Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Practical Advice for 16 y/o (updated)

Hannah asked a couple specific questions about parenting a 16 y/o boy. Please feel free to add your advice, or questions. I will update this post if there are questions.

They have to cook dinner once a week, and I have them pick a weekly and a daily chore. Most of the time the daily chore is kitchen clean-up on the days when they don't cook. I find that it is a lot of work to make them do the chores, so I am careful not to give them too much and to give them choices among things I can stand to have left undone for a while. Most of the boys have chosen to do their own laundry. That is partly because Roland does laundry for those who don't and he seems to have a policy of quarantining clothes for two weeks. He also complains that the reason he has so much trouble getting laundry done is that we all have too many clothes. Wait...I'm digressing.

I don't worry about their rooms unless it is a safety issue. I do remind kids every now and then that we do live in an area where there are some spiders that like to hide in clothes on the floor and which have some bad bites. None have actually made it into their bedrooms since we moved in, but I try to scare them. It doesn't work.

What you give them for allowance will be tied to what you expect them to pay for. I pay out monthly. I put $10 in their savings account, $10 into their account for presents, and give them $40. I have been thinking about just giving them the present money, but they prefer for me to force that savings. That they give presents to each other is important to me, so I will probably keep doing it. I like using Visa Buxx. It allows me to see where they are spending their money. I don't tie allowance to chores. I have sometimes paid kids to do extra work, but when I do that they seem to expect much more money than the job is worth. I pay allowance up front and I don't give loans.

I have friends who pay that amount weekly. Their kids are expected to pay for their own school lunches if they decide not to pack (foster kids get free lunch at school), and at least some of their own clothes and toiletries.

We buy inexpensive basic toiletries. I don't buy deodorant that is heavily perfumed because they will spray it all over themselves and want more in a week.

Homework Time:
I don't worry too much about this with older boys. In theory they are not supposed to spend more than 1/2 hour in front of an electronic screen until their homework in finished. In practice they lie their petudies off about homework, and it is a fight I can't win. Right now both boys are restricted from all electronics (except watching TV with us) until they can demonstrate that all their grades are at least a C. Gary keeps telling me that the school web site is all messed up and his grades are really higher than they appear. I nod sympathetically and tell him that I would accept a note or email from his teachers instead of a print out from the web site. Then he tells me he is staying after school to take another quiz. (Brian just has to pull his grade in Band up. This will happen when he gets the boat-load of points for the concert, or after weeks of remembering to turn in his practice sheets. He is bummed because he can't turn in late practice sheets so he can't just "catch up" and fix that grade quickly.) I find that I am really enjoying them while they are not distracted by the electronics. They are also getting more sleep.

Cell phone
You didn't ask, but I like the kids having cell phones. I pay for text messaging and remind them about the minutes. Most teens seem happy to do nothing but texting.

Entertaining Themselves
I don't worry much about what they do with themselves, Hannah. I bought kids art supplies, books, whatever. They eventually think of something else they want to do. Every teen I know though loves their MP3 player. I bought an iP*d for Gary from a pawn shop as a moving-in gift. He was very happy with it, at least until he washed it.

Tell Them What They Don't Know
It is really surprising how many rules we have without realizing that they are rules. Are you allowed to get a bowl of cereal any time you are hungry? What foods are off limits. At your house is not flushing the toilet every time disgusting, or is flushing all the time wasteful? I always tell them that they won't get in trouble for doing something or eating something that I had not told them not to.

I have found that I need to be very direct about how much money I budget for Christmas and birthdays. Many of the kids in foster care have had extremes. Either no one buys them anything, or they get piles of stuff from charities and family trying to compensate for everything else. Kids who grow up with you figure out what you budget because they know what you gave them before. A kid who has not lived with you will genuinely have no idea. Though I find it awkward to tell them that I generally spend under $50 for birthday presents, it is information they need.

Update 2:
It occurred to me that it would be a good idea to talk about showers. Teenagers fall asleep in them. They shower until the hot water is gone. It is very, very annoying. I haven't quite decided to buy this, but I'm thinking about. Seriously.

Are there any more questions?


  1. Cell phones aren't an issue for us because we live in an area where there is NO reception. :)

    I like the "forced saving" idea for gifts. That's something I still really struggle with, but am planning on changing. We think it's important to teach him management, so I think we will put the money in his hands first and encourage him (or require him) to split it up.

    When they don't have electronic time, what other activities do you encourage them to do? We live 45 minutes from the nearest city, so a lot of "teen age" things are not available.

    Thank you so much for your help. I am hoping to get some input from other readers. :)

  2. I'm pretty sure teenage boys aren't exactly sleeping in the shower.

    Our teens were in the Independent Living Program (ILP) and got $20 per month for planning, buying for and cooking meals and $20 per month for doing their own laundry, so we didn't give them an allowance. It was hard to get them to do their one chore as well. Foster Daughter #1 chose sweeping which she did infrequently and Foster Daughter #2 chose loading and unloading the dishwasher which she did if she was home but spent most of her time elsewhere.

    I second what you said about unspoken rules like who sits in what chair at the table, is it okay to drink the last soda, does the kitchen close at a certain time, is everyone required to eat dinner together or is it okay to make a sandwich, etc.

    For entertainment I recommend teens work after school jobs, volunteer or job shadow, obtain tutoring or be a tutor, or participate in an extracurricular activity. Anything that helps teens be active and stay out of trouble is great.

  3. Yeah, I was using "sleeping" as a polite euphemism. That is what they claim happens.

  4. lol ok it has obviously been A LONG time since I was a teen boy because I took "sleeping" at face value. I was a little embarrassed when I realized what it might be referring to.

    I'm glad my parents never knew of the water meter.

  5. Yeah, I took the sleeping thing at face value too...but I also have been reading A LOT about talking to teens about sensitive issues. :)

    The unspoken rules is a good one, something that we will have to actually contemplate.

    We live in a very small town with very little for teens to do, but I am already looking at a farm internship for Gabe. He has farm experience and said he liked that idea.

    Great advice people. :) Thank you.

  6. This is a really interesting post. I don't have foster kids (so take this with a grain of salt), but if I did I might consider weighing the pros and cons of prepaid cell phone minutes as opposed to adding the kids to your family plan. The cons would be that it probably costs a lot more (is this right?), but on the other hand, I seem to remember both you and the FosterAbba-FosterEema family having issues in the past with being locked into cell phone plans that lasted longer than the kids did. (Or was it other families?) Oh, and kids might be in a position to buy additional minutes themselves if they wanted them. Just a thought. As I said I've never actually put a pencil to it myself, so I don't know whether it's actually a feasible idea.

  7. r,
    Yes Foster Abba and I both did have to pay for cell phones after kids left. Checking the prepay ones would be smart.

  8. Crystal4:33 PM

    Thanks for the advice. We don't do teenagers just yet but we will in the future and its nice to find a place we can look to for help!

  9. All such good suggestions. I need to pass some of these blogs onto my foster parents!


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