Parenting Blog

All About Allowances

Avoid Tying Chores to Allowance

allowance for kids

You’ve barely entered the store and the whining starts. “Moooooom, why can’t I get the new Lego Star Wars video game?” And back at home when you ask Alex to set the table? “But Moooo-oom…I’m tired!”

Sigh. Maybe it’s time for an allowance. After all, what better way to get Alex to do his chores and let him buy his own video games, right?

If only it were that easy. Our goal is to motivate, but connecting an allowance to household duties does the opposite. By focusing on the payoff for the chore rather than the contribution made to the family, we create – and reinforce – a negative lesson. Rather than encouraging our child doing something for its intrinsic value, we instead teach them to ask, “What’s in it for me?”

Daniel Pink, author of The New York Times best seller, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us , tells us that paying kids to do chores “…sends kids a clear (and clearly wrongheaded) message: In the absence of a payment, no self-respecting child would willingly set the table, empty the garbage, or make her own bed. …. It converts a moral and familial obligation into just another commercial transaction—and teaches that the only reason to do a less-than-desirable task for your family is in exchange for payment.”

So what’s a parent to do? Rest assured: we do have a way to take the whine out of taking out the garbage. And an allowance is a great way to teach our kids financial responsibility and money sense. The key is to implement the two separately:

Start by discussing “family contributions” and sweep “chore” right out of your vocabulary. While the word “chore” conjures up images of Cinderella scrubbing the castle floors, the idea of a family contribution will instead remind our kids that they play an important role in helping the household run smoothly. Granted, Emma may not jump for joy when she’s asked to help put laundry away, but her new perception of the task gains her a feeling of personal significance and sense of belonging to the family.

allowance in a jar

Revel in the win-win arrangement that is an allowance; not only will your kids feel grown up to have their own “income,” but it will be a big step in learning real-life skills such as the benefits of good decisions and the consequences of bad ones. The key is that the allowance is not tied to family contributions, or good grades, or winning the big game. Instead, use this opportunity to teach them about saving for things they really want, budgeting for the future, and charitable giving.

Set boundaries that encompass the weekly allowance amount, and what it can be spent on. The amount you give should be age appropriate, and not entirely comfortable. If Alex can buy every video game he sees, you’re not teaching him anything. Instead, choose an amount that can reasonably cover the expenses you expect him to take on –iTunes and app purchases, entertainment, and toys – and that gives him the option to save for the special game he really wants. He’ll also learn the invaluable concept of delayed gratification.

As kids get older, consider giving them a larger amount each week or month for allowance, but increase the items that he’ll be expected to cover. A tween or teen can learn important life lessons by budgeting her monthly allowance to cover lunch money, entertainment, clothes, iTunes downloads, etc. If she blows all of her money in the first week, she’ll experience the natural consequences of poor budgeting and will likely do better next month.

By separating – but still implementing – family contributions and allowance, we are able to teach far more valuable lessons than the two could ever hope to achieve when combined. And who would have thought that intrinsic motivation and financial responsibility could start with a few loads of laundry and $10 a week?

The Difference Between Chores and Contributions

chores versus contributions

Do you know the difference between a chore and a family contribution? Your kids do.

Watch the video below and you’ll learn how to be a little more successful in getting your kids to do their chores.

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This Earth Day, Ditch the Green Guilt and Enjoy Big Savings

big green purse

Are you one of those parents who suffers from green guilt? You’re not alone. A new survey by and iVillage found that 94 percent of moms think they could – and should — do more to help the environment. But almost half of moms think “going green” is too expensive, while twenty percent say either they don’t have enough time or that it’s just too inconvenient.

Happily, you can easily have a more earth-friendly lifestyle that’s convenient and will save you a lot of money. Plus the changes are so easy, the whole family can follow suit. How? Shift to affordable and easily-available eco products that you can find in any supermarket or hardware store. Here are five that you can switch to in time for Earth Day, April 22.

  1. Reusable sponge. A sponge lasts 17 times as long as throwaway paper towels and will save you $30 or more over the lifetime of the sponge. Buy a few sponges in different sizes – small for wiping off dishes before you load them in the dishwasher, larger for wiping up spills. Extend the life of the sponge by running it through the dishwasher, then zap the clean, damp sponge for 30 seconds in the microwave or set it outside in the bright sun to dry out.
  2. Reusable water bottle (notice a trend in “reusables” here?). Ounce for ounce you could be paying as much as 10,000 times more for bottled water than tap. Why? Because in addition to the water , you’re paying for the bottle, the bottle cap, the bottle label, the energy used to make and transport the bottles, and water that’s wasted during the bottling process. For less than $20, you can buy a reusable water bottle and enjoy tap water whenever you need it. You’ll have money left over to buy a filter for your tap if you want, or to buy a bottle that comes with its own changeable filter.
  3. Lunch box. People waste hundreds of dollars a year buying carry-out at lunch time. The food may be delicious, but all the wrapping needed to package it up is expensive – and a real waste of resources. For less than $10 or $15, buy a reusable lunch box or bag, and take food from home in reusable containers. You’ll save hundreds of dollars and create a lot less trash, too.
  4. Energy-efficient light bulb. Compact fluorescent light bulbs use 66% less energy than a regular incandescent and last ten times as long, saving time as well as money. You may not have liked the original CFLs because the light was a bit harsh. Today, you can get CFLs in many hues, for indoor as well as outdoor application. Just one CFL can save you $5 – $10 a year in energy costs, $100 over the life of the bulb.
  5. Reusable shopping bag. Nothing could be cheaper to buy or more convenient to use than a reusable grocery bag. Most supermarkets sell them for as little as ninety-nine cents. Buy five at once, and you’ll have as many as you need for your weekly shopping. Can’t remember to take them with you to the store? Whenever I unpack my groceries, I put my bags together right next to my car keys. The next time I get in my car, I take the bags with me and put them in the trunk. I’m almost never without my shopping bags.

You can find more money-saving green living tips at Don’t miss our helpful Earth Day tips here. Sign up for our free Green Purse Alerts! and receive a free copy of 13 Nagging Environmental Questions Finally Answered.
Happy Earth Day!

Diane MacEachernDiane MacEachern is the founder of and the author of Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World.

Talking to Kids About Touch Does NOT Have to Be Scary

Irene van der Zande, Founder and “Doing Right by Our Kids” Co-Creator

kids laying on a hill

April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month – and as adults, we need to face the realities of child abuse in order to be able to protect our kids.

But, the good news is that we do not need to pass our fears onto our children to keep them safe! In over two decades of teaching child protection and empowerment at Kidpower, we have found that talking to kids about how to be safe with touch, play, and teasing can be done in a way that is fun, rather than scary.

In order to protect themselves from sexual abuse, kids don’t need to know all the scary details of what could happen. They just need to learn what the safety rules are, how to set and respect boundaries with people they know, and how to be persistent in getting help from busy adults.

If kids learn how to stop one kind of unwanted or unsafe touch, they will develop the skills to be able to stop another. Also, most child molesters often “test” a young person’s boundaries using non-sexual touch at first, and are clever about choosing kids who won’t tell.

Kids are more likely to remember what they’ve practiced than what they’ve only been told. To give kids practice in a fun, emotionally safe way, parents can use age-appropriate situations using non-sexual examples.

  • With young children, you can practice stopping a puppet from tickling them.
  • With a child in sports, you can practice how to stop unwanted roughhousing when it gets too wild.
  • With a child who has music or swimming lessons, you can practice how to tell someone, “It helped before when you held my hands to help me do this, but now I would rather that you just show me what to do instead of holding onto me.”
  • With a teenager, you can practice how to tell someone you like as a friend that you don’t want to hold hands.

To help parents out, my collaborator Dr. Amy Tiemann and I are presenting a free “Talking about Touch and Boundaries” Starter Kit from This kit presents Kidpower language with illustrations as an easy tool to explain the core principles and safety rules to kids in ways that are fun, not scary.

We hope you will join Dr. Amy Tiemann and myself, with Amy McCready as a parenting expert co-host, for an on-line chat about child safety at

Our “Keeping Kids Safe” talk will take place on April 17th at 1 P.M. Eastern Time. You can ask us your questions about child safety, and how to talk about it with your kids, in this live question and answer discussion. We hope you’ll join us!

A Birthday Party For Twins: Shared Or Separate?

twinpartyWhen our twins were born, I quickly realized that the more I did with my babies as a set, the more validation I got as a mom. The average person would look on as I tandem breastfed and would marvel at my accomplishment. Merely navigating the aisles of the supermarket with one baby in the cart and the other in a sling was enough to garner looks of approval and a brief adult conversation or two. All this was so needed early on that I actually feared taking out only one baby and no longer being “special”. On top of all of this, there was so much of an accepted mystique about twins and how they should always be together, that they would miss each other and so forth.

Over time I realized that this widely held belief that twins prefer to be together was actually getting in the way of many things. As my children have gotten older, I have really come to understand that although it is a unique and wonderful thing to be a twin, it is perhaps even more wonderful to be known for one’s own individual self. One of my favorite quotes is from the book Siblings Without Rivalry: “To be loved equally is somehow to be loved less. To be loved uniquely – for one’s own special self – is to be loved as much as we need to be loved”.

Over the years I have done a lot to help my children feel that they are known for their own individual selves, not just as part of a set. Although we do a lot as a family, we also spend a great deal of one on one time with each of them, they have play dates without the other, they have separate rooms, they will be in separate classes when they start Kindergarten next year, we encourage separate after school activities and so forth. This does nothing to diminish their bond as siblings or twins; in fact, I believe it strengthens it immensely.

Of all of the things we do to nurture their individuality and encourage their sense of self, what has most recently seemed to make the greatest impact on them was having separate birthday parties for their 5th birthday.

We always had two birthday cakes and sang “Happy Birthday” to them separately, but this year I offered them the opportunity to have a party of their own and they jumped at it. Over the next couple of months the excitement built, they told everyone about their respective parties, what the theme was going to be and who was coming. Most of all, they told everyone that they were having their own party, just for them. I began to realize that it was a different sense of excitement than in previous years, this time it was a chance for each of them to bask in the glow of their special day when everyone is there for them, without having to share that experience with another person.

Most of you who have a sibling know the feeling of having to share toys or clothes or maybe a room. But few siblings of different ages have to share a birthday. It is just obvious to most parents that each child would get his or her own birthday party. Yet the reaction from many people was one of surprise when I said I was doing this for my children.

Although throwing two birthday parties in one weekend was more work (and a greater expense) for us, seeing the joy our children had being able to experience their special day just for themselves was well worth it. On top of this, the experience also allowed us to teach them lessons about being gracious when it was not their day, being aware of their own feelings as well as the feelings of their sibling, exercising patience and most importantly, having the awareness that they were each being honored for who they are, as individuals.

Gina Osher

Gina Osher is a former holistic healer turned parenting coach and mother of boy/girl twins. She is also the author of the blog, The Twin Coach in which she offers advice, bares her soul, works though her imperfect parenting moments and continues on her journey to be a more joyful parent. Gina is dedicated to helping others find both a deeper understanding of themselves and a stronger connection to the children they love.

How To Handle Kids Who Won’t Do Their Homework or Chores

chores1Empathizing versus lecturing can go a long way in diffusing power struggles and it reinforces that you’re on the same team. This week, if your kids start complaining about doing their homework or chores, instead of lecturing, just say this simple phrase.

Watch the video below to learn this simple phrase that will deflect the power struggle.

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