An Allowance System That Teaches Earning AND Giving

Our brood

My eldest child is 12, so one could assume that I have been attempting to instill a good work ethic in my son for at least 10 years now.  He is the first child of our four who are 12, 10, 8 & 6 respectively, and by virtue of his birth order, the most prominent example of our parenting.  My husband and I want our kids to be achievers like most parents, but beyond that, we want them to be givers.  We don’t currently belong to a church, but when we did, it was usually a Unitarian congregation that suited our divergent backgrounds of former Catholic and Agnostic.  Until the new Unitarian church in town is re-opened, we are the sole stewards of our children’s moral compass, and that is a job to be taken very seriously.

My husband recently attended a sales conference in Miami that had some fascinating seminars.  One that impacted him greatly was the presentation on the “Entitled Generation Y”, that is, those kids who have been given everything without earning it, and feel that the world owes them.  It’s these kids that when asked what age they believe they are fully adults answered “thirty”!  When I was a child, Timothy Leary was quoted as saying “don’t trust anyone over thirty” which suggested to me that thirty was over the hill.  No wonder so many kids move back home after college – it’s not just the faltering economy, but the sense of entitlement.

Eeeek!  This must not happen to my kids.  What to do?  What to do? The first lesson out of the gate: electronics (tv, computer, x-Box, cell phone) are a priviledge, not a right.  They must be earned through other activities such as playing outside, practicing an instrument, or doing a chore.

wooden chore chartAh, chores.  The bane of my existence.  I can’t even count on my fingers the many different chore charts I’ve used over these past 10 years!  I even tried to design an innovative system myself using colored magnets and an intricate reward system that I never could make function just the way I wanted.  Don’t even get me started on the ‘enforcement’ of the charts.  What I have learned from all my efforts is that I end up being the ‘nudge’ or ‘irritant’ who hounds the kids into reluctant capitulation.  Ugh.

One thing that has made a great deal of impact on this effort was the acquisition of our chickens.  We already have 2 Beagles, 2 cats, 2 hermit crabs and a Beta fish who miraculously get fed daily, but chickens require more care.  I am not interested in doing it, so I made clear to the family that if they want to keep their beloved hens then they must care for them.  That worked.  It’s the ultimate in “natural consequences” – living domesticated creatures rely on us to stay alive.  The kids get that.

Now, how about those beds that need making, the laundry that needs to be put away, the rooms that need tidying?  We’ve also just moved into the realm of lawn mowing with my eldest, and the garage is an area in constant need of attention.

I have tried allowances to act as a ‘carrot’, but they often forget to collect it from me.  I recently found an online solution to my over 10-year quest for a system that works, and what I like about it is that it involves “giving”, which I mentioned earlier as a goal I would like my children to embrace.  It’s called ThreeJars.  One jar is for ‘spending’, one is for ‘saving’, and the third is for ‘sharing’.  Fabulous concept, don’t you think?!

3 jars allowance

Here’s how ThreeJars briefly defines itself: “ThreeJars makes allowance fun and easy for 5 to 13 year old
kids and their parents. Kids learn to manage their “money” through savingspending, and charitable giving jars – with guidance from Mom and Dad.”  The system is on an IOU basis from which the parents can add and subtract.  The allowance amount is decided together, but % of that amount to go to ‘share’ and ‘save’ is their decision to make.  Over time, the kids may make requests for ‘spending’ or ‘sharing’ through emails to their parent, and the parent responds “yea” or “nay” as they see fit.  ThreeJars’ service costs $30 a year for unlimited children, but the actual paying of monies to the kids happens at home per the adult’s prerogative.  The chore section is helpful if your family bases allowance on chore completion.  Often, looking to garner more funds, my 10-year-old son will make offers of chores with a value attached to it such as: Wash the Car – $3.00. It is up to me whether I accept or decline his offer.  It’s not all greed driven, though.  Yesterday that same son asked if he could donate $7.00 of his ‘share’ money to the ASPCA.  I said yes, and because ThreeJars has a direct relationship with about 21 reputable charitable organizations including the ASPCA, $7.00 was deducted from his ‘share’ fund and charged to my Visa on file.  If he had chosen to donate elsewhere, I would deduct the sum myself and write a check.  Easy peasy, lemon squeezy, not to mention, warm and fuzzy.

My kids love computers, so this online solution is so much better than a white board that can be altered either on purpose or by a shoulder coming too close in passing. It’s all there in black and white until I, or they, decide what changes.  Boy, do they love seeing how much allowance they are accruing each week, too.

Hallelujah!  Peace has been restored, chores are getting done, and giving is, well, “a given”.  Oh, how I love Three Jars!

Disclosure: I received a free year’s family membership valued at $30 to facilitate this review, but that only buys my honest opinions.

Photobucket

How being a parent has made me eat my own words

Total "Binkieholic"

Before I had my son, I swore that my child wouldn’t eat McDonalds or chicken nuggets. The child would eat whatever my husband and I would eat. Picky eaters wouldn’t exist in my house.

Before I was a Mom, I would never have a “crusty” kid at the mall or in public.

Before my son was born, I would never allow a toddler to have a binky.

Now that I’m a parent of an 18 month old, I  know to never say never. ESPECIALLY about parenting.

Little did I know, I would be blessed with a wonderful, smart little boy who does not eat. I’ve written many posts before about how my son was diagnosed “failure to thrive” and we’ve been going to Hasbro Children’s Hospital to figure out ways to get him to have an appetite and just eat. If my son would eat McDonald’s, I would be at that drive thru buying a Happy Meal every meal. When you have a child who has no appetite, you’d be willing to feed him whatever it takes at every meal to get him the required nutrition to grow and thrive.

Until I had a toddler, I had no idea how hard it is to keep him “crust-free.” The crust just happens. Sometimes it is not worth the battle to get the crusted on boogies off his nose during cold season. So please don’t judge me when I run into the market with a crusty-nosed kid to grab some dinner. I have to pick my battles as a toddler Mom.

I’ve also written about our battle with the binky before. The battle is still going on in our house. It seems that every time we are ready for the 3-4 days of torture, something happens: sickness, family emergency, you name it. I know, those are just excuses. We are not ready to give up the binky in our house. It’s a crutch for us all and when I have the crusty nosed toddler on a shopping trip, it is simply much more enjoyable if he has the binky with him. Honestly, I don’t know when the time is going to be right. We will be moving twice in the next 4 months, then we have a baby coming in October. At this point it seems like my dear son will be going to college with a binky. Oh well.

In my short 18 months of parenthood, I’ve learned many things. The most important is to never say never. I’ve also learned to not judge other people’s parenting, because who knows what they are going through and why that 5 year old has a binky in his mouth at the store. After all, that could easily be my crusty kid with a binky in his mouth in no time. People do what they need to do and I believe the majority of parents try to be the best parents they can be.

 

How has being a parent changed your outlook?


Homemade Vanilla Wafers: Easy & Delicious!

I am obsessed with feeding my kids wholesome, good food. I am a busy mom, and although I know my way around the kitchen very well, I work while my kids are in school.  I do most of my cooking, food prep, and baking at night or in a couple of hours on any given weekend.  I like to have homemade “snacks” and “treats” on hand so when the craving comes, we can have some.  My ultimate favorite recipes are those that can be made ahead of time, will last a week or more when stored, and that my picky kids will eat.

A favorite cookie around here is the vanilla wafer.  Who doesn’t like vanilla wafers?  They are perfectly sweet with a homemade taste that is very gratifying.  I’ve taken Alton Brown’s recipe and added a few nutritious twists.  Did I mention that I like my snacks and treats to be nutrition packed too? I’m sure you’ve figured that one out by now.  Below are the ingredients and recipe instructions.  If you have 3 minutes, watch the video and see how they are made from start to finish!

Ingredients:

  • 7 ounces all-purpose flour (almost a cup)
  • 3/4 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
  • 1 Tablespoon ground golden flax (my own addition)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 1/2 ounces vanilla sugar (regular will work too)
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk

Directions:

Position 1 oven rack in the top third of the oven and another in the bottom third. Heat the oven to 350 F.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and vanilla sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl after 1 minute. Add the egg and incorporate on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl. Add the vanilla extract and milk and blend on low speed for 15 seconds. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just to incorporate. Chill the batter in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before scooping.

Scoop the batter in teaspoon-sized balls and arrange them on 2 parchment paper-lined half sheet pans, approximately 35 cookies per pan. Use the heel of your hand to slightly flatten each ball. Bake, 2 pans at a time, rotating the pans halfway through the baking, until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pans to a cooling rack to cool completely before removing the cookies from the pan.

Watch Alton’s 3min video and become a pro! These vanilla wafers are super easy and delicious!

Photobucket

How our “Domestic Partnership” Morphed into a Marriage


As May draws near, I’m reminded of a strange and nagging feeling I’ve been getting every year for a while now: that I am forgetting something important.  I eventually figure it out by either having it dawn on me, or most often by my mother-in-law calling to wish me a Happy Anniversary.  It’s actually somewhat understandable because Doug and I have a back-story many of our friends don’t know: we married when I was pregnant with our third child.  In fact, we had originally intended not to marry. What!!!  Let me explain.  We both had what we lovingly refer to as our “starter marriages”, neither of which produced any children.  We also both had large, traditional and expensive weddings that ended in divorce five years into the union.  

When Doug and I fell in love, we mutually confessed to feelings of failure, and a lingering confusion on the subject ofGoldie Hawn marriage.  At the time there were famous couples eschewing the institution: Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell who are still going strong; Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins who are not – although I have to say that they had a long run, and there was blessedly no messy divorce to string out in public.  With those couples in mind, Doug and I decided to forego the marriage route for a Domestic Partnership agreement. Since we resided in San Francisco at the time, we were able to procure one fairly easily, and that was ideal because we planned to start a family right away. Although Doug and I had grown up together, we had not found each other again until our mid-thirties, and we wanted children before it was too late.  Doug wanted four, but I was a ‘one-at-a-time and we’ll see’ girl.  As it turned out, four was our lucky number.

So how did we get to be married midway through our burgeoning family?  Honestly, it was strictly an insurance driven issue.  Doug and I were very happy being co-parents and domestic partners, and would probably still be today were it not for a move to Florida in 2002.  While San Francisco had offered us an option, Florida is not cut from the same cloth.  Anyone remember Anita Bryant?  We were told in no uncertain terms that as far as the State of Florida was concerned, a Domestic Partnership Agreement was how you and your roommate divided your chores, and might as well be used to paper your walls.  We felt having children made us more married than most, and well, we both knew how saying “I do” didn’t necessarily mean it lasted.  But there I was, six months pregnant with our daughter, Olivia, and feeling deeply opposed to seeing her birthday arrive uninsured, Doug and I decided to meet during lunch at the Justice of the Peace in Delray Beach.  To this day, nine years later, we still have trouble remembering our anniversary, and often stumble over the question of how many years we’ve been married.  To us, it’s from when we pledged our love and commitment by cohabitating and starting a family together.

Us!

But married we are, and with that came the specter of divorce.  Somehow when we were not married, we felt safer, buffered if you will, from the awful statistics of marriage dissolution. Doug’s parents divorced when he was 7 and it has always been complicated for him.  Somewhere deep inside he wishes it could have been avoided, remedied, although the circumstances brought a wonderful step-father into his life, so who can know.  With that in mind, we work, sometimes really hard, to keep our marriage healthy and together.  If something happens to rock our world, like death or job loss, we run to a counselor to hash out our feelings.  If we can stem the tides by good open communication beforehand, then we take that approach first.  I even found a website that sends me helpful emails on marriage fitness. I love the little nuggets of wisdom that Mort Fertel  sends me. I find them to be plain good sense, and truly helpful.  Honestly, we’d do anything to keep our marriage intact, but that’s what’s it’s really all about and always has been, both before and after the ceremony– commitment.  Anything worth having is worth working for.  Happy 9th or 13th Anniversary Sweetheart!

Photobucket

(VIDEO) Early Intervention is Key to Helping a Child with Autism

Five Ways to Make a Problem an Opportunity

I recently went to a women’s event with an inspiring speaker.  There were some great lessons I learned that I wanted to share with you…Inspiration point

The event was sponsored and hosted by Soul at Work.  According to their website, Soul at Work helps cultivate, connect and inspire “strong women to lead in their own terms and create more Soul at Work.” Organizer, Michelle Gonzalez, hosts events with inspiring speakers who simply share their story.  Michelle then helps the audience pick out themes that are interesting, challenging or inspiring. Each theme is created into the form of a question and then placed at each table to promote discussions by attendees.   The speaker that night was Navyn Salem of Edesia, Global Nutrition Solutions .  The mission of this non-profit  mission is to decrease malnutrition and it’s long term effects in children.  Her quest started in Tanzania but continues to expand.plumpynut

How Navyn accomplished her goal is a very interesting and inspiring story.  She is married with 4 kids (which in itself can be admirable). She also had a dream that she was able to make a reality. She was able to create a program in Tanzania, Africa that helps malnourished children.  You can imagine the immense task of raising funds and starting a program in another country. But she did it and she also was asked to create a factory in RI to create the product that helps malnourished children called Plumpy’nut®. 

While there are many lessons to be learned from her journey, one thing I readily noticed was Navyn’s attitude. She actually gets excited when there is a problem. She loves the challenge.  This is a very different perspective than some of us may have when our very big efforts lead to very big setbacks.   So my question is, “How do you make a problem an opportunity and not just a set back?”  Here’s what I learned from her story but I’d also love to hear your answer to this question.

What do I love in this?  Navyn looked for what she loved and followed her passion.  Sometimes solving the biggest problems starts with focusing on one small part that is deeply connected to your passion. In Navyn’s case, when she first visited Tanzania she could have become overwhelmed by all the help that was needed. Instead, she clarified what her passion was ( kids) and started to find a way to help from there. 

Hooray I don’t know this! That means I can learn something!  As I previously indicated, Navyn gets excited when there’s a road block. She loves a challenge and knows she will learn from it. I try to teach my kids that too.  There’s always going to be in life some homework or some problem in general that they get frustrated with.  We try to re-frame a problem in our house and in a joking manner say “That’s exciting, that means you get to learn something new!”.  Ok, it doesn’t always work with my kids. But I also get them laughing by referring to a silly movie called “Meet the Robinsons” which has the same message.  There’s a focus in that movie on an excitement of learning and not giving up when you fail, just “keep moving forward.”

Confidence in a skill VSSuccess Image confidence in your ability to learn. Navyn did not initially have the skills she needed to accomplish all she needed to accomplish.  She could have stopped there and said, “I don’t know enough to do this”. But she didn’t say that. She realized that while she didn’t have confidence in her skills yet, she DID have confidence in her ability to learn.  How often do we not try something because we don’t think we know enough? 

Let go of your ego. Sometimes you don’t have the time to learn everything. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Navyn started the project herself but now has a team of people who each have a different background. She pools their knowledge and expertise together to trouble shoot problems and accomplish their goals.  

Sometimes a setback is an opportunity in disguise. While we’re talking about egos, Navyn shared an interesting story where she didn’t let her ego get the best of her. As a result, things worked out better than she imagined.  Navyn had the exciting experience of having her non-profit written up by a well known newspaper.  However,  she went from big excitement to a big disappointment.  In response to her article, someone prominent in her field wrote a derogatory article challenging her and her non-profit.  This was someone whose books she had read and been inspired by.   Imagine having one of your role models publicly put you and your project down.  Some people might have written an angry response from their hurt or let themselves feel beaten down. However, Navyn let it sit and gave herself some time to process before responding.  Realizing  that the author misunderstood some things,  Navyn  wrote a respectful letter back to him.  She  truthfully indicated how she had been inspired by him to start her non-profit.  She also clarified her message (that the reporter had altered) and shared some quotes from his own books to support her points.  The author quickly apologized!  He also wanted to meet her and offered his help with her project.  What looked initially like a roadblock turned into a new pathway.

Ultimately, Navyn’s story was a great reminder to me to not limit my goals and dreams to who I think I am or what I think I can do.  I just need to focus on where I want to go and learn how to get there.  I’m sure along the way I’ll need to remind myself that problems are just ways to challenge us to learn and grow.  Sometimes those problems are even opportunities in disguise. At the very least, they are opportunities to learn.

What do you think? How do you make a problem an opportunity and not just a set back? Have you had times where a problem turned into an opportunity?  Or, do you find it difficult to see problems as anything but barriers?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Photobucket