Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Teaching Children To Work

Few things drive me more batty than watching a parent do practically everything for their children.  While their motives are probably good, I believe they are doing their child a disservice. 

I witnessed a funny conversation between my cousins years ago where one of them said, "I think the reason you're so lazy is because Mom did everything for you."  Her brother nodded in agreement rather than taking it as an insult.  During this same vacation we spent together, the oldest brother took the leftovers from the meal our mothers worked so hard on and fed it to the ducks.  Since when do ducks eat ham?  That was supposed to be our lunch.

In our efforts to give our kids a great childhood, we might be afraid of placing too much responsibility upon them.  I think balance is important.  Taking on the role of martyr will not make them grateful, but rather create a sense of entitlement.  The child learns that other people exist to serve them and have no comprehension of what it takes to run a home.

Other parents might not give their children a lot of responsibility because they don't realize they are capable or won't do the job to their standard.  How will they learn if they don't get to try?  I would suggest letting them do an imperfect job and quietly complete the task without criticism until they are old enough to do it better.  Praise them for being such great helpers.

It was an eye opening experience for me when I was on crutches for months.  Because I had to, I taught my 6-year-old to do a lot and wondered why I hadn't done so in the first place.  He learned how to use the microwave, washer, and dryer.  He was quite proud of himself.

When we teach our children to work, they achieve a sense of accomplishment.

Have you ever witnessed this scenario?

Mom prepares dinner for the family, even setting the table herself.  When dinner is ready, she serves everyone and by the time she's done cutting everyone's food, someone is asking for seconds before she has taken a bite.

It's a recipe for resentment.  It may take a while before a child can cut their meat, but they can practice with simple things like pancakes.  Everyone can take part in preparing for dinner and clean-up.

Expecting your child to do more for themselves is not lazy parenting.  On the contrary, I think failure to teach your child important skills is lazy parenting.  It does take a great deal of patience and consistency.

A child who learns to work and clean up their own messes will be a better employee someday, a better roommate, and a better spouse.  You will enjoy more harmony in your home and find you will have more time for fun with your family. 

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