How to be a Happier Mom

Would you like to be a happier mom?

How you can become a happier momI’ve asked my friend, Arlene Pellicane, to give you some insights from her wonderful new book, 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom.  Read on and comment at the end of the post for a chance to win her great new resource for any mom.

Arlene says:

Would you like to be a happier mom? Try this.

When I asked moms what made them unhappy, I got answers like:

“I hate it when I have to repeat myself again and again.”

“I’m constantly yelling at my kids about their ‘forgotten’ chores.”

“My kids don’t do what I ask. They make excuses and argue with me about things they’re supposed to do every day.”

I can certainly relate to these frustrations. My husband James and I were harping on our three kids constantly: “Hang your backpack in the closet.” “Put your dish in the sink.” “Please help set the table.” He was tired of the constant nagging about basic household duties and he began to brainstorm about the solution. Lean in moms. The crazy plan James came up with worked like a charm and it all began with a dollar.

You see, James grew up in an Italian home where the person who shouted the loudest won. He didn’t want to yell or get ugly when disciplining the kids. He was looking for a non-emotional, reality- based discipline that would get the kids’ attention. One afternoon, he called a family meeting and announced a new rule in the Pellicane household:

If I have to ask you to do something around the house that’s expected like setting the table, unloading the dishwasher, putting your plate away, or putting your shoes in the closet, you will owe me one dollar. These are reasonable tasks that I should not have to remind you about. It works both ways. As you do things over and above – maybe you offer to clean up all the dishes after a meal or help your sibling with homework without being asked – you will get a dollar.

About an hour later, it was dinnertime. No one came to help me set the table. One backpack was still in the hallway. There were clean dishes on the counter top that needed to be put away. James called the kids downstairs. “Okay, you all owe me a dollar.” You should have heard the weeping and gnashing of teeth that followed. “We didn’t know it already started!” they proclaimed. “That’s not fair!” they whined. One of them burst into tears.

I was still trying to determine if my husband was a genius or a madman. It was a rough start to be sure, but do you know what happened in the days following? I stopped lecturing for the umpteenth time about where the backpacks went. I just said calmly, “Go get me a dollar.” As the dollars started draining from their piggy banks, the older kids wised up quickly. They started automatically unloading the dishwasher. They set the table without being asked. They hung up their backpacks and put away their shoes.

I was flabbergasted at the change. Did my kids change their behavior because they are angelic, kind, responsible children? No, they did it because they didn’t want to be flat broke. It’s much more fun to earn money than to lose it. We have a desk drawer filled with one dollar bills. The kids know to put their dollar in when there’s an infraction and to take a dollar out when there’s a reward. These circulating dollars are working magic for the work ethic in our home

When I woke up one morning and saw my 10-year-old son, dressed and peeling oranges for our family smoothie without being asked, I cannot tell you how satisfying it was to say, “Wow, you’re getting a dollar!” Ethan has turned into a “How can I help you?” machine and I trace the roots of his initiative to good old George Washington. Now that’s a dollar well spent!

Instead of yelling or disciplining with tone, what is an action based discipline that would work with your children? Could you incorporate the magic dollar in some way?

Record your responses in the comment section below and I’ll pick one to win a free copy of Arlene’s book (U.S. residents only please.)



About me

Cindi McMenamin is an award-winning author and national speaker who helps women find strength for the soul. She has nearly 30 years experience ministering to women and inspiring them to let God meet their emotional needs, grow stronger through their alone times, and pursue their dreams with boldness.


Mildred Johnson
Reply September 29, 2015

In these tough economic times where can my son and his wife find all those extra dollars for 5 kids. Most parents are living paycheck to paycheck.

    Reply September 29, 2015

    Hi Mildred: Thank you for responding. I believe Arlene and her husband started by having the kids give up their own one-dollar bills from allowance, birthday money, and what they had saved in their own piggy banks thus far. (She and her husband have taught the kids to save and manage money from the time they were small). So, as the drawer of dollar bills filled up, it was the donating and taking back of the kids' own money so it didn't become a financial hardship on the parents. Your son and his wife might be able to find other incentives that work with their children. The key is finding what motivates them and in the Pellicane household, motivating them to not lose their money, but rather, make more, worked. Thanks again for your comment.

Reply October 5, 2015

Both of my children respond very well to positive reinforcement. For example, my son (12yrs) loves Legos, so once a week we have a "Legos roundup." Everyone participates, and only do a great job, but I also don't have to clean up the Legos. Each child is praised for the Legos. You should see their happy faces at dinner. I could tell you a million stories, but I think the thing that has made me happier is just asking for help. I had back surgery, so there is much I can't do. So I ask the children for help, and they do a great job. Definitely makes me a happier, less stressed Mom!

    Reply October 5, 2015

    Thanks, Kimberly. I love the "Legos Roundup" idea. Smart mom. And glad that you are a happier mom now, too. And there's nothing better to hear than children who are happy to help Mom when she's not able to do certain things for them. Blessings as you continue your "Legos roundups."

Reply November 8, 2015

Oh my goodness! I had to laugh! We did exactly the same thing, but they were little so it was a quarter. As they grew we moved to .50 and then 1.00. When my husband lost his job (many times from downsizing, buyouts, mergers, etc...) we had some TOUGH financial times. During those times we used the other Achilles heel for kids...BEDTIME. It was a deduction of 10-15 minutes (depending on age) to an extra 10-15 minutes. If they earned a lot of extra time it was "weekend only use" they could cash in. Which was really to our benefit as they slept in later :-) Fun to think back!

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