Thursday, March 27, 2014

The best/worst parenting advice you'll receive all day.

Recently we started a chore chart, inspired by the Dave Ramsey for Kidsbox set I gave Liam for his birthday (lucky kid!). The deal is, on Sunday we sit down to discuss the chores and expectations we have for the week and how much commission we're willing to pay. Throughout the week, he marks down what he's accomplished on his chart and on Friday, it's payday.

It started off with a bang. Liam enthusiastically washed every window in the house, made his bed every morning and jumped when I reminded him that payday was just around the corner. And for good reason. By the end of the week he had earned almost $20!

You'd think he'd be begging to do more chores but we're not exactly the most consistent family in the world. The entire next week just kind of passed us by. By the following Sunday though, he had cornered me and wouldn't let me go until we filled out the chart.

I sat with him to go over some of the things I would like done and how much I would be willing to pay in commission (the difference between commission and allowance is commission is earned, allowance is expected). Then he went to see if Bill needed help with anything.

He's always willing to throw some money at the kids if it will get them to do something they otherwise wouldn't but he couldn't come up with anything specific to add to the chart. "I'll let you know when I need some help and we can negotiate your fee then."

Not 10 minutes later, he came up with a plan. We were doing some work in the yard and needed to get Finn out of our hair for a bit. So Bill asked Liam to babysit. "Just go play together and keep him happy. I'll give you five bucks."

Liam was thrilled! (The only thing I had offered him that much for was cleaning the inside of our van.) Bouncing on the trampoline with his brother (who he literally plays with all day every day) for money?! That's a no brainer.

Finn was thrilled too. Because Liam wasn't just playing with him, he was babysitting. Instead of being bossy or put out or slightly annoyed (like a brother), he was engaged and excited and over-the-top nice and accommodating (like a great babysitter!).

Ever since, he's been about a hundred percent nicer to Finn. Not that he was terrible before. He really wasn't at all. But spontaneously setting up a game of Blue's Clues, walking Finn through every step AND letting him be Steve? Come on. No one is that nice.

At first I felt like it was kind of sad to pay our kids to be nice to each other. I mean, shouldn't they want to get along? But then I remembered how much I sometimes hated being the big sister because I had to look after Moose whether I wanted to or not. It drove me nuts that she could do whatever she wanted but if I wanted to do something, I had to either let her come with me or figure out something else for her to do (when my mom went back to work and we were home alone over the summer).

Now I see that it's just part of being the older sibling. Our expectations for Liam are not really much different that my parents' were for me (although I do try to be sensitive to both boys needs).

Liam has always had to include Finn. It's just a non-negotiable in our house. And on top of that, Finn completely adores Liam. He's like a stalker, really. He follows him around, copies him and tags along to playdates and sleepovers. So even if Liam didn't have to hang out with Finn all the time, he'd be hard pressed to shake him.

So it's not necessarily Liam's actions that have changed; it's his enthusiasm. While before, Finn was included out of obligation, now it seems to be out Like Liam genuinely wants Finn to be happy. Their whole relationship seems to have changed.

It seems backwards, right? By offering him money to hang out with his brother, it seems like we would have made hanging out with his brother a chore. But it didn't. Instead it became a win/win. He does what he always does (and mostly likes) AND he gets money for it? Winning! I think it may have also helped him see how great it is for the whole family when everyone gets along.

Whatever it is, it's awesome. So, try it. Pay your kids to hang out with each other. Worst case scenario, you're out five bucks. Best case? You just might reach a whole new level of brotherly cuteness.

{Oh, and for the record, Liam (who was reading over my shoulder part of the time I was trying to write this...) wanted to point out that Dada only offered him ONE dollar to babysit. So, there you go. Deal of the century.}

{AND if you can believe it...I was talking to a friend (who is a clinical psychologist) over dinner last night and she said that research has shown that if someone does something they don't necessarily want to do for money, less is more. If they get a hundred bucks to do something, it becomes all about the money. But if they only get, say, a dollar, they end up having a lot more buy in. Interesting stuff!}

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