Anyone of us who has children has lived through this (or a similar enough) scene: our children are sitting on the sofa (your favorite sofa …. the comfortable one….the one you used to be able to relax on….) completely engrossed in their tablets or busy with their consoles or texting on their cell phones. You are busy with other “mom/dad” stuff – cleaning, cooking, vacuuming etc. At some point you head for the kitchen to make a coffee and you address your kids:
” I am heading for the kitchen. Do you guys want anything?” First of all: you don’t get an answer. Thats hardly surprising. Your precious little ones either wear headphones with the volume turned up so high they don’t hear you; or they simply ignore you, so completely into what they are doing that listening to their parents is really the last thing on their minds. The second thing that may happen is that they DO hear you and glance at you quickly, just to directly focus their attention back on their electronic device. Feel disrespected yet? Wait for door number three: they DO hear you, they DO look at you and their answer is – annoyed. Annoyed, that you DARE disturb them. Annoyance might just be in their tone of (nooooo-oooohhhh, not now! Mom! ), or worse, they may even tell you to not disturb them. Yep, my fellow parents, thats pretty much the epitome of disrespect and yet we have all seen it happening in our homes, haven’t we? So, now what? Do you get upset? Do you just ignore them as they ignore you? Do you take away their electronic priviledges and read them the Revised Miranda? 😉 Are you a slave to the children – or not?
Say you ignore them for the time being. You make a coffee, come back – you actually have to shove their little butts so you have some small space to sit on the couch as well – and just as you take your first sip of coffee and open the daily paper you hear an almost disembodied voice saying: “I’m hungry. I want a sandwich. And a coke”.
Look, people, this could be funny, actually, if it didn’t happen in real life but on your favorite comedy show. However, this is YOUR living room. Your kid doesn’t even glance at you when he or she orders his or her snack. And you know what? They actually EXPECT you to jump up, drop everything you were busy with, run into the kitchen and serve them. I would even go so far as to say that they’d actually be really surprised if not shocked if this scene played out any other way.
What the hell has gone wrong here?
You are at a loss. I will admit, occassionally, I have been, too. I try to think back to the time I was a kid and if I ever – ever – ever dared to behave in such a way toward any elder, parents or grandparents or teacher or whatever. OMG. No. I wouldn’t. Why? Did I fear the punishment which in our day and age more often than not wasn’t just being send to our rooms? Did I really respect my parents more? Did they do a better job as parents, brought me up better? Phew. Thats a tough one to consider!
I think we are ok parents; we have taught our kids right from wrong and in any social setting they can be perfectly polite little angels. So what the hell is going on that makes them think that this behavior toward their parents is anywhere in the vicinity of acceptable? Why have we become our kids’ slaves??? Lets take a look!
Pecking Order Gone Wrong
Let me be clear on one thing from the get-go: the fact that things are the way they are and your kids think its ok to behave this way isn’t their fault. Its ours as parents, and ours alone. We set ourselves up to be their servants, their slaves. We live in a society where, at least in the civilized western world, the only “right” way to live is if your kids come first. If you dare say or act otherwise, you’re likely to get stoned by your peers. So yeah, it is true : we do everything for our children. We put them first. Before ourselves. Before our spouses. Before our relationships. Our days are devoted to making their lives easier and happier. And if our child has special needs or we are separated we feel even more that we should do things for them ‘after all the difficulties they have been through’. Guilt plays its part – and we let it.
And look – this is exactly how your children perceive you: as their servant. As the ones that will do anything for them, anytime, anywhere. I would like for you to be careful not to confuse this blind slavery with providing a loving and safe family home – for one has precious little to do with the other. Doing EVERYTHING for them doesn’t make you a good parent. If anything it makes you give them a pretty bad example that its perfectly okay to jump at someone else’s every beck and call. Just think for a second, will you? If you had a servant (and remember, thats how your kids perceive you!), would you expect your servant to suddenly start giving you instructions and telling you what to do? If they did, you would soon become annoyed and wonder what had got into them. You may challenge them or just ignore them until everything settles back down. Well that is what our children think when we start telling them what to do. There is a clear expectation that we will clear up, clean, cook, shop, play with them, hang with them, entertain them and give them lifts to wherever they want to go. All of a sudden – in their eyes – and without actual “motive” we start giving them orders. They may think something along the lines of: what the f***?! They are bemused and slightly concerned that we do not seem to understand the pecking order. They may do a bit of clearing up to ‘keep the peace’ and then things settle down again –and we carry on doing what we have always done, being the same old slaves. Remember: this is the habits that we have allowed them to get into! So WE are the only ones who can actually change and put a stop to those habits. After all, part of our role as parents is to help our children become pleasant people to live with, and more responsible adults who can take care of themselves. Ask yourselves honestly that if you keep on letting the above happen – is this really what you are doing???
I really think that as parents of today’s society we need a wake-up call. We need to stop being scared of the peer pressure – just because every other parent in our circle of friends and acquaintances is OK with being their childrens’ slave doesn’t mean we need to follow suit. We need to beome resistant to our kids’ guilt-tripping – they are in essence selfish little humans. If something works in their favor, they will just keep on doing it. Of course they will, after all, they are only human! I would like for all of you parents out there to take a step back and think honestly about all the things that you do for your kids that they have long since been able to do for themselves…. whether thats because deep in our hearts we don’t want them to grow up so fast or because it makes us feel good to be needed, whether thats because we feel guilty or because we simply haven’t noticed the nasty habits: I don’t care what the reason is! And at the end of the day it doesn’t matter either. What matters is that you fall into the trap EVERY DAY. So. Honest look.
- is your kid able to grab something to drink or a snack?
- is your kid able to clean up after her/himself?
- is your kid able to brush his / her teeth and clean their bodies under the shower or in the bath?
- is your kid able to be given a responsible household chore like taking out the trash or cleaning up the dishes after dinner?
- is your kid able to take on shared responsibility for the pets?
- is your kid able to help with other household chores like folding the laundry or making the beds?
These are just some questions that I hope you have been able to answer honestly. Now – lets take a look at AGE APPROPRIATE CHORES as defined by the American Association for Pediatrics and Pediatric Psychology, shall we?
Chores for children ages 2 to 3
- Put toys away
- Fill pet’s food dish
- Put clothes in hamper
- Wipe up spills
- Pile books and magazines
Chores for children ages 4 to 5
Any of the above chores, plus:
- Make their bed
- Empty wastebaskets
- Bring in mail or newspaper
- Clear table
- Pull weeds, if you have a garden
- Use hand-held vacuum to pick up crumbs
- Water flowers
- Unload utensils from dishwasher
- Wash plastic dishes at sink
- Fix bowl of cereal
Chores for children ages 6 to 7
Any of the above chores, plus:
- Sort laundry
- Sweep floors
- Set and clear table
- Help make and pack lunch
- Weed and rake leaves
- Keep bedroom tidy
Chores for children ages 8 to 9
Any of the above chores, plus:
- Load dishwasher
- Put away groceries
- Help make dinner
- Make own snacks
- Wash table after meals
- Put away own laundry
- Sew buttons
- Make own breakfast
- Peel vegetables
- Cook simple foods, such as toast
- Mop floor
- Take pet for a walk
Chores for children ages 10 and older.
Any of the above chores, plus:
- Unload dishwasher
- Fold laundry
- Clean bathroom
- Wash windows
- Wash car
- Cook simple meal with supervision
- Iron clothes
- Do laundry
- Baby-sit younger siblings (with adult in the home)
- Clean kitchen
- Change their bed sheets
Funny, isn’t it, how your children are much more capable than you may have thought? It may also surprise you that giving your children chores isn’t a punishment and in no way does it mean that you don’t care for them properly. Quite the contrary. Giving your children chores is a great way to teach them responsibility, to make them an integral part of a small “society” – your family – in which everyone has their role to play and feel important and worthy for doing so. Your children need to grow – and preferably into something other than little tyrants ;-). Let them!
Assigning Chores – How To Do It Right
Remember – we all need to feel needed and to know that we’re making a contribution to “society”, even the kids. Chores are a great way of giving them that feeling. In theory, that sounds really great. But how do you get your children to participate? Here are a few things that you should be keeping in mind to make the process an easier one for everyone:
- Kids aren’t trained monkeys or little soldiers; no one is perfect – and the more relaxed you are about how they do their chores (as long as you know they are not lazily sloppy) the better they will do them. And whatever you do – NEVER jump in and do it for them just because the result isn’t as perfect as you may like. You would hurt and undermine them – so don’t.
- Don’t make your kid younger than he / she is: they are more capable than you think, see above. Kids can do a lot of chores at an early stage. We hold back too long because we think they ought to be ready first. But that puts the cart before the horse. Ever heard of “learning by doing”? Well, thats a case of that right here!
- Compliment them. Tell them you are proud of them. Let them know what they do is appreciated and that they are doing a great job! That way you link the chore to a positive emotion.
- Be consistent. If your kids aren’t expected to regularly follow through, they might start putting chores off in the hope that someone else will do them for them.
So. The bad news is that we are all in the process of raising little tyrants. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Start making your children happier and more content by trusting them to shoulder their “weight”. You, as a family, will eventually be happier and more content for it! And if they really annoy you? 😉 Maybe you should try this approach:
I would love to hear how you approach this part of bringing your children up! Does the above sound familiar? Or are your kids completely different? Please share your experiences 🙂
Thanks for reading, as always