You asked the questions, child psychologist Dr Aaron frost Gives you the answers. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. My tween-aged kids are always keen to do chores for pocket money but they seem to lose interest quickly. I’m not pushing them to earn money, but I’d like to think they could at least commit to completing a list of chores each week. If anything, I think I’m helping them prepare for the ‘real’ world. How do I keep them motivated?
A. This one comes up a lot, and is usually a question of economics rather than psychology: It’s all about supply and demand. What is it they want and what do they have to do to get it. If they have everything they want anyway, why would they bother doing chores for money that they can’t imagine what to do with. On the other hand, if it takes them the best part of a year of chores to get a magazine they want, why would they bother? The trick to keeping them motivated is to know what they want and then give them the opportunity to earn enough pocket money in a short enough time period to get it, while making sure that they aren’t so showered in gifts and ‘stuff from well-meaning relatives.
Q. I’m a single mother of a 6yo and have found a great partner who I really like. He also has a 6yo child from a previous marriage. The problem is that the kids fight so much when they’re together. They simply dislike each other. I really want this relationship to work so how do I encourage the kids to get along?
A. Each family has a pecking order and one of these kids is about to step one rung down that pecking order. As a rule, no one likes doing that and the fact that they are so close in age means that there is no immediate answer as to who is dominant. I think they will continue to dislike each other until they figure out who is the boss. Unfortunately that is not something either you or your new partner can help with, you just need to sit back, watch it happen and intervene if it looks like either of them could hurt each other. In the meantime though, the focus is making sure that both of them know that they are loved by their biological parent and that they haven’t been replaced by the new partner and if this relationship is going to work, then they each need to feel loved and protected by the new partner as well.
Q. I really don’t like the friends that my 13-year-old daughter hangs out with. I feel there are such nicer kids in her cohort that she could be friendly with. Should I step in?
A. Yes, but she can never know. Friends are a really important predictor of future risk and protective factors for kids at this age. They are who is going to be there when someone first offers them a cigarette, alcohol or drugs. They will be there when they are deciding whether or not to get into a car with a boy who has been drinking. They will be the ones who are there when they start clubbing and all the risks that entails. So yes, you are right to be concerned about who your daughter hangs out with. Having said that, the most important thing in the world for a 13-year-old boy or girl is to be treated like an adult, so the best way to get her to tune you out completely is to meddle in her social life. All you can really do is become friends with parents of kids you like as well as the kids you don’t, and gradually try and shape up a circle of social opportunities for her. She will still ultimately make those decisions, but you want to give her every chance to make better choices.
Dr Aaron Frost is a clinical psychologist and director of Benchmark Psychology at Mount Gravatt.