Q: I never paid or gave rewards to our kids for doing their chores because I was raised on the basis that everyone helps out around the house. Today I see some kids being paid. Which is the appropriate action to take?
A: Many parents ask this question and there really is no one correct answer to it. I usually suggest that children be expected to do chores around the house without any payment and that, additionally, they get an allowance that isn't necessarily tied to chores. However, if children are resistant to doing chores, withholding allowance until chores are complete is certainly reasonable.
Also, middle-grade children often search for ways to earn spending money, since they can't yet hold jobs. Parents can give them opportunities to do special, larger chores for payment. Mowing the lawn, washing the car or vacuuming the whole house might be the types of chores where they could be paid and feel good about their accomplishments. There wouldn't be any reason to pay them for emptying the dishwasher, cleaning their own rooms or the other routine tasks that every family member should take responsibility for.
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Q: What are some pointers you can give to parents regarding helping an older child adjust when a new baby comes? The child is 4 years old and a new baby is on the way. What steps are helpful toward making them friends instead of competitors?
A: You can't entirely eliminate competition among siblings and your 4 year old is certain to exhibit some behaviors that indicate jealousy. However, you can minimize the competition and encourage the children to become good friends and supporters for each other. Encourage the older child to be a helper to the younger child and praise him or her for being kind and helpful. The older child will typically show more jealousy when the baby is a year or so old than right at birth, so do expect it then. Always remind your children that Mommy and Daddy love them both — they're tied when it comes to parents' love.
As the children get older and argue more, consider their arguing healthy, since if they didn't argue it would mean one is giving orders and the other's accepting them. In the very early years, you'll have to help sort out their arguments, but as soon as the younger one is verbal enough to talk things out, encourage them to work things out themselves. Otherwise, they'll argue more to claim your attention. If the arguments become actual battles and if either of the children becomes aggressive, you should separate them and have them go to two different rooms for a while. If they find themselves separated each time they fight, they'll surely become less aggressive because they likely actually prefer playing together.
For free newsletters about sibling rivalry and/or when the new baby comes, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for each newsletter to the address below. Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at www.sylviarimm.com. Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.