having him add extra energy back to the grid while he walks around. I’m sure you can learn how on Wikipedia or something.

@jason: There are no lines. Unless you posted a picture and then that would just be gross.

@Mad Woman: We experience the peak of our creativity in our childhood years. This is why getting your kids to sew you designer handbag-knockoffs is such a great idea. Who knows, they may be the next Louis Vuitton – then you could really cash in.


kevin February 5, 2009 at 3:42 pm

you make me rofl, jim bob johnny. btw thx 4 man purse.


Christa the nanny February 5, 2009 at 4:05 pm

As a nanny for a two-year old boy, I like to combine amusing the child with getting the housework done. You can see a picture of my victim here.

The actual post is in Swedish unfortunately, but the picture says it all. Who says the kid has to be bigger than the vacuum cleaner?


Surfer Jay February 5, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Hey there’s nothing wrong with building a little character…and anger towards your parents. I can’t wait to take full advantage of my boys services when he is of age.

Hey I was a dirt farmer too! Swear I was. And I also couldn’t leave the house on Saturdays untill I cleaned for 8 hours straight. Seriously. 8 Hours. Good times.

Thats one funny post dude. And I’m with you all the way.


edie February 5, 2009 at 7:03 pm

san francisco is in asia?? i never was any good at geography.
lord knows i need more lounging time, not less. i’m going to start a rickshaw business, tomorrow. between the two of them, my 18-month-old and my 2-month-old should be able to pull a hefty load. mommy needs mo money, mo money. and don’t give me that shit about “i have blisters on my hands and feet, mommy” … i don’t want to hear it. i gave birth to you big-headed fools. it’s about time you paid me back. talk about blisters … and they weren’t on any speakable body parts like hands and feet, damn it!


Popshopologist February 5, 2009 at 10:57 pm

I am startled and disappointed that you did not get those kids of yours involved in any pyramid schemes. You are never too young for that! Kids have the natural sales advantage. Set them up outside a supermarket in some ragged clothing and nobody can say no. Make sure you don’t feed them first as hunger will motivate them and generate more sales.

Other prime cash opportunities: Dog Poo Patrol, Police Informant (Little pitchers and all), Pickpocket, Counterfeiter.

Which brings me to my suggestion. I am not sure if you have done this one yet but I think it is vital to teach your children the fine act of forgery. It’s really a PITA to keep up with all those report cards, permission slips and waivers that you, as a parent, have to sign. It’s for their own good. They’ll be signing their lives away eventually. Might as well start sooner and not later!

PS. LOVE your site :)


Father Knows Worst February 6, 2009 at 8:50 am

@kevin: No problem, dude. And just let me know if there were any sweat stains on it or something. The kid is allergic to those plastic gloves we make him wear while he sews but sometimes he’s sneaky and takes them off. We’ll give you your money back if he effed it up. We’ll take it out of his allowance. Oh wait. He doesn’t have one.

@Christa the nanny: That’s out of control. The vacuum picture, not the switching between Swedish and English.

@Surfer Jay: They used to hose me off before I came in the house, too. Then they just stopped letting me in…

@edie: You can get blisters there? Damn. For real??

@Popshopologist: I think you’re on to something with the pyramid schemes (and the other ideas are effing great – mind if I rob them off you?) The pyramid scheme idea actually gives you an incentive to have kids, like that crazy lady that just had 8. Her scheme is already in bloom!


Andrew Moore February 6, 2009 at 10:21 am

After reading this article, I don’t feel as guilty having my 19 month old son, Ben, unclog the garbage disposal when it clogs (only his hands can fit down the sink).


Father Knows Worst February 8, 2009 at 6:13 pm

@Andrew Moore: After all you do for him, it’s the least he can do. And that goes for shower and toilet clogs, too.


Karen February 14, 2009 at 5:13 pm

I highly recommend dog poop duty (or is it ‘doody’?). My daughter (who is 9) loves it. I get her the special pooper scooper, a fancy oranage bucket and send her out the door. I shower her with praise when she returns and even throw her a quarter or two for her efforts. All the while, I sit back and enjoy my coffee and think…better her than me.


Mathew February 17, 2009 at 7:39 am

I honestly can’t wait till my 2&3 yr old can finally wash some dishes!


Father Knows Worst February 17, 2009 at 11:53 am

Baby Doing His Part

It’s never too early to get them started.


fall from grace February 18, 2009 at 2:21 pm

I showed the Baby Mop pic to a pregnant g/f and asked if she had registered for this stylish & functional outfit yet. I know what I’m getting them! I told her that once Junior starts crawling, I’d love to baby-sit her precious sweet pea at my place. Instead of scheduling the cleaning lady 2x/month, I’ll have Junior over on the 2nd Fri of the month and schedule Lupe for the end of the month. Thanks, FKW!


Mcfly March 4, 2009 at 7:26 am

Reminds me of my first job; I was 6 (luckily I was able to pass for 6 ½) when I started working on an oil rig. I’ll never forget the joy I felt walking on to that shiny platform. I had only lost three fingers by my 7th birthday. When I handed my first pay check over to dad so he could buy his whisky medicine and he looked at me and said, “That’ll do boy, that’ll do.” I’ll never forget the pride I felt in my heart. Of course I wouldn’t know for some years that what I thought was pride was actually a mild heart attack…


SillyDad April 15, 2009 at 2:16 pm

I refer to my children as Sherpas and frequently say “Because that’s why I had kids” when they whine “Why do IIIIIIIII have to fold the laundry/pave the driveway/replace the roof/etc…”


SillyDad April 15, 2009 at 2:17 pm

P.S. Can you tell I’ve fallen in love with your blog?


Father Knows Worst April 15, 2009 at 8:21 pm

@SillyDad: I like where your head’s at.


kitty August 4, 2009 at 3:28 am


In your lap?


Mike December 25, 2009 at 8:05 am

I love this pic! Chris is so sweet!


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