- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 24, 2008

Q:My older daughter is 12 years older than her sibling and is baby-sitting for us on

occasion. This is infrequent and usually after the baby’s bedtime or during nap time on Saturday or Sunday, when my husband and I can catch some time out of the house alone. My older daughter is good with the baby when the baby is awake and has no problem with sitting, even if we want to run an errand when the baby is not sleeping or we are still out when the baby awakes from her nap.

Her stepmother has told her we don’t pay her a sufficient allowance and should pay her for baby-sitting and other chores. That got me to thinking. Should we?

A: I just love stepmothers and stepfathers who want to be popular with their stepchildren and go about trying to accomplish that by criticizing the biological parents’ ways of doing things. That is so, like, pitiful. These stepparents need to find friends their own age. Like, what is it about the word “adult” they don’t understand?

My advice to you is to ignore Evil Stepmother. Do not even engage with your daughter in discussions concerning what ES says about chores, allowances and the like. Simply point out to your daughter that the word “family” means not just parents and children who live together, but “people who live together in a cooperative arrangement.” In short, the people who make up a family help each other, and one way your daughter can be of help to the entire family — one way she can be a good citizen of the family — is to baby-sit.

Point out that when you cook for her, for example, you are helping her. Furthermore, you want to help her, so you don’t ask her to pay you for her meals. Likewise concerning buying her clothes, paying her share of the mortgage (or rent) and utilities, her medical care, transportation and so on. Also point out that no one pays you for doing your chores. In keeping with that spirit and precedent, you are not going to pay her for baby-sitting. However, also tell her that if she insists upon being paid, you certainly will work it out such that you pay her for baby-sitting and she begins paying you for her upkeep.

Once upon a relatively recent time, adults were so bold as to tell children that good citizenship began at home. Good citizenship is all about contribution, not getting something for nothing.

Q: Our two boys, ages 10 and 12, share a room. Every night they tear around so much at bedtime that the next morning their beds are destroyed, with everything down to the mattress pad torn off. We keep our upstairs thermostat at 64 degrees. Do I keep making their beds nicely in the morning and expect them to cover up with their comforters if they are cold and forget about it?

A: Yes, you should let your boys be boys at bedtime. As John Eldredge has pointed out in his book of the same name, males are “wild at heart” and need appropriate outlets for their wildness. Your sons’ rowdiness at bedtime is something to be ignored, and if they are a bit chilled, so be it.

On the other hand, wildness or no wildness, you most definitely should not be nicely making their beds in the morning. These boys are old enough to be making their own beds. Also, if they have to make their own beds, they may be motivated to bring their rambunctiousness at bedtime under control.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his Web site (www.rosemond.com).

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