PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Making Money: Responsibility

Responsibility means different things in different areas in our lives, but when it comes to working, it's more important than ever. It's about always doing our best, being fair and honest, and giving a customer exactly what we promise.

Work is like a trade. You're trading your time and energy for money, and you have to hold up your end of the trade in order to get that money. If you don't hold up your end as you agreed, then it's not a fair trade, is it? If for some reason you don't do a good job, it's your responsibility to do it again until you get it right, refund some or all of the person's money, or find some other way to fix the situation.

Responsibility matters even more when you're dealing with someone's pets, plants, or possessions. You probably don't want to be the person who caused a cat to go hungry one day, a potted palm tree to die, or a valuable vase to get broken. Of course, accidents happen, but you can help avoid them by following instructions, getting adult help when you need it, and being honest about anything that did or did not take place.

Let's look at an example:

You agree to rake and bag the leaves in a neighbor's lawn, starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

  • The responsible way: You show up on time with a rake and bags, and work hard to remove all the leaves, just like you said you would. It's tough work, but you can be proud of it, and you end up with some spending money.

  • The irresponsible way: You show up an hour late with a poor attitude, complain that the raking is harder than you thought, and quit halfway through.

  • Ways to fix the situation: If you haven't held up your side of the bargain, you've got a few options. You can:

    • Tell your neighbor that this is harder work than you thought, and it will take you a couple of days to finish. Then you need to show up and do the work until it's done.

    • Tell your neighbor that you can't finish alone, and invite some friends to help you. Then you need to pay your friends a fair portion of the fee you're charging your neighbor.

    • Tell your neighbor that you're very sorry, but you just can't finish the job. Then you need to refund his or her money.

Remember: The best way to deal with a problem is to make sure the problem doesn't happen in the first place. By always being responsible and working hard, you'll keep your customer happy. He or she might recommend you to others, which can really help you earn more money.

Here are some more tips to help you be responsible when it comes to earning money:

  • Always be on time. People tend to get angry when someone arrives late for work, so always show up when you promise to-or even a few minutes early.

  • Have a good attitude. Don't moan and groan about the job at hand -- it only makes the time go by slower and gives a bad impression. Be positive, full of energy, and always show respect for others.

  • Dress appropriately. Dress down for "dirty" jobs like house painting or scrubbing. Dress nicely for jobs like selling things or babysitting. If you're unsure of what to wear for a specific job, ask a trusted adult.

  • Don't concentrate on just the money. Try to focus on the work you're doing, not just on the dollars and cents that you're making. Doing a good job is your first priority-then you can enjoy the money you've earned.

  • Be realistic about what you can and can't do. If you find yourself in over your head, it's okay to admit it. Chances are, you're capable of anything you put your mind to, but if you really feel like you've taken on something you can't handle, ask for help before the situation gets worse.

  • Don't cheat other people. Always be fair with people. If you run a lemonade stand, give your customers the good stuff; don't add twice the water in order to get a bigger profit. If you promise someone five hours of work, give her five, not four.

  • Don't cheat yourself, either. Don't let people take advantage of you by settling for less money than you agreed on. If you work five hours, insist on getting paid for them. Ask a parent for help with this if you need it.

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