Children and Chores

Dear Sara,

I have two boys ages seven and nine and I have given them certain chores to do on a weekly basis. Most of the time the chores don’t get done because they slip off and watch TV. I think they should be responsible and do their chores without me nagging them. How can I get them to do their chores on their own?
-Noah




Dear Noah,

I agree with you that everyone in the household should share in the chores. Sometimes it helps to motivate kids if there is some reward if they do a good job. If you have a list of things for them to do such as make their bed or take out the trash then they will have a clear idea of what is expected. You can either check off chores completed or let them check off what they have done. There should be some kind of consistent reward at the end of the week that is connected to their chores.

If you want to call this their allowance you can. If you hand out money to them on a random basis whenever they ask for it this approach probably won’t work because they will have enough money that they won’t be motivated to earn it. The other way to deal with your problem would be to provide a consequence if they don’t follow through with their chores. If you find that the bed is not made or dishes not put in the dishwasher or other things not done that you have assigned then they may lose a privilege that you choose like no TV or games.

The main thing is to be consistent. If you pay them one week and not the next or let them get away without doing their chores and no consequence then they will continue to try to avoid their chores. Sometimes you have to help them do what needs to done and it’s certainly more fun for them if some things are a family project. Also let them know that you are pleased when they are doing their chores independently. Your approval is a big reward for your two boys. They will also be rewarded by time spent with you.

Good luck.
-Sara

My Child Was Arrested

Dear Sara,

My sixteen-year-old son has been arrested for stealing a car. Up until he was about fourteen he was a good student and a pretty good kid at home. About that time he started hanging out with a group of boys who skipped school and stayed out all night. He has been very hard to control since then and I’m pretty sure he smokes pot. I feel like a terrible mother. I tried to raise him the right way but I feel like a failure. What can I do to help turn him around?
-Margaret




Dear Margaret,

Sometimes when kids get to be a teenager they decide that they know everything and decide to take their own path. They turn away from the way that they were brought up for their own reasons. Their friends become most important to them and they are the main influence. Your son is now about to face the consequences for his actions. This is a very difficult thing for you because he is your child and you don’t want to see him in trouble. If he is basically a good kid he may still be able to turn things around. Take advantage of any programs that are offered through the court system.

You sound like you are suffering a great deal for your son’s actions. Try to find some counseling for yourself and for your son if he is able and willing to go. If your son does not want counseling then take care of yourself. It will help to have someone to talk to for now. You can only do so much when kids get to the age where they can make their own choices.

Good luck.
-Sara

Getting Boys To Do Chores

Dear Sara,

I have two boys ages seven and nine and I have given them certain chores to do on a weekly basis. Most of the time the chores don’t get done because they slip off and watch TV. I think they should be responsible and do their chores without me nagging them. How can I get them to do their chores on their own?
-Noah




Dear Noah,

I agree with you that everyone in the household should share in the chores. Sometimes it helps to motivate kids if there is some reward if they do a good job. If you have a list of things for them to do such as make their bed or take out the trash then they will have a clear idea of what is expected. You can either check off chores completed or let them check off what they have done. There should be some kind of consistent reward at the end of the week that is connected to their chores.

If you want to call this their allowance you can. If you hand out money to them on a random basis whenever they ask for it this approach probably won’t work because they will have enough money that they won’t be motivated to earn it. The other way to deal with your problem would be to provide a consequence if they don’t follow through with their chores. If you find that the bed is not made or dishes not put in the dishwasher or other things not done that you have assigned then they may lose a privilege that you choose like no TV or games.

The main thing is to be consistent. If you pay them one week and not the next or let them get away without doing their chores and no consequence then they will continue to try to avoid their chores. Sometimes you have to help them do what needs to done and it’s certainly more fun for them if some things are a family project. Also let them know that you are pleased when they are doing their chores independently. Your approval is a big reward for your two boys. They will also be rewarded by time spent with you.

Good luck.
-Sara

Waiting For Marriage

Dear Sara,

I have a thirteen-year-old daughter who is pretty and popular but I plan to wait a couple of years before I allow her to date. I have always believed that a girl should wait until marriage to have sex and she knows how I feel. I am very concerned about the influence of media and society in general. I don’t want her to be a teenage Mom. What can I say to her so that she will keep her virginity until she marries?
-Emily




Dear Emily,

You have raised your daughter for thirteen years and you still have a couple of years more to influence her. Let her know how you feel about this issue when you have some quiet time to talk (in the car when you are taking her to her activities and have some time to talk.) Be sure to let her know that there is a proper order to life. Education comes first so that she will be prepared for life and a job so that she can be self-sufficient. Then marriage so that she will have security and a home for her family. Then she can have a baby who can be brought up with two parents who love him or her.

However, you can’t guarantee that your daughter will follow your advice when she gains her independence and starts to think for herself. You won’t be able to keep her from harm’s way. Some kids are risk takers and the teen years are time to try out new things. Sex is one of the possibilities. You may hope for the best but you may need to prepare for the possibility that she won’t follow your value system. You may want to think about taking her to your gynecologist for a checkup sometime in the future and give her permission to ask about birth control. This may seem like you are contradicting yourself but your daughter will have the opportunity to make her own choices eventually and if she decides to have sex it would be better for her if she knows how to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.
-Sara

Issues With School

Dear Sara,

My sixteen year old had to write a paper for her English class. She had a lot going on that week and ran out of time so she copied something off the Internet word for word. She didn’t even try to rearrange it so it looked somewhat original. Her teacher recognized it and gave her an F. She has been on the honor roll for the last year and won’t be now. She is really angry at her teacher and blames her. Do I need to punish her as well?
-Scott




Dear Scott,

I don’t think it’s necessary for you to punish your daughter again but you may need to look at her social life and what is taking up time that she needs to devote to her school work. Sometimes kids that age seem to think that their social life is the most important thing. Let her know that her social life will be curtailed if she doesn’t have time for her school work. Her attitude toward her teacher is troubling as well. She should know that if you break the rules you have to pay the consequences. Sixteen-year-olds are often self-centered. Hopefully, she will grow up. Learning that consequences come with not following the rules is part of this.
-Sara

Time To Go Back To Work?

Dear Sara,

I have two children, one in second grade and the other in third grade. They are good kids who don’t give me any trouble. I’m active in their school and like to volunteer so I can help out. My husband thinks that now that the kids are in school I should go back to work since I was fairly successful in my job before I retired to have my kids. We are doing fairly well on one income so I really don’t see the need. He keeps saying I’m not pulling my weight. How can I make him see that I am pulling my weight by taking care of our kids?
-Laurel




Dear Laurel,

There may not be any way to convince your husband to change his mind. You seem to be enjoying motherhood so you can tune him out and be the Mom you want to be. Your kids will be better off for this. One thing you may need to think about is future job prospects. The longer you are out of circulation the more difficult it will be to get a job. You may lose contacts and opportunities. If you could do some part-time work you could keep your hand in until your kids got to the point where they are less dependent on you. This might be a compromise that your husband could live with.
-Sara

Playing Too Many Video Games

Dear Sara,

My eighteen-year-old son does nothing but play video games. He finally made it through high school but just barely and is not interested in anything but his video games. I don’t know how to deal with this. He refuses to look for work and stays in his room. He is getting to the point of being obese. What can I do with him to make him get a job and be more responsible?
-Shelby




Dear Shelby,

The first thing you need to do is stop enabling him. He has gotten to be obese because you are providing him with food. It will be strong medicine but you could lock the refrigerator and cabinets so he won’t be able to eat whatever he wants. Let him know that he has freeloaded enough and that his room won’t be available much longer. You might think that he will hate you for this but if you wait much longer he will be so obese that he won’t have any choices left in his life. You are the only one who can save your son. It’s called tough love.

Good luck.
-Sara

Moving On After The Death Of A Spouse

Dear Sara,

My husband was in the military and lost his life for his country four years ago. We have two girls who are now in grade school. They seem to be doing OK and are doing well in school and have friends. I’m not doing very well though. I’ve gained about twenty-five pounds and don’t feel any great interest in anything. I go to my job, do my work, come home to cook dinner and do laundry. I help the girls with their homework and watch TV. My life is dull and uninteresting. What can I do to change things?
-Elizabeth




Dear Elizabeth,

It sounds like you might be depressed, which may be normal in your circumstance. Maybe you could add some things to your life to make it more interesting. There are probably things in your past life that you have enjoyed doing that you might like to try again. Think about what you want and make yourself try something that you would enjoy. Your life won’t change if you just sit there. You might wont to see your family physician and tell him about your feelings of depression. Maybe there is a medication that can help. Exercise is often helpful to combat depression and with a change in diet could help you lose some of that extra weight. Take care of yourself.
-Sara

My Ten-Year-Old Is Stealing

Dear Sara,

My ten-year-old son has been stealing. I am finding things in his room that he could not possibly buy on his own. I found things under his bed when I was cleaning and looked further and found more. I haven’t confronted him yet or told his father because I think he would be furious. These are mostly electronic things and I don’t know where they came from. This is so out of character for my son that I wouldn’t have believed it if someone else had told me. How should I handle it?
-Molly




Dear Molly,

If your son has been stealing, he will eventually get caught and his father would be more than furious. You need to confide in your husband and talk to your son as soon as possible. He needs to return what he can and apologize at the store he stole from. If he has to go through this process he may learn a lesson. He should also have some sort of consequence at home, like doing extra chores or if he gets an allowance being made to donate it to a worthy cause. If he learns a lesson from this it will be to his benefit. If he tries to steal again, he may need to talk to a professional who deals with this sort of problem.
-Sara

Drinking Problems At 18

Dear Sara,

My eighteen-year-old son came home drunk last night. He’s graduated from high school and still lives at home. I wanted him to go to college but he’s not interested. He’s had several part-time jobs but doesn’t last long at them. His father drinks enough that I suspect he’s an alcoholic so he doesn’t care if his son drinks. He says it’s normal for kids to sew some wild oats before they settle down. I really don’t want my son to drink like that but I don’t know how to deal with it. Any suggestions?
-Nicole




Dear Nicole,

If your husband isn’t in your corner, you could be fighting a losing battle. It’s your house and you could tell your son he has to leave if he continues to come home drunk but if your husband doesn’t back you up it won’t do you any good to issue an ultimatum. Talk to your son and let him know how you feel. Ask him to try to at least control his drinking. If he’s driving drunk he could get into trouble with the law or hurt someone. Kids have a way of thinking because of their lack of experience they assume that nothing bad will happen. I hope you can get through to him.
-Sara