(Editors: A version of this column ran in November 2012.)
Q: We have three children, and we are looking at any advice you can give us on how we should do money allowances in our household.
Jim: Some parents believe in paying a weekly allowance, and some pay their kids for individual chores. Others don't pay anything, opting instead to give their children money for purchases based on their overall attitude and helpfulness. There's no one-size-fits-all approach.
Whatever system you adopt, it's important to remember that one of your major goals is to prepare your children to live in the "real world" -- the world of work, taxes, charitable giving and investments. In that world, nobody is going to pay them for making their beds or taking out the trash. Instead, they'll be paid for things like managing a group of employees, tuning up somebody's car or selling a pair of shoes to a demanding customer.
With that in mind, we would suggest that kids perform certain tasks around the house simply because they are part of the family. This might include taking care of their own rooms, picking up their toys, helping prepare meals, washing their own clothes and, yes, even taking out the trash.
On the other hand, you might pay your kids for chores that demand more time and energy -- contributions to the life of the household that go beyond the call of duty. This might include mowing the lawn, washing the car or, in the case of a responsible teenager, baby-sitting younger siblings for an entire Saturday afternoon.
Whether it's a regular responsibility or a chore that earns a "paycheck," it's important to communicate clearly what you're looking for in terms of the time frame and the level of quality you expect.
Q: What do you do when your spouse is unwilling to compromise or discuss issues that you don't agree on in your marriage?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President of Family Ministries: The key is to dig down below the surface issue to what is actually driving both spouses' feelings of hurt. Instead of getting stuck arguing about a specific issue (money, sex, kids, work, etc.), or what each partner is doing wrong, use the opportunity to discuss what is really going on deep inside of you.
What drives hurt and frustration in marriage? Buttons. Whenever someone says something that hurts you or makes you mad, it pushes your buttons. Common buttons include feeling rejected, abandoned, helpless, inadequate, unloved, worthless or unimportant. All of these buttons are ultimately rooted in fear. When someone pushes your fear button, you tend to react with unhealthy words or actions calculated to motivate the other person to change and give you what you want. For example, if you fear being a failure, you want to feel successful. If you fear being rejected, you desire to feel accepted. Most of us use unhealthy reactions to deal with our fear, and, as a result, we sabotage our relationships.
The key to breaking this cycle is for you and your spouse to first identify your buttons, and then your reactions. Remember, you can either talk about the surface issue, arguing about what the other person does that hurts or frustrates you, or you can talk about what is really driving your hurt and frustration -- your buttons. Don't be afraid to ask an outside party for help with this process, if necessary. Focus on the Family can offer you a free counseling session by phone and also put you in touch with a qualified counselor in your area.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.