Over the dinner table my seventeen year old was telling us how he is the only kid in his class who does his own laundry. Let me point out that he does it of his own volition, and not because I make him do it. But it does make my life easier. He did say that there is one kid in his class who actually has to fold his own laundry once it’s done, and put it all away. But he keeps it all in a laundry basket and just fishes out what he needs when he needs it. The rest of the kids in the class have everything done for them.
What kind of children are we raising? This is just one example of how kids today do hardly anything for themselves and have their parents do it all – because parents keep doing it all, and buying it all, for the kids. I am sure I do more for my kids than my mum did for me growing up, but I still see that my children have more chores and responsibilities that most others in their classes.
My eleven year old can use a washing machine, knows how to wash dishes, clean a bathroom, vacuum, and cook basic dishes. He can even stuff a duvet into a duvet cover – something that apparently many children are unable to do, according to him. My kids have been packing their own school lunches since they were in first grade. We have always had a chore list with everyone’s name on it, rotating jobs week to week. Everyone helps to clear the table, to stack the dishwasher, to walk the dog, to pick up after him.
My children have always been responsible for doing their own homework and completing their school projects themselves. Yes, we are around to help and advise them – but the heavy lifting on their schoolwork? That’s for them to do. I already did plenty of homework decades ago.
My youngest recently had to submit an essay for school. They were learning how to construct a story. They had to bring in their first draft and talk to the class about it. He told me that a lot of the kids were not as familiar with their work as they should have been. I asked him why that was. He told me that “well, their parents did most of the work”. He rolled his eyes. I sat with my son while he was working on this essay. We discussed plot lines and sentence structure – but he sat down to write it. The words and ideas were all his. He asked me to edit it. I guided him with editing it himself. At the end of the day he had so much pride in this essay for which he received an excellent grade. If we do the work for our kids, how do they have pride in their own work? How can they possibly have confidence in themselves? If we award them just for showing up, what are we teaching them?
A child does not need to be burdened with doing all the chores in the house, for sure, but at eighteen when they are all grown up and ready to move out they need to know how to do at least basic housework / cooking etc. – unless Mommy is going to fuss after them for all of their lives. Many of my female friends talk of their husband’s cluelessness in the kitchen, or with household chores, and some even think it’s cute. It isn’t. There is no reason that any adult these days should not know how to manage basic housekeeping.
As a society we are more concerned with our kids being happy than we are with them being a useful member of that society. I don’t recall happiness being a requirement when I was growing up. Yes, we all want our children to have no worries, but since when is happiness higher up on the totem pole than everything else? Are we doomed to failure if our jobs don’t make us happy? So many people are stuck in jobs they hate, but they stay because they need the money so they make the best of it. Today’s kids? After five minutes they’d want to do something else because they are not happy. We need to teach them coping skills so that if they are not happy, they can still be effective, and not let their lack of satisfaction bring them down.
I want to raise my kids to be productive members of society – able to give the best of themselves to improve the world in their own unique ways. I am not interested in being a helicopter parent – not now, and certainly not for the rest of their lives. I’ve been called a mean mom, a tough mom, a lazy mom – all because I want the children to learn to be self-sufficient. These names were not lobbed at me by my children but by other parents, critical of my skills as a mom.
It’s time the pandering and spoiling end. It’s time that kids learn that they are not spoiled, entitled little people who have no responsibilities or consequences. It’s time that parents step up and parent, and stop trying to just be their child’s friend.