My children are my entire universe.
I love them more than myself, and have been a devoted mother and homeschooler for five years. Parenting is something that I am very passionate about, and as many of you know, I firmly believe that peaceful, instinctual parenting is the best route for our family. Many of you feel the same way, but there is something I need to address. Something I never thought people truly believed in. Something I thought I would have only seen posted as a “sanctimommy” joke.
This is a topic that has been bothering me since a fellow peaceful parenting mama approached me as I was discussing chores with my five year old. I was shocked when she began to spoke. She decided to let me know that giving my older children basic household chores is abusive and is not something that should ever be done. My mind felt as if it had blown up. I had a complete out-of-body experience watching myself in that moment, wondering if she had actually just told me that or if my mind had somehow created her words. I waited, and she then went on to explain how its so detrimental to my children’s mental health. Her reasoning behind that logic? I am the parent and since I brought them into this world against their will, I shouldn’t make them help out around the house because it could make them feel hated, depressed, and in her words, “like a slave.”
After I was told (lectured?) about this, I went to a few “mom” groups that I am very active with to rant about this entire experience (because… what the?!) and to my surprise, many of the mothers agreed with this stranger’s comments. That a child should never have to help out around the house, work for an allowance, assist with siblings, or help mom or dad.
Yeah, my mind is still spinning around this.
I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of this generation of children, but I will say this:
Children need structure, responsibility, and the knowledge of how to, you know, actually do things to ensure their role as a functioning member of society.
Children raised without these things? Well, they are lucky they have smartphones that are able to think for them and answer their questions, because everyday life happens, and you have to know how to handle it. You have to know how to change a diaper, how to clean a toilet, how to set a table, how to fold laundry, how to pick up toys, how to cook, how to cut the grass, etc. I could go on all day.
So what makes these parents believe that their children are above the work that the majority of people have been doing since early childhood? We’re still trying to figure that out.
Human children have been working alongside their parents to both learn, and play their role in the family since the beginning of our existence. If they had not? We wouldn’t be here today.
To break it all the way down to the basics, our job as parents is to teach our children to survive. If we do not teach them the basics of being a functioning member of society, that’s not going to happen. And there is no way around that.
I don’t want my children to receive a participation ribbon for coming in last at a race, I want them to know that, while they tried, they didn’t win and they need to try harder. I don’t want my children to leave their dirty clothing lying around the house, knowing that I’ll pick it up later if they don’t. I don’t want them to tell me that they got a bad grade and expect me to get it raised by discussing it with their teacher. And most importantly, I don’t want my children to be told that they are being a helper in everyday activities, I want them to know that they are helping.
I want my children to learn. To experience.
Now, am I saying that I expect my three and five year old to spot clean the carpet, or power wash the siding of the house while I sit inside? Absolutely not. They receive age-appropriate chores, and are expected to clean after themselves on top of it. My nineteen-month-old is beginning to get the gist of it as well just from observing his sisters. We are now beginning an allowance for our oldest for keeping her bedroom and bathroom clean, vacuuming their play room, and making sure every toy is picked up by 7:30pm each night. Her having an allowance is teaching her how to count money, how to donate to charity, and most importantly, how to save for the future. She earned that money herself, and there is so much pride associated with that. When my younger children turn five, they too will receive an allowance for their chores being well-done.
My children having regular chores has changed them entirely as they have developed. They have gone from throwing tantrums when asked to pick up, to assisting me with other housework without me having to ask. My oldest also loves to help out with my youngest by helping with diaper changes, helping get him dressed, and feeding him. And she cannot wait until she is old enough to babysit, though that obviously won’t be for a while. Even at five years old, she is so happy that she knows exactly how to care for a baby, because she knows how to take care of her own if she chooses to have children. (Right now she is planning on having 25, she says!)
My children are developing self-reliance and empathy towards other’s needs which is essential to a healthy, responsive adult.
Still think I’m lying or that I push my children too hard? Well, check out what Marty Rossmann, an associate professor of family education at the University of Minnesota has to say:
Rossmann has found that parents can have a major impact on their children’s future simply by encouraging them to help with tasks around the house. Rossmann’s research indicates that having children take an active role in the household, starting at age 3 or 4, directly influences their ability to become well-adjusted young adults.
Chores “It seems there’s a payoff to having children help out, beyond learning how to keep a home in order,” says Kris Loubert, a parent educator who has used Rossmann’s research in her teaching.
Rossmann used previously unexplored data collected by Diana Baumrind, a well-known researcher on parenting styles. Baumrind began her study in 1967 using a sample of families living in the San Francisco area. Rossmann’s own family had been part of that study. Baumrind collected the data over 25 years.
“She gathered a great deal of data that she didn’t use, and I saw the possibility of doing secondary analysis of it,” Rossmann says. “I saw an enormous amount related to children’s involvement in household tasks.”
Rossmann analyzed the outcomes for 84 young adults based on their parents’ style of interacting, their participation in family tasks at three periods of their lives – ages 3 to 4, 9 to 10 and 15 to 16 – and brief phone interviews when they were in their mid-20s. She examined variables – including parenting styles, gender, types of household tasks, time spent on tasks, and attitudes and motivators associated with doing the tasks – to determine their impact on the children. She then measured each individual’s “successes.”
“I looked at the outcomes when they were in their mid-20s, focusing on what they were doing in regards to completing their education or being on a path to complete their education, getting started on some type of career path, their relationships with family and friends, and whether or not they were using drugs,” Rossmann explains. She also considered IQs when doing her analysis.
After reviewing these issues and studying all of the possibilities that could influence the outcomes, she found that the best predictor for young adults’ success in their mid-20s is that they participated in household tasks at age 3 or 4.
“Through participating in household tasks, parents are teaching children responsibility, how to contribute to family life, a sense of empathy and how to take care of themselves,” Rossmann says.
“The key is to start early,” she adds. “If you don’t, it backfires.”
(You can read more of Rossmann’s findings here.)
So before you go and claim that my precious snowflakes are being worked like my own tiny, personal slaves, remember: There’s a method to my madness.
Chores have been essential to the human family unit since the beginning of time, and according to several studies like Rossmann’s, children aren’t receiving enough of them today.
I rest my case.
Next time you see a pile of toys or your child’s dirty bedroom and shudder at the thought of cleaning it, remember, telling your children to clean it while using the phrase “Its for your own good.” applies very nicely here!
(And maybe our parents knew more than we thought!)
Let me know below how you feel about giving your children chores, and why or why not!
Much love, guys