Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Something small that works for both of us

My son has been on a downward spiral the last few weeks. His negative symptoms were taking over and he seemed more withdrawn than usual. He finally opened up to me and told me he wished he had an income. He has tried working NUMEROUS times, with no lengthy record at any place of employment, and it was never a success. It always ended badly. He said he felt like a loser.

I’ve decided to start giving him a small weekly allowance, but I attached a few small strings. He has to keep his apt AND himself clean. These are the 2 areas that have been really tough to deal with, and I could never figure out how to get into his apt to clean it. He has agreed to my terms and yes, I’m ALLOWED in his apt once a week for inspection. I was never allowed in before. God only knows what kind of condition his apt is in.

He genuinely seemed excited about the prospect of earning some cash, and I have seen a change in him the last few days. In so many ways, my son thinks and acts like a 12 year old.

I hope this sticks. He may have sz, but he’s no different than anyone else. He likes having alittle cash. He has something to look forward to and hopefully that will lift him up a bit and help him with his self-esteem, and hopefully I get what I want as well.

Just a thought for some of you with your kids who have sz…


Thanks for passing along your suggestion! It may help someone else. In my 20 years of working with families and 25 years of parenting a son with schizophrenia, I learned we need to be open to whatever works. For example, when my son was around 15 or 16 he’d become very agitated around 11 or 12 every night. He’d corner me and poke me with something sharp. I’d say “It looks like you’re feeling pretty awful. Let’s do something to help you feel better.” That something was going to a 24 hr. coffee shop. Sometimes we’d get a soda, sometimes we’d order food and sometimes we’d be there 5 minutes when he’d say he could go home. When we got home he’d go to bed and we both could get some sleep. If my older boys had ever wanted me to take them to a coffee shop at midnight there is no way that would have happened. But it worked for Phil and it sure was better than being a pin cushion! Do what works. Ask what he needs to keep his room clean. I firmly believe you have to throw out the good parenting rule book. They aren’t going to respond the way a kid w/o a mental illness will. Within reason find what will get you to the finish line and just be willing to try it. You build trust when you listen and are ready to try something totally out of the box.
Good luck with your financial agreement. Tweak it if need be. Make adjustments if he struggles. Those are big changes. If he makes any changes at all then you’re on to something. If he really wants to comply but you live in fear the health department is going to come and condemn his room then make a new plan with him. He’ll be more invested if he owns the plan. He’s fortunate to have you!


That is so interesting about your son poking you, and then doing better after a quick trip out for a soda. That is so much like my 15 year-old-son. I do find some simple things that help, but to other people it seems as if I am spoiling him. Outside observers have no idea what my son is dealing with from day to day, so I try not to care about others’ opinions. Any bit of progress is wonderful!



Thank you so much for the additional tips and sharing your thoughts and experiences. So far, we are on week#3, and so far so good. The bathroom is still pretty awful, but I know he will never scrub the tub the way a mother would, or clean up the bathroom sink. But he picked up most of clothes from the bedroom floor, he actually did some laundry, and the kitchen garbage was all out in the dumpster. Slow process and baby steps, I will take any tiny improvement! I praised him to no end, but didn’t want to overdo. He doesn’t seem to like it when I show any type of overly emotional behavior, and I don’t want him drawing back and dumping this plan altogether. I tried to stay even keeled and told him he was definitely living up to his part of the agreement. I’m hoping it will steadily improve. I also mentioned, with improvement, he will get raises. Just as if he was working at a normal job.

I had never thought of giving him an allowance before, because I help him so much already financially. But those expenses are simply for food and shelter, clothes etc., necessities. I just thought to myself, omg, this kid doesn’t have any casual everyday spending money. This is where I got the idea. But he HAD to do something for me in return.

He gets paid every Thursday. To see him so excited and looking forward to something makes me sad and happy at the same time. Sad because he had so much potential in life, and now this…


After one particularly agitated evening - I had called police officers who came and talked with him, but we mutually decided he didn’t need to go to the hospital - my son wanted to go get ice cream. We found a Sonic, and sat in the car and ate a treat together. It helped him feel comforted, and he was able to go to bed and get some sleep.


I have found an allowance helpful with my son as well. Once a week, I schedule small daily transfers to a joint account from an account that is only mine. It incentivizes him to stay compliant on his meds, and he checks his balance and can plan for larger purchases if he chooses.



There was a time when he could manage his own bank account. Then last summer, he went into episode and donated over $1,000 to the Red Cross (drained the account, actually put it into negative), and also gave away his brand new tv (his 3rd one) to a random stranger on the street, and his brand new PS4. When I asked him why, he said other people needed it more than he did. He’s always had a kind heart. We ended up closing his checking account. This was right before he was hospitalized for 2 weeks.

When not in psychosis, he manages his money quite well. He was paying his own bills with SSI money and the money I gave him to make up for the shortage. How I wish I could be certain he won’t do that again if he’s ever in crisis, and how I wish he had an account again where I could transfer some money to him as needed.

For now, everything is a cash deal. He keeps it “hidden” somewhere in his apt and only he knows where it is. Hopefully he won’t be giving his cash away.

It’s funny, money speaks volumes for my son. He’s very grateful even if it’s just $20 from me. In this sense, he’s very much like a child again.

Something else in common we share, @Vallpen.

We have a joint account with my son who doesn’t have a MI while he is college so that we can deposit money in it as he needs. Once he is done with college and has a job he will set up his own account.

Should apply for SSD.

Have you applied for SSI for him?

This reminds me of an annoyance when I was hospitalized. I was carrying about $40 in cash on me when I arrived, and staff suggested I have them manage it, since it might cause issues with theft and jealousies. I found it such an annoyance, the first thing I did when I was out on a pass was go to an ATM. I bought a few gifts for others who were hospitalized, it didn’t seem like a lot of money since I was working.

My mother questioned it, but I feel it was money well spent. The people there needed it more than I did, and were mostly appreciative. It felt good to brighten their days. One patient accused me of trying to buy friends, but folks stood up for me and said I was kind to them before my leave. I could see how this might get out of hand, of course.

I think money doled-out in increments is best, but from experiences with my brother, I’ve found the practice can back-fire. He will sometimes get quite anxious and even manic when he runs low on funds, and gets into risky situations because of it. My father used to make a big deal out of him asking for money, or complain about health care being expensive etc, or was sometimes late with transfers of money to his account. My brother often was afraid to say anything about it, lest he make my father angry, or he would often be embarrassed when he was low on funds and not say anything about it. After various rescues where my siblings and I had to wire him money to avoid overdrafts, we took over management of doling out money to him, and have put email and text alerts on his bank account so we know about certain events.

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@Maggotbrane, what do you think of this logic? My son says once I give him the money, he should be able to do as he wishes. If he wants to give away thousands of dollars to random strangers, it is none of my business. He often brings up the needy, the less privileged, he gravitates more towards the poor, the less advantaged and the people he thinks are being prejudiced against. I feel like one of these days, all of the money will just go to strangers. Very noble of him, but I work hard for that money!

His common phrase, “they need it more than I do”. Uuugghhhh!

This is where we butt heads, it makes me very anxious. He always has this “martyr” thing going on. I remind him you can’t pay rent or buy food with kindness. Uugghhh

@mbheart my reply to this would be, you can’t give something away you haven’t earned yourself. In my case, I was working and the money I gave away came out of my earnings. I would put it bluntly: you wouldn’t be allowed to steal money from a stranger and give it to the poor, that’s illegal (and immoral), why should you be allowed to do the same with my money. If I wanted to give it to the poor, I would do that and eliminate the middle-man.

Granted at the time my parents supported me with room and board, but later they started charging me rent and I was required to get insurance for my car which I paid for out of earnings, and I also became responsible for my health care.

My parents relationship with my brother is nuanced, because he is employed by them and they pay social security tax on his earnings. They do this, because you need a certain number of years of employment to get Social Security retirement benefits. He does work in fits and starts for them, and when focused he can be quite productive, but he has so many idiosyncrasies and conditions on work and is unreliable schedule-wise that he’s unemployable otherwise. They have been advised by attorneys and accountants that this is their best bet for him. He does not collect SSI, and it’s likely he would refuse it because it would mean he’d have to admit he’s disabled which is a big self-esteem problem for him, because he’s likely the most intelligent of the siblings IQ-wise.

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My son goes through $750 in 10 days. We tried to apply to be the payee. Since he hasn’t been to drs in ages the Dr won’t sign the form.

Excellent point, I will try this approach. Most likely he will come back with “it’s a gift to him, therefore it’s his money to do as he wishes”.

But I have made one thing very clear, if or when he decides to throw his money away, he will no longer be receiving an allowance or any type of additional recreational money from me. I will contribute just enough for rent and food.
So far, this “warning” has sunk in.

I’m the rep payee for my son, and he wants that switched over eventually, and it will have to be done because his older brother does not want that responsibility. It will be a scary day. But according to his doctor, it can be switched back to me if he proves he’s not competent enough to manage his own finances.

If I were you, I would try every measure to be his rep payee. Get your son to the doctor somehow, and show that your son is not capable of managing his SSI. Otherwise, they will blow it all.

My counter is this is not a gift, it’s a grant. I’m giving you money when you meet specific stipulations to qualify, and you are to use it for specific purposes. And if you don’t qualify or misuse it, no money. If you really want him to stress out about it, have him write a grant proposal every year. :slightly_smiling_face: