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Archive for February 2012


Allowance, Chores, and Rewards? Sending the Right Message to Your Kids

What is Allowance? Why is it often defined as handing money over to kids on a weekly basis? I define allowance differently. I recommend allowance only when a child needs money for reasonable things (e.g., subway fare… lunch money… a special outing with friends if they’ve been well behaved, etc). This type of allowance helps kids respect the value of money and helps them handle money in the real world. But just giving kids money without any expectations sends the wrong message. Kids in upper middle class (and higher) homes are very lucky. They have extraordinary access to material goods and resources. If parents don’t tie money and privileges to reasonable behavior, children become entitled, and in my experience, often less well behaved. Parents may be scratching their heads wondering… I do everything for them… They have everything they could ever want… Why are they so disagreeable..? Why are they challenging my every request..? Why am i yelling and why am I so exhausted!

If you want to reward your child for keeping up with chores, by all means use explicit rewards. What’s a reward? Anything you give your kids beyond the basics is a reward. What are the basics? Love, good food, clothing (not two-hundred dollar Nikes), medical care, a safe place to live, education. Anything beyond should be earned in some way or another. You need them to keep themselves (and their rooms) clean and organized, manage their responsibilities (i.e., do the homework that’s for their education), and behave respectfully toward you, as well as others outside your home.

Parents often say to me, Hey that’s bribery! Why should I pay them to do what they should be doing already! I agree to some extent. For older children, you would expect them to do much of this without explicit rewards attached. But you have to start somewhere. For young children, it’s often necessary to draw up a chart listing their chores and responsibilities, and the rewards they earn (or privileges that will be removed) if they choose not to comply. That’s not bribing them. A bribe is giving kids a reward up front and hoping they comply. For example, giving a half-hour of screen time after doing a good job on homework is a reward. Ask yourself… are you begging your kids to unplug in order to do their homework? Then you might be doing things backwards.Try reversing it. Always think… they can earn enjoyable things only after doing difficult and less enjoyable activities. This is a variation on the timeless saying… eat your broccoli before having dessert. It trains kids to delay gratification – something many researchers have tied to later life success.

Please contact Dr. Rao about reproducing any material found on these pages.

Can you raise boys without raising your voice?

Can you raise boys without raising your voice? Absolutely. Not only is it better for your blood pressure… speaking with calm authority and with purpose works better.┬áRaising your voice only makes you look powerless. Truth is, boys don’t make great eye contact, and in general, also don’t pick up on our spoken words as easily. If you yell, you’ll only look frustrated, and accidentally model anger. When your son ignores you… try this instead:

1. Get eye contact first. Without him looking at you, you don’t have his full attention. Eye contact is very powerful and doesn’t let him off the hook. He can’t pretend he didn’t hear you the first, second time, or the twentieth time you asked him to pick up his socks or shut off his computer.

2. Once you have eye contact, tell him to repeat back what you’ve asked of him. This makes your words his words. It’s now in his head and he can’t as easily ignore what you’ve said. It forms a contract between you.

3. Attach a simple consequence. Pick up your things first, and then we can leave for the park… I’m coming back in a few minutes and if you’re not dressed, then automatic loss of screens tonight when you get home from school. it’s your choice… Repeat what I’ve just said… good… hope you make a good choice and earn the reward…

Remember to use a firm voice, but without much emotion. No second chances. Follow through with the consequence or else you look weak and willing to bend. Boys like a challenge and will try to engage you in a fight. Stay calm and walk off.┬áBy doing these simple three steps over and over at home, he’ll develop good social habits for when he’s asked to follow through at school on things he doesn’t like or finds challenging.

Please contact Dr. Rao about reproducing any material found on these pages.