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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Making allowance work

Some tips for allowances:

1. It's OK to be nice! No matter what structure you set up for allowance, don't be afraid of being nice. If your 10-year-old is making an effort to save for something, it's OK to contribute: "If you save half of what you need, I'll give you the other half." If you're in a store and there's something she wants to buy with her own money but she left it home, offer to front it for her (but be sure to remind her to repay you later).

2. Saving is really hard, harder for some children than for others. If you establish a plan for saving, sweeten the pot: "I'll give you 10 percent interest, if you save X amount in six months." (Be generous: Make sure the interest is more than he'd earn elsewhere. The idea is to make it clear in a concrete way that savings gets rewarded.)

3. There's no magic formula for the amount of an allowance. One guideline is to look at what you typically spend on your child in a week and what you want him to be responsible for, and then add a little bit more to it. It's always a good idea to talk to parents of your child's friends. You don't want to give the grandest allowance, but you also don't want to give the stingiest.

4. You're divorced and your children move between two homes? Prevent double-dipping by making sure you and their other parent are on the same page. That doesn't mean you have to have the same rules in each house about how they get an allowance (chores or no chores) or how they spend it. Kids can tolerate differences as long as you acknowledge difference and say something like, "Differences are OK. This is how we do things here," without disparging the other parent. Again, there's no rule: you can each give them allowance for the spending they need to do while they are with you, or only one of you can provide it, if the communication between parents is good. However, each parent should know the other's plan and the amount of allowance.

Here's a summary of the steps in psychologist Ron Drabman's chore/allowance program:

1. Outline the details of the chores in a family contract that everyone agrees to, including what the chores are; how and when they are to be performed (be specific: "by 5 pm" is better than "before dinner"), and the amount of alowance that's to be earned for each chore's completion.

2. Transfer the information onto a separate chart for each child. Colored pens can be used to indicate which chores were completed and at what time. The parent initials each job that has been successfully completed on time. For younger children, the allowance should be given immediately following successful job completion. Over time, that can phase into weekly payments.

3. In a family with several children, offer one child the chance to complete a task another has left incomplete or undone. If he accepts, then he receives that portion of the allowance. If he doesn't want to do it, the original child must complete the chore immediately for free. If that child still refuses, he's immediately in time-out until he is willing to complete the job. (This would be outlined in the contract.)

4. Sharing jobs with a sibling is not permitted (it often becomes an excuse: "I can't dry the dishes because John hasn't washed them yet") but swapping is OK as long as parents are not involved. You still pay the original child whose chore it was; if he subcontracted, he pays the sibling. Similarly, if siblings make an agreement and one doesn't come through, the child who is initially charged with the chore is the one responsible for it.

Posted by Barbara Meltz at 07:02 PM
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