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Techniques to Develop Trust and Responsible Behaviors in Teens

Distribute Chores Equally Among Siblings
If there are several children in the house, have them sit down and assign a weight or value to each chore. This will avoid arguments like, "I'm doing more work than my brother" or "My sister has an easier job than me." For example, the youngsters may decide that feeding the dog, emptying the dishwasher, and similar activities have a value of 1 point. Cleaning the table after meals, sweeping the kitchen, and similar activities are worth 2 points. Vacuuming, putting away clothes, and other jobs may have a value of 3 points. Cleaning the bathroom may be worth 4 points. By assigning different weights or values to activities, the children can feel that the system is fair and they are not doing more work than their siblings. If a child cleans the bathroom, which has a value of 4 points, another child may have to do four activities valued at 1 point each that day to equal his sister's work. Another way to create a fair situation among siblings when it comes to chores is to vary the activities. On a calendar you could write the child's name on the day he is supposed to do a particular chore. For example, if you have two children, Jason and Alan, and one of their chores is to feed the dog, you could alternate the initial J or A on the calendar every other day. When it came time to feed the dog, all you would have to do is look at the calendar to see whose day it is. By using this method, one child would not feel as if he has fed the dog ten times for every one time his brother completed the chore.

When, as a family, you establish the methods you'll use to share chores, set up at the start a time, place, and agenda for discussing how all of this is working.

Give an Allowance
An allowance is a fixed amount of money given to children on a periodic basis (weekly, biweekly, monthly). They could receive the allowance for doing nothing other than breathing or they could earn the allowance for performing household chores or duties. If an allowance system is put into practice in your home, base it on some type of work or behavior. It need not be a significant amount of work, but receiving the allowance should be contingent upon some type of behavior or job. An allowance system can often be used to help children develop responsibility or to teach them the value of money. However, there are several things that must be kept in mind when implementing such a system.

The range of incentives and rewards greatly decreases as children get older. For the adolescent, the range is somewhat small and often directly or indirectly involves money. When deciding whether an allowance should be used for a particular chore or be contingent on a certain level of cooperation or behavior, the first question that must be asked is how important money is to the child. Some professionals feel that children should not receive money for certain behaviors, while others think it is all right. Some people feel that children should not be paid for things they are supposed to do. Money can be used as a reward or an incentive, but an allowance system is appropriate only if the teenager values or needs money. Some parents say they have instituted an allowance system, but it does not work. In many cases, the reason for this is that the teenager does not care about money, and to him one dollar is the same as one thousand dollars.

Another factor in deciding whether an allowance system should be implemented is "Does the teenager need money?" You tell a child that he will receive an allowance of $5.00 a week for putting out the garbage and walking the dog. He does not complete the chores and does not get the allowance. However, any time he is with you at the store and wants a soda, you buy it for him. At the shopping mall when he feels like playing a video game, you give him money to play. On Saturday you pay for him to go to a movie. Why does this child need his own money? He doesn't, because he is getting everything he wants. Whether he does the chores or not, he is still able to get the money he needs to fulfill his wants. A parent instituted an allowance system for her twelve-year-old daughter for performing chores around the home. The first week the allowance system worked beautifully, but after that it did not work. When the young girl was asked why she was not doing the chores, she said that any time she needed money she could go next door to her grandparents and they would give her all the money she needed. If an allowance system is used, you must dry up other sources of income in order to produce a need for money.

Another way to make the allowance system work is to specify certain activities or items that you will not pay for or purchase for the teenager. In other words, you tell the child that he will be given a certain allowance each week for doing certain duties. He is to use this money for going out on the weekend, buying gas for the car, playing video games, or anything else he wants. You will not pay for any of these material things or activities. If they are important items to the child, he will then need the allowance to pay for them himself.

The amount of allowance a child receives is based on two general factors: your financial situation and the needs of the teenager. However, it should be kept in mind that you can give too much allowance. This may create a situation where the teenager accumulates money. When he has enough, he does not have to work because the need for money does not exist. The purpose of the allowance system is thus defeated. You must assess the needs of the teenager and try to base the allowance accordingly. Naturally, a younger adolescent does not need as much spending money as an older one. What you expect a child to do with this money should be realistic. For example, it may be very difficult for a fifteen-year-old who receives ten dollars a week to use this allowance for both his lunch at school and movies on the weekend. Find out how much things cost today and try to become aware of your teenager's needs and the cost for him to fulfill these needs.

Be sure you and your child have the same idea of what is expected and what the consequences will be.

If the teenager does not earn the allowance, he should not receive it. If he earns the allowance, you must be certain that he receives it. You must be consistent. If you are inconsistent with payment of the allowance, the teenager may manipulate you or not complete the task, or his motivation may decrease and his performance may be affected. If he performs the chores assigned, he should receive his allowance on a regular basis. In addition, you should never take away all or part of his allowance when the adolescent has earned it by completing his specific assignments. This will also decrease the effectiveness of the system. For example, a teenager has earned all of his allowance for helping around the house with various chores. On Friday when he is to receive his allowance, he comes home with a detention and because of the detention he is not given the total allowance. As a result, the next week when it comes to motivating him to do chores, he is probably not going to comply.

An allowance earned should be received. But be consistent and do not give the child the allowance if he has not earned it.

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From Keys to Parenting Your Teenager by Don Fontenelle, Ph.D. Copyright 2000 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

Buy the book at Barron's.

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