Who’s the Boss?

On October 10, 2007 by Eden M. Kennedy

During our last parent-teacher conference we were talking with Jackson’s principal about how to make children obey. Not how to turn them into little robots, mind you, but just to teach them the self-discipline to do what’s asked of them (eat your dinner/put away your toys/write a thank-you note to Grandma) without a prolonged series of negotiations.

But so the principal was talking about how it’s especially important for me, The Mom, to get Jackson to do what I say and for me to win in confrontations now, otherwise when Jackson becomes a teenager I’ll be shit out of luck when it comes to having him listen to me at all. And then he added the kicker: “The child respects the mother because the father demands it.”

Let’s think about that for a moment. The child respects the mother because the father demands it.

After having a good long and productive discussion about ways for me to garner Jackson’s respect and compliance, I was taken aback by the sudden gust of traditional values that blew through the room. What compounded the shock was later at home when Jackson came up with the old “Dad is the boss of the house.” Why is dad the boss of the house? “Because he pays for everything.”

Okay, maybe he thinks that because we’ve watched the dinner scene in Talladega Nights about 400 times now (“I win the races and I get the money!”), and with some discussion I can nip that one in the bud.

But the notion that my authority is so flimsy that it needs Jack’s weight behind it, that no matter how many times I bend the little twig of Jackson’s will beneath the mighty wind of my chocolatey breath, it’s only the times when Jack brings on the full hippo hurricane that really count? (“Well, you know, dad was the disciplinarian and mom provided the unconditional love; that was mom’s job, until she committed suicide in ’81.“)

Now, I will be the first one to admit that Jack can indeed bring it. I’m normally one to discuss and cajole and warn of the pint-sized consequences, but when a kid does something so blatantly wrong and stupid that you need to make sure they never do it again — here I’m thinking of the time Jackson spit in Jack’s face — so that dragging Jackson home by the arm, swatting his ass, and leaving him to stew in his room for awhile did indeed achieved our family’s saliva retention goals, and we have not seen that particular sign of disrespect ever since.

That kind of muscular discipline really reinforces the whole “dad’s the boss” thing, though.

And despite the fact that I make an okay amount of money doing whatever it is that I do, the fact that I do it at home seems to render my contributions as mysterious as vapor to Jackson. While daddy leads a small army of men in the construction of giant houses with motor courts, tennis pavilions, and drought-resistant landscaping, all I can do is point to a page on my computer with a lot of typing on it and tell Jackson, “Yeah, Daddy can build a house, but I know how to read ALL THOSE BIG WORDS.”

And this leads us to the question: How much allowance should a six-year-old get?

These are the chores Jackson has to do to get his money:

1. Empty the bathroom trash into the kitchen trash.

2. Sweep everything Peanut doesn’t eat (leftover bits of zucchini, lettuce, peaches, etc.) off the balcony.

3. Fill Cookie’s bowl with kibble at dinnertime.

4. Put away all the clean clothes I’ve left folded on his chair.

For this he gets the princely sum of $5.00 a week. I know! When I was his age I got a dull quarter and a warm glass of grape Kool-Aid. Did you know I also walked to school uphill both ways and lived in a shoebox in the middle of the road? All true.



73 Responses to “Who’s the Boss?”

  • $5 is probably a really good amount. You could reinforce him using his allowance by letting him save up for something he really wants (i.e. that $50 gameboy advance game). I think his chores are reasonable. I would make it clear that he’s not getting “paid” to do work. He’s expected to help out allowance or no. Aren’t I an old fogey. Not only did i walk uphill both ways but allowance is a privilege…blahblahblah.

    you could increase his allowance (and responsibilities) by $1.00 a year or something. By the age of $15 he’ll be netting $15 bucks a week.

  • I’ve heard recommendations for $1 per year of age, so you’re about on track by that measure (under market, but don’t tell Jackson!) and $1/year increases sound right.

    I second the not-getting-paid-for-chores philosophy, which my own parents subscribed to. We did chores because we were part of the household and it was a responsibility; we got an allowance because it was a privilege they chose to give us.

    Warning tale: I dated a guy who was living at home one summer before senior year in college, at age 20, and when his parents went on vacation they had to pay him $60 to clean his own house. You can hire a professional crew for that much and they’d do a better job! Plus, he already had enough money for pot, so he didn’t clean the house.

    He was a loser and I broke up with him a few months later.

  • We do what Laurie said – allowance and chores are not related. All of us have work to do around the house, and the work has nothing to do with allowance. Allowance is for children who are old enought to learn how to use it – save some, donate some, spend some.

    Have you read “How to talk so your kids will listen and listen so they’ll talk,” by Faber and Mazlich (Ma-something, anyway)? Dated, but awesome books. They are very practical, and their advised is based on respect for each family member, acknowledgement of feelings, and great tips for how to proceed through situations. I love them.

    Can I just say how much of a genius you are for figuring out how to make Fussy and Fussy:Reading feeds come through to the same place? It’s like magic.

  • I didn’t get an allowance when I was a kid and yes I did chores – though quite begrudgingly and with many an eye roll. The same was true for my younger brother.

    That being said, before we were old enough to earn money from outside sources, such as babysitting, if I wanted to go out to eat with friends or buy candy I would ask if I could have some money for that expense. My parents said yes within reason, if it was too many times a week, or to large an amount the answer was no.

    We were expected to use our birthday and other gifted money for most entertainment so I had my little savings book and I would say ‘please take out $10.00″. They wanted us to save money and budget it out for the things we wanted.

    I asked once why I didn’t get an allowance and my parents said they don’t get paid to raise me and look at everything they have to do around the house and for me – we’re a family and we’re all expected to pitch in without being paid.

    BTW, Mom was the enforcer in our home. I went to Dad when I wanted to get away with something.

    Of course my in preschool my brother was told to draw a picture of what your mom does as part of a Mother’s day gift. He drew her doing laundry (she was a stay at home mom). She was mortified.

  • Sometimes I think kids just identify with the same sex parent as being the boss. I am not sure what that is about exactly but I see that a lot with my friends and their kids. Girls are all “mom is in charge!” and boys are all “Dad is the boss!” So, who knows. I think with any kid though, it probably goes back and forth a bit.

    Wow. I am helpful.

    Also, I never got allowance. So maybe Jackson can buy me some candy or something, he’s rich!

  • Allowance and chores do go together but there are things that I will ask him to do, and if doesn’t do them or has a crappy attitude I start deducting a quarter, he’s got as much as .50 docked so you can tell this is a kid who likes money. BTW he’s 9 and get’s $5.00. I give him 4, and put 1.00 into his savings. Between his $1.00 savings since he was 4, and some b-day money I bought him some Google stock today. So that little amount does add up.

    Children do connect with the same sex parent on a different level, and they need a strong role model in that dept too. The thing is in my house, mama’s word is law, period. As much as the principals words seem old fashioned there was some truth in those words. You and I (I have a boy only child) have to get control NOW, and have them respect and honor us now, because when they’re teens it will be too late.

  • I’m torn between relief and outrage by the ol’ “Dad wears the pants” in the family crap. In some ways, it’s nice to have Dad take over and be responsible for the big stuff when I’m still sputtering with rage…in other ways it’s fricken irritating that we don’t share the responsibility equally. Why can’t he discipline for the leaving-the-toys-out infractions as well as the slapping mommy’s face infractions?

    And I agree with previous posters, $5.00 seems quite reasonable to me. You could always negotiate more $$ for more chores if he feels he’s getting stiffed.

  • My five-year-old makes her bed, feeds the dog twice a day, puts her clothes in the hamper and generally picks up her stuff before bed, and sets the table at dinner.

    We haven’t started allowance yet and we decided that until she gets some sort of internalized concept of what money really is, she doesn’t need much in the way of her own money. Of course, we’ve explained the concepts of money, etc. but she’s not interested so I’m counting myself lucky!

  • I think you’re generous. My 9-year-old gets $2 a week, and my 6-year-old gets $1.

    Can I just say that I dread the teenage years?

  • Did you know that if I wrote that I had swatted my kids ass (my imaginary kid) on my blog and the powers that be in New Zealand read it, I could be charged with child abuse? Isn’t that completely retarded? If a child spat in my face there ain’t no way he’s just going to the naughty corner!
    On the allowance issue, my sister and I used to get 20cents each to wash, wax, polish, and vacuum Dad’s car….and we’d write a list of the lollies we were going to buy with it. One mint leaf….one jersey caramel…wait no two jersey caramels… etc.

  • We were given a dollar a week until we were maybe eight. I think we mostly bought candy.

    Then it went up to $5 a week until I was about 12, when it skyrocketed to $30 per pay period collectable on pay day, which we continued to receive until college whether or not we had jobs. That was gas money, movie money, music money, spending money at King’s Island, bus fare to the mall, whatever.

    We didn’t have assigned chores so much as we were just expected to help with things. Mom’s cooking dinner? She’ll ask you to set the table or peel this carrot. You noticed the cat’s bowl is empty? Feed her. Mom asks you to take out the trash? Get on it.

    She did offer bonus money at seemingly random intervals for random tasks. It would go like this “I have…” (reaches into purse, rifles around) “three dollars and fifty for anyone who is willing to dust the living room, and I’ll give you a dollar if you water the plants in the front yard. All tasks must be completed by three pm.” Totally optional, but we were simply not permitted to request money outside of the allowance and what was offered for additional housework.

  • Please never tell my 12-year-old that Jackson is getting $5 a week. He just got a raise over the summer, and thinks he, at $10 a week, has a good thing going on.

    We don’t pay for daily chores because, well, no one pays us. We give him $10 so he can have some dough in his pocket. If someting special comes up and he needs more cash, he has the option of earning up to $5 more a week by doing a really sucky chore like cleaning out the fridge or the inside of the car.

    As far as the dad king-of-the-world thing goes, I wouldn’t sweat it. I’m convinced that whoever leaves the house in the morning to “go” to work and isn’t home daily making sandwiches or wiping up the vomit just automatically is seen by kids as more exotic and, thus, more important in a weird kind of way. This passes. I also notice, however, that now that my kids are older(12 & 16), my husband often has to raise his voice to get the dishwasher emptied and I only have to shoot THE look…no words necessary.

  • Oh man…allowances. I’ve tried the chores/allowance thing with my 7yo and you know what? She couldn’t care less. Money means nothing to her (in a good way, not in a “my mommy buys me everything” way). And get this: she LOVES (begs, actually) to clean the toilets! For free! Because it’s FUN! Wahoo! (strutting around proudly)

    (Yeah, I know, I’ll pay for it when she’s a pain-in-the-ass teenager.)

  • I never gave out allowance because they knew if they needed something they could ask but they still had to help out around our house.

    Now, if they wanted something they had to earn it or wait for a special occasion.

    I do believe you have to demand their respect early (as well as give respect) and as they grow older it actually gets easier. Except around the 12-15 age when the hormones kick in and the best you can do is not to get involved in the head games they will try to play.

    Having dad’s support is nice but not required.

  • My 6-almost-7-year-old gets ONE WHOLE DOLLAR a week. His 10-year-old sister gets $5 a week, but hers is split 3/2 into spending and savings. They both have chores, but not tied to allowance (blahblah I don’t get paid to cook dinner and do your laundry so you don’t get paid to do your chores either blahblah.

    Just another data point.

  • tristan did that whole DAD IS THE BOSS BECAUSE HE PAYS FOR THINGS once, right in front of my wife, and in the calmest voice i could muster, i looked at him and said, ‘GODDAMNIT, YOU JUST GOT US BOTH SCREWED.’ he hasn’t said it since.

    i haven’t done any allowance, because anything that doesn’t involve automatic withdrawal from my account is too complicated for me now. he just waits until i’ve tied on a few martinis and asks if i have any change in my wallet. he scored $50 one time.

    and maybe a condom. haha. um, kidding.

  • Hmmm, one comment disappeared already, I’ll try one more time!

    We too separate chores and allowance. Chores are things you do because you live in the house and we all help out with that. None of us get paid for it.

    Allowances are for those moments when you say, “I want __________.” Then your parents can sure, you can buy that with your money. My children turn out to be nearly as cheap as their parents and want very little when they’re spending. It does mean they have big savings accounts on little allowances and have bought themselves big things from time to time (a wii, video games, extra shoes).

    The youngest is 5 and just started getting $1 a week. The older two are similarly undercompensated. I’ll occasionally chip in toward some activities, but rarely the whole thing. Never for the second time seeing a movie, etc.

    The older two are both babysitting age and that’s a lucrative option. They get paid to officially babysit their brother, too. If they’re really desperate for dollars, we’re happy to find real household jobs for them to do. Grandma is too, but she pays a lot better.

  • interesting. in our house, I make the money and our son is very aware of that. however, there is still some aspect of daddiness that makes them the discipline heavyweight. my threats will get me far, but at the end of my rope, I can say, “I’ll tell Daddy,” and shit will cease immediately. I don’t know why that is. It pisses me off.

  • I’m still stuck on ‘saliva retention goals’. Good stuff.

    Last year, my daughter hit me with some crap about Daddy being smarter than me – and she added, ‘not to hurt my feelings or anything’. Like I am stupid and fragile. Not a good day. I asked her why (the hell) does she think this? And it boiled down to his business trips and work – that’s it. I don’t know what the answer is, but it sure doesn’t help when school administrators pile on.

  • My dad was definitely the heavy in our house. He spanked me only once in my life–that’s how awesome his power was. His message was clear: don’t fuck with the rules. Not that he was a mean guy or a terrible father, mind you.

    I’m firmly in the no allowance camp. Children should learn that household chores are part being in a family. Keep in mind that I have no kids, though, and you can therefore dispose my opinion in the nearest trash can.

  • I’m the SAHM who works some and I AM THE BOSS. I like that Theya has learned that I Mean Business when I use a certain tone or whatever but I wish that she would respond the same to J. I don’t know if it’s because he’s gone so much half the year (probably) or that he’s the one who just gets down and plays with her more and so he’s her Buddy.

    I try to stay out when he’s trying to discipline her, sometimes it’s tempting to step in and Lay Down The Law but I know that doesn’t help his authority. I also think a lot of it has to do with the fact that he’s never been around kids and doesn’t always communicate well with her.

    Anyhoo, T still gets stickers on her potty chart (though she really doesn’t need them anymore) for Special Treats (still always has to be a pony ride) and a nickle for setting the table. All other ‘chores’ are expected, enforced and unpaid.

    I think once she hits school age and starts to covet other kids’ fashionable paraphenalia we’ll start her on an allowance. For now, though, all birthday & other money is put into her RESP.

  • Oh my God, I am so shocked by people’s responses… My mom was a housewife (what we used to call SAHMs), but OH BOY was she boss of everyone in the universe. Still is.

    My dad has always been kind of absent-minded and easy going, and I don’t think he ever punished any of us for anything. In fact, he was more likely to *get* punished then dole out punishments.

    The moral is, if you want your kids to respect/fear you, you have to be MEAN. My mom could yell and scream and swat and contort her face with rage such that a marine would quail.

    (Of course she was/is very sweet 99% of the time — this was only when we’d been bad.)

  • How much allowance you give the kid should depend on how much you expect him to pay for on his own, right? Since we buy his food, books, clothes, and a certain amount of toys & other treats, my son gets very little allowance — it’s only for things I wouldn’t buy him, and it has to be something that’s allowed in the house. I’m on the “you do chores as a member of the house” bandwagon, although I’ve let him earn money for doing beyond his chores.

    I’m the prime breadwinner, but because I work from home (and run the cleaning, because it matters more to me), I get a lot of the “Daddy’s job is more important” from other people (including my mother). Nobody living in this house would dare cause I’d go on strike. I hate that shit.

    I’m all irritable now, because although “ALL THOSE BIG WORDS” made me smile, the idea that people still feel free unleashing “a gust of traditional values” — gaarr, really? I hope you responded with a gust of traditional beany fart.

  • I never got an allowance. It was always ‘do your work or suffer the wrath of your dad’. My mom couldn’t be bothered to punish or yell at me. It was all on dad’s shoulders. That ploy pretty much worked until I was old enough to fight back.

    Usually, I didn’t get any thing until the grandparents sent the birthday/Christmas/random-religious-event money. And even then, it ended up being relegated to my parents anyway because they were (are) perpetually low on money.

    I think what you are doing with Jackson is really nice. It’s teaching him responsibility. Maybe you could instill in him some saving techniques so that he can get some of the objects off of his Amazon wishlist.

  • I’m a no strings attached allowancer and my husband is a work in exchange for dough allowancer, so we’ve come to a compromise. All of our boys get $5/week, no strings attached. This starts at 5 years old. When they’re six, they can get an extra $1/week for doing all of their daily chores with no cajoling or drama. When they’re seven, they can get an extra $2/week for daily chores, and so on. Granted, our oldest is only 9, so come the teen years, we may well be bankrupt :P

  • I want address the principal’s assertion that “The child respects the mother because the father demands it.”

    Could it be possible that he’s not entirely traditional and, in fact, believes that it goes both ways? That is, I do think kids get a sense of each parent’s authority by how each parent treats the other parent. If the father undermines the mother’s authority or rolls his eyes in an effort to be pals with the kid when the mother tries to discipline, that diminishes the mother’s authority. Conversely, if the father says “Listen to your mother” or “You don’t talk to Mom that way” (and if the mother does the same for the father), the kid learns that the parents are united and respects both of them.

    I’m a single mom, but my son’s dad lives nearby and sees the kiddo regularly. There have been times when my son’s dad and I have been on the outs, and he has deliberately not supported me in disciplining the kiddo, and there have been times when he has stepped up and supported me. Believe me, there’s a big difference in my son’s attitude when we present a united front.

    My sister-the-shrink has also mentioned that in most healthy families, the parents back each other up, but when one is a single parent, the kid doesn’t hear that backing up very often, if at all, and therefore needs to hear it sometime from other authority figures such as teachers (“Listen to your mother!”). It’s a much different thing for a kid to hear his parent’s authority supported by a third party, than for the parent to simply try to assert her (or his) authority on her/his own (“Because I’m your mother!”).

    What was the question? ;^)

  • We haven’t started giving our first grader an allowance because I’m a start-as-you-mean-to-go-on type of mom and we haven’t figured out what will be best in the long run. It was very informative to read what everyone is doing. Our second child will be in first grade next years so we’ll be starting “something” next year for sure.

    I agree with b.e.c.k. about the power of parent’s supporting each other. Our four children know that even if Dad’s not home at the moment, if he was, he’d be nodding along with all I was saying. It took a while for us to get to that point, though!

  • Yes, thanks for all these good comments, people! Interesting to know how different people approach this stuff. And thanks B.E.C.K. for the viewpoint on the dad thing. I took it to be old-fashioned patriarchal stuff and whether it was or not, your explanation of the broader concept makes sense.

  • I read recently that kids should get an allowance amount that’s dependent upon what they actually do that week. My kid’s all over it. It lowers the bar considerably, yet leaves room for spurts of industrious energy. I’m looking forward to years of weekly protracted negotiations on that one.

  • Mr. Kennedy, is your wife’s account accurate?

  • Really interesting post and comments. I don’t have too much to add except to say that someone (okay, it was my therapist) told me that there have been studies recently showing that boys don’t hear as well as, or in the same way as, girls do; and they actually need the deeper, more resonant dad’s voice to get the message.

    This came up because I was talking about how I am the disciplinarian in the house but no one takes me seriously, whereas on the rare occasions when dad lays down the law, they pay attention.

  • Wow – money to behave the way he should behave? $5 at 6? The principal may have it pegged. You’re sorta screwed when he hits 14.

    I don’t mean to sound like a hardass, but why on earth does a 6 year old need money anyway? I mean, the occasional dollar and birthday money from relatives, in a piggy bank so they can take a dollar to the outing and buy their own treat, sure – but $20 per month?

    I can only pass on what I’ve seen the exact same relationship bring out in my ‘soft-love and allowance receiving’ nieces and nephews. A truly repulsive sense of entitlement when asked to clear the table/pick up something/do a chore.

    Good luck!

  • No, jen, the money is not to bribe him into behaving, it’s a reward for doing chores. I’m sorry, but your comment pissed me off. A six-year-old needs money to save up to buy stuff I don’t want to buy for him, like $35 games for his Nintendo.

  • We give our 5 year old $5 a week. It’s not connected to chores; we give it to him so that he’ll learn to manage money. He helps around the house because he’s a member of the family and we all pitch in, that’s just the deal around here.

    He has three jars: Save, Spend, and Give. Each week he puts a dollar in Save, a dollar in Give, and the last three in Spend. He can use Spend whenever he wants, but Save is for far-off stuff, like Christmas or travel or college. Give is for charity, whichever one he wants to give it to.

    And yeah, jen’s comment pissed me off too.

  • Cripes, you are getting your moneys worth my dear! My 10 year old daughters get $5.00 a week for doing little more than keeping their rooms from being completely disgusting and (happily) helping with dinner prep.

    Son at 14 a bit more driven and well paid. Takes garbage and recycling out weekly, unloads dishwasher 2x daily and watches his younger sisters when I have to dash out.

  • I’m sorry it pissed you off – I certainly didn’t intend to come off as snippy.

    At any rate – reading over the other comments, it seems as though this is an oft-considered topic. I hope you find some great advice from these folks.

  • A shoebox? Luuxury.

  • We’ve never had the “who’s in charge” conversation and, hopefully, we never will. Yikes. I’m still reeling a little about that conversation.

    The really funny thing is that my kids DO walk to school uphill both ways – we walk through a house farm that was built at the bottom of an old sand pit, so it’s kind of at the bottom of a bowl. We walk down one hill and up another to get to school, then do the same thing in reverse to get back. We don’t live in a shoebox, though, and the kids don’t need to keep baked potatoes in their pockets to keep their hands warm. Oh, and there are no bear killing opportunities likely, so they don’t have to keep their notebooks handy for the purpose…

  • My husband has a low tolerance for our boys disrespecting me. In the early years, I would bristle at him stepping in to tell my toddler in his big daddy voice, “Don’t do your mother that way.” I thought it was interference.

    With him, it is a cultural thing. Southerners are extremely warm with kids, but they definitely expect more formality from them on the whole.

    After we had two more boys, I really began to appreciate that he insists on that basic respect, because too often I will let it slide.

    Provocative topic.

  • I am so happy that I was not sitting in the room with that principal. You see, there is no father in our lesbian household so I would have had to explain that we can barely feed ourselves or pay our bills and that our children run around pelting us with Pirate’s Booty and calling us terrible names. Then, I would have cried because that is what I do when I am really angry which always negates my articulate and witty retorts. Argh.

    As for the allowance, our financial advisor recommended 50 cents per year. So, we give our 6 year old 3 bucks a week.

  • Do you think, and this is me trying to be charitable here, that the principal was maybe trying to say that the parents need to back each other up? And if Mom says something, Dad needs to agree with her? And vice versa? Eh, probably not. But that’s about the only way I can hear something like that without pounding my head into my keyboard.

  • My husband and I have similar, sitting in front of the computer, white collar jobs. He makes more than I do, though (isn’t that always the way? even though I have the Master’s degree?) I’m more often the one to be making the plans/bossing people around in the house, and heaven knows I’m more often the one to be bellowing at the kids, and yet, as far as they are concerned, Dad’s “the boss.” Why? Because he is bigger. That is what I was told point-blank by our son (who first offered up the suggestion that he — at age not-quite-four — was the boss). Size does have its privileges.

    As to the money, we do the dollar a year per week thing. Our oldest, who is just now ten, has to put one dollar aside for charity (her choice), two dollars into the bank, hold two in case she needs to buy a friend a birthday present or something, which leaves five dollars to do with as she will. Which means buy books.

    I think it gives a nice taste of the future, and also makes her do practical math, even if it is of the most minor sort.

  • Re Deb Abramson’s comment:

    The idea that boys don’t listen to their mother’s because they can’t hear women’s voices as well is, IMO, completely and totally absurd. Seriously. I’m a teacher, and I have a high pitched voice, and I have no more trouble getting my boy students to listen to me than my girl students. A deep male voice can be scarier and therefore more affecting than a female voice, but that doesn’t mean boys can’t help tuning out when mom asks them/tells them to behave.

  • Boys respond to dad because he’s also a boy. Simple as that.

    I’ve got 3 boys, one of them a teenager. He’s been pushing it with his mom lately, to the point where she’ll call me up at work. Then I get the pleasure of planning my strategy on the drive home, which usually manifests in me walking through the door, pointing at my son then at the back room to which we both go into. Then I bring down the hammer. It sucks but it’s effective.

    Of course, 99% of the time, he’s great and respects his mom, etc. It’s that 1% of the time when, for whatever primal reason, he needs the full force of whatever male presence I can muster to set him straight.

    On the flip side, my brother has 2 girls. He’s at his wit’s end with them and it’s his wife who sets them straight. So who the fuck knows?

  • I never got an allowance as a child, but I really really like the five dollars a week idea, provided that it is divided up into save, give, and spend. I am really bad at saving money, and I wish I had gotten better at it as a child.

    I do agree that people shouldn’t be “paid” for their chores. They’re contributing, as they should, and the allowance should be separate.

  • First of all, Jen, I apologize, I read a tone into your comment that obviously wasn’t intended by you.

    Second, I totally understand not tying chores to “payment” and ultimately that’s where I want to be with Jackson, but here’s the deal: right now money really motivates him to do a great job and not complain, whereas pre-allowance he was kind of a jerk about helping out. I hope as he matures we can introduce the concept of pitching in out of the goodness of his heart.

    Third, I’m making sure that one week’s allowance goes into savings every month. The charity thing is a great idea, too, we’ll have to talk about that.

  • we have 5 boys – 1 is 9, 2 are 6, 2 are 4. Everyone has responsibilities (my husband gets a lot of buttons pushed by the word chores), but they aren’t tied to getting an allowance. Responsibilities you get because you are part of a family and a community and allowances you get because 1. learn to manage money and 2. it’s humiliating to have to be dependent for every little thing.

    Allowances start at 5, you get the number of $ per week that you are years old, and if you give up 1 week/month to charity, then we will match anything that is put into savings that month.

    Savings and allowances cannot be spent on: 1. acquiring new pets 2. inappropriate entertainment 3. more than $1/candy each week.

    I don’t know where they got it, but all of our kids insist that there are things Dad is the boss of and things that I am the boss of. What I find particularly enchanting about this is that each child has a different list. I know this because they argued about it in a giant rowdy boy scrum with my mother in law, who is very rigid about gender roles and the head of household status of a father, circa 1950, and who made a list of the things we were each in charge of, as per each boy.

    I think her hope was that my husband would set the boys straight and demote me, and he has ever since been trying to get me to swap certain things with respect to certain boys, depending on their quarrelsomeness, if that makes any sense.

  • FIVE dollars?! Dang. What will you pay a 36 year old? I’ll be right over.

  • On the other topic…one night when I was out teaching (test prep, dad was definitely bringing home the big money) and dad was in charge, my oldest, about 6 at the time looked at him when he told them something, and said as though he’d just figured it out, “Oh yeah, you’re the one in charge when mom’s not here.”

    I don’t think that principal would be pleased. ;-D

  • I am so terribly pleased to know that some one else has a child that has spit in their face. I feel completely relieved. The shame is lifted.

  • We are trying to teach our son that Mommy and Daddy are on the same level as far as discipline clout. We spend a fair amount of time talking about respect and how he really makes all the choices concerning punishment. He knows the rules so if he chooses to ignore the rules he has chosen to be punished. So if he gets spanked or loses fun things for a while it is his fault, not ours. He doesn’t get an allowance and we’ve told him that we all live in this house and we all make messes. It is therefore just as much his responsibility to clean up as it is ours. Especially considering that we cook every meal he eats and wash all his clothes. I would never pay him for something that is his responsibility, he needs to just do those things just like his parents do. I also don’t reward him for behaving for the same reason. In the adult world obeying the law comes with the reward of avoiding consequences. Since I’m trying to teach him to be a good adult we work on the same premise, although he gets many heartfelt thanks for helping out and being good!

  • I’ll admit right now that I only read the first four or five comments, not all 51, so I may be repeating. I am the source of hippo hurricanes in this house, as my husband will readily admit to almost anyone.

    That sudden gust of traditional values would have pissed me off royally.

  • I am instantly pissed off at the principal and can’t quite get over it. If Jackson were to call Augie and Joel, they would tell him in no uncertain terms that their mom does the spanking. not that i spank because no montessori parents spank, just for the record.

  • Bossy can’t hear you over the din of her Feather Duster.

  • I have no idea what chores to give my kid and when. Someone write me a chart. She is 3 and a half and well, 3 and a half. No allowance until at least 5, I think.

  • Fussy – Augie gets 3 bucks, but the cost of living is lower in the hinterlands i think. He has similar chores. We are trying to get him to pick up the dog poop, but have failed on that front. If you have any motiviating suggestions about how to get a 7 year old to pick up dog poop, let me know because i don’t like to do it either.

  • Gender schmender…it’s all about personality. I am definitely the disciplinarian, pants wearing boss of the house while My Better Half enjoys being the entertaining, fun guy with not a bit of responsibility. He sleeps well past the time when the children leave for school. The kids see this distinction clearly and when they want an extra bowl of ice cream they ask Dad and I get to deal with just about everything else.

  • wow. I see myself sitting in front of the principle.
    “excuse me, could you explain”. Cause my brain said WTF?
    I agree parents need to be a united front and support each other in regards to discipline but the comment without clarification seems wrong to me.
    My seven year old is just starting to want to spend money… pokemon cards, webkin stuffs. She helps with bottle returns, at .10 each she does okay. It takes her a while to save the money and I like all the education that goes with it. Work, earn, save, give, spend. She does have chores but no regular allowance yet.

  • You know, speaking of charity… you might take Jackson to DonorsChoose.com. Teachers write proposals for things they want to do in their classrooms and you can donate any amount up to the full amount needed (and I mean, any… I’ve given $5.) It might be cool if Jackson found a group of students his age and helped their pay for their owl pellet dissection or something, plus the format of the site really makes you feel like even small donations make a big difference.

  • I am sorry that I don’t have time to read all the comments to see if I am duplicating things. Here goes:
    Perhaps the principle meant to say something like this…? “Mom’s and Dad’s need to have a united front when dealing with discipline in the house. Dad backs up Mom and Mom backs up Dad.” But instead, the idiot said Dad demands the child to respect the Mom. Am I grasping here?

    Also, $5 is perfectly fine. However, in our house the kids don’t get money for doing chores. Chores are what’s expected from them as a member of TeamT… The $5 is a way for them to understand money.

  • bend the little twig of Jackson’s will beneath the mighty wind of my chocolatey breath…oh my, that’s FUNNY!

    My 5 year old son is keen to say who is the boss. He’ll tell my husband that Mom is the Boss when hubs isn’t playing along. Vice Versa – Dad’s the Boss when I don’t do what he wants. The other day he said he wished it was me and him, and Dad was the kid.

    Great principal you have there. Don’t you love discovering that knuckle-dragging troglodyte’s are in charge of the children’s education?

  • The thing is, he’s not a troglodyte at all, he’s a warm, funny, smart man and he’s a great principal. But this particular statement just shocked me with how paternalistic it was.

  • The thing that’s not been mentioned here is that giving our children x amount of money at (whatever) appropriate age is a way to teach them about money and how to responsibly deal with it, which is a skill they will need for the rest of their lives. God knows, there are many adults who still don’t know how to. Have you read things about how in debt many kids are when they’re still in college? It’s scary.

    I have two boys: one just turned 21 and the other is almost 16. The 21 year old is very cavalier about his (our) money, and I have had to bail him out numerous times, so I think, ‘Where have I failed him?’ The younger one, on the other hand, is very responsible, and is a saver and manages it very well. And they teach this stuff in high school now. But I think we’ve modeled good financial behaviors for them over the years, so… eh, kids are different.

    The 16 year old gets $10 a week, but then when he has a Homecoming dance to go to and needs new clothes and go out to eat with a date, or I have to order a $70 pair of basketball shoes for the upcoming season, or buy him tickets to the footbal games, he gets it.

    My husband and I made an agreement before son #1 was born that, even though I was going to stay home (and I was making slightly more than he was at the time), both of out contributions to our family were equally as valuable, no matter who actually bought in the bucks. And he’s never said one word about it, ever. It’ll be 28 years come April. And I’ve always been the hardass, discipline-wise, and he’s the softy, kid-wise. I also manage the finances.

    I guess my point is, whatever works for you is what works.

  • My kids are 7 and 4. They get a quarter per week for each year of age. You wouldn’t believe how excited my son was to go from $1.50 a week to $1.75.

    He also has a savings account, and if he puts money in there and leaves it for at least a month I double it for him, because (a) I’m trying to teach him to save, and (b) it means fewer bionicle pieces for me to clean up if the money stays in the bank.

  • I didn’t get jack squat for chores until I was thirteen. Then I got $10 for the following weekly chores: clean both bathrooms, vacuum, dust, clean my room, and mop the kitchen floor. Slave labor, plain and simple. I think Jackson’s got it pretty good.

  • I’m in a snit over the principal’s comment.

    Maybe we haven’t had to use muscular discipline (much), maybe we’ve had plenty of discussions about how mommy and daddy have traded off breadwinner duties, maybe I’m the one who tends to bring it around here, maybe we’ve got girls…but regardless of the differences, I’d still have to object to such a statement.

    As for the question, my five-and-a-half year-old gets no allowance. Sometimes I will offer her money in exchange for doing chores above and beyond what I’d normally ask, but at this point, we still rely on “because this is what’s expected of you” as sufficient incentive. Obviously, that’s not going to work for every kid.

    Still snitty over what the principal said. Harrumph.

  • Who plays bad guy more is a matter of temperament. I’m it most often in my house, if only because my husband is more easygoing one when it comes to schedules and rules. But I knew that when I married him, and we work it out, and he doesn’t undermine me, which is the most important bit.

    And sometimes I take his side, and decide I’m being too harsh. And when I’m not there, my husband’s pretty good about being a meanie when needed.

    And that principal doesn’t know anything, jeez, patriarchal much? He respects you because he respects you. And if he didn’t, you’d deal with it.

    Couple dynamics are weird, and crazy principals and media messages about who does what don’t help the kids understand it any better.

  • that allowance thing. here’s what my dad said when i presented my allowance argument. i said something like, i’ll make my bed, clear the table, put away the laundry – whatever, and i’d like an allowance of ( whatever amnout ) for that.

    he sat back at the kitchen table and pretended to think about it. he said “you’d like an allowance, and you’re going to do these things for it … here’s your allowance, i’ll allow you to live in the house, to have electricity, water, food, and tv. and you will do these chores because you’re a member of the family and we all have chores do to in the house.”

    dad was a funny funny man.

  • I haven’t slogged through all the comments but this is what we do. First we decided WHY we wanted the kids to have an allowance. What was the allowance supposed to do? We decided we wanted them to learn how to deal with money; a life lesson in budgeting and saving. We also decided that we weren’t going to manage chores so no-one has any chores. That doesn’t mean they don’t help out; it just means they help out when they are willing. For example, the 13yo did dishes today (he HATES doing dishes) because he knew we needed the help. The kids all get 1 peso for each year and by California standards are horribly underpaid as the 13yo is getting a little bit over a dollar (at the current conversion) a week.

  • Is that principal locked in a time warp in, oh… say… 1950? He’s right about establishing authority now, but having it only work because Dad’s the backup? So what do you do if the father leaves? Mothers need to establish themselves as an authority figure without dad as backup.

  • he should also make his bed every morning before school. It teaches respect for HIS space. 5 bucks is a lot….BUT…we pay 5 too for our 7 year old and make him save one dollar of it that he cannot touch. Just a thought.

  • Dang Amy S, your kids get what I got in the 1970s. I still remember my little bro saving his weekly quarter for 5 months and buying my mother a present. Suckup. I also remember that my mom paid me, happily, to clean the house top to bottom starting when I was 11 or so. I parlayed that into several $5/hour weekend housecleaning gigs, and that was big money then (babysitting paid $1/hr).

    Eden’s $5/week seems reasonable to me because you can actually BUY something with $5, as opposed to a quarter, which buys you a gumball if anything. And part of the allowance thing (I always thought) was to give your kid the freedom to make bad choices and take responsibility for them. So if you spend your $5 on video games you lose, or a toy that breaks, well then, buyer beware. And no bailouts. And if you pay them for work above and beyond chores, that’s partly so they understand the relationship between harder work and more money: of course they will be brutally disillusioned later on, but why not let the innocence last as long as possible?

  • Suddenly, I am very, very glad I don’t have children.