So many people tell me they want to get paid to do what they love. But if you need to be paid to do it, you probably don’t really love it. People do what they love whether or not they get paid, which is why highly rewarding jobs don’t have rewarding salaries. This makes sense. It would be a really sad world if we all had to get paid before we would do what we love.

Which means that most of us do work that is not our very favorite thing to do, but it’s our favorite thing to do that someone will pay us to do. That arrangement seems rational and reasonable and fair.

Money is a good motivator to get adults to do things they don’t really like to do. For example, actors are able to totally transform their bodies to get a part in a movie. People work 60-hour weeks in order to take care of their families. Every service job I ever had I did because I needed the money—even the jobs in bookstores I would not have done for no pay.

Scotland experimented with paying moms to stop smoking during pregnancy. Without money, smoke cessation programs had a 9% success rate. With payment the success rate increased to 23%. (Interesting note about the US: 1% of college-educated moms smoke while pregnant and 17% of high school dropouts smoke while pregnant.)

So we have a lot of data to show that people do things they don’t like when they are paid. And we accept, as a society, that payment is a fair expectation if we are doing something we don’t want to do.

So then, why do we expect kids to do things they don’t want to do without paying them? Adults who don’t ask for fair wages look like doormats. Adults who don’t understand how to ask to be paid look like they can’t take care of themselves. Why is it okay to train kids to be like this?

So every time my kids want money to buy a Minecraft skin or a game upgrade or a song or anything else that is a relatively small amount of money, I tell them they have to do work. Sometimes I have work to do. Like I had my son help with fencing so I didn’t have to. And sometimes I just sort of make something up, out of commitment to making them work when they want money.

Then I realized that I could make them do stuff that I wanted them to learn. I could treat that as a job as well. So I had my son memorize the poem Young and Old by Charles Kingsley. (I let him count a stanza for one job.)

I haven’t always been this way. I used to buy them what they want because I want to encourage them to explore the world as a self-directed learning. But I’m realizing that I can teach them how they get to do whatever they want. Until they want money. Then they have to compromise.

You might think this is splitting hairs, but paying kids to compromise seems much more productive and realistic than telling kids they need to compromise and learn whatever the teacher tells them to learn. Later in life they will get paid to compromise. It makes no sense for anyone to not be paid for compromises until after they grow up.