Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR READERS: While I'm on a short break, I hope you'll enjoy this "Best Of" column, which tackles parenting questions.

DEAR AMY: I grew up poor without the extras, such as an allowance. My husband and I have a comfortable life now, and I would like to give my children an allowance for the things they need or want. What are some guidelines for allowances, such as dollar amounts for the ages and how often should an allowance be given? Should allowances be tied in with chores or duties around the house, or is an allowance simply a stipend for the children for their everyday needs such as lunch money or a soda or a burger when they are with friends?

Mom with Money

DEAR MOM: I like the method some parents use of setting up three piggy banks -- one for spending, one for saving and one for donating. If you start the child at around age 5, you could give $3 each week, encouraging the child to place $1 in each bank. You can help guide your children by encouraging them as they watch their savings grow, and donating some of their own money to a worthy cause.

Later you can step up to a system of giving roughly a dollar for each year of age.

I don't like the idea of paying children to do household chores they should be doing anyway, though if they want to make extra bucks, they can offer to do jobs that you might pay someone else to do, such as shoveling the walk or doing extra yardwork. (March 2005)

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DEAR AMY: I am the father of a 19-year-old daughter. She is a great kid, smart, stays out of trouble and has lots of friends. The problem is that she likes to run around the house in her underwear. I will come home from work and she will be sitting in front of the TV with just a T-shirt and underwear on or come out of the shower with only a towel on her head. She doesn't do this when we have houseguests. I have asked her to put more clothes on, but she just tells me not to be so stuffy. My wife thinks this is just a passing phase. What do you think?

Confused Father

DEAR FATHER: Your daughter's reaction to you tells me that she doesn't worry too much about respecting your point of view; I don't know how that strikes you, but that would probably bother me more than the nudity. If she continues to refuse to respect this pretty simple request, the next time she spends an evening at home, you might want to come to dinner wearing only your boxer shorts. If she asks you what's going on, you can look at your daughter and say, "Stop being so stuffy! Please pass the potatoes." (July 2004)

DEAR AMY: My friend has been a generous but uninvolved godmother to my daughter, 14. Recently she has been persistent in trying to arrange get-togethers for my daughter and her children, who are 5 and 7. However, the activities are always geared to very young children, which makes me suspect that this is more about arranging supervision for her children than a genuine interest in her goddaughter. On top of it, her children are poorly behaved. How can I gently communicate that my daughter is not interested in spending time with children with whom she has nothing in common?

Godmother Fatigue

DEAR FATIGUE: The unkind assumption is to think that your child's godmother is using your daughter for baby-sitting. Let's try for the less unkind assumption: Since your friend's children are so much younger, she may not realize what a stretch it is for teens to socialize with unruly children half their age. No doubt your friend's kids are agitating to spend time with your 14-year-old, who is probably the coolest teen they know.

You could tell your friend that while your daughter likes to spend time with her, she doesn't have much in common with kids so young. Eventually, your daughter will have to decline or accept these invitations without your intervention. (April 2005)