not fostering independence and self worth-- is it part of US culture? - Page 2 - Mothering Forums

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Old 03-16-2012, 12:08 PM
 
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Originally Posted by laohaire View Post

 

It's worth remembering that independence must be the goal biologically speaking. In our modern times, our focus has largely shifted away from survival issues, as for many of us survival is assumed (even if falsely). With our mechanical, technological and social constructs, we no longer need years of training in skills such as growing, storing and even preparing food, building shelters, using weapons for hunting and defense, etc. Now we basically need to read and follow directions (typical employment skills), plus operate a number of consumer devices (computers, mobile devices, automobiles, microwaves, etc.) which have been specifically engineered to be as easy as possible to use. Even the skills needed to engineer such things have been simplified by things like mass production and markup language.

I think you might be onto something.  I also think that our modern technologies have created a dependence far beyond just basic survival.  I depend on the water coming out of my tap every morning.  I depend on a public transportation system every day to take me from cheaper abode on the edge of the city to my job downtown.  I depend on my co-op and other stores to stock the items that my family needs.  I depend on so many outside factors that without them, my life would be turned upside down. I could survive, sure, but it might be that post-apocalyptic survival that you see in end-of-world movies (I love those, by the way). I don't have to go down to the well every day for water.  I don't have to cure my own food.  I don't have to make my own clothes, find stuff to heat my apartment, guard my family against mobs or invading warriors.  All the things that used to take great physical effort and time no longer apply to me or my family.  I sometimes think that my life is hard, but it is a different set of worries than the physical and time consuming stuff that some deal with / have dealt with.  I could choose to live a close-to-the-earth life.  But my life hasn't played out like that.  It hasn't had to.

 

Not sure how this is connected to children being less independent but I'm sure it plays some part.  We have so much more free time now in our present society.  Our society certainly still requires a certain amount of group effort, but it is not the same type of effort previously needed for survival.  We have more time to negotiate chores and duties and other things that crowd our lives.  We have more space to clutter.  There are less expectations that children be ready to be propelled into the real world because perhaps many of us don't view children as either a mouth to feed or as a contributor to the economic stability of the family.  All in all, it is probably a first world problem.

 

 


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Old 03-16-2012, 01:44 PM
 
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Interesting. I have thought about this a lot, even before I had kids. I once had a roommate who could not even boil spaghetti noodles. We were 22 years old at the time. I'm 35 now, so that was quite a long time ago, so nothing new. I remember also getting on to her about closing the shower curtain so it wouldn't grow mold. She had no idea. She also asked me once what the white coating in the bathroom sink was - umm, your toothpaste because you don't rinse out the sink when you're done... We fought A LOT about the household chores, LOL. She grew up with a maid and she said they went out to eat 4-5 times a week. So, of course it made sense to not be able to cook and clean if she never saw it being done.

 

Anyway, I don't know the answer to having independent kids is chores. I never really had chores, but I grew up being able to clean, cook, write a check, etc. My mother didn't like how I cleaned, so she would do it. She even cleaned my room for me and did all my laundry until I moved out. Somehow, though figured out how to do both those things. I loved cooking and my mom never did, so she started letting me cook dinner for the family once in awhile starting at age 12.

 

I think one factor with why people don't give their kids more to do is probably the lack of time. People don't have the time to have their kids help make dinner, since they probably don't even make dinner themselves anyway. They don't have time to show the kids how to sort laundry, since it is probably done at 11 pm when the kids are already in bed. That's just a hunch.

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Old 03-16-2012, 02:05 PM
 
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Anyway, I don't know the answer to having independent kids is chores.



This triggered another thought I had. I was thinking about the girl whose father comes to her apartment every month to write checks for her. First, I was thinking "wow, I would think he would say 'I will sit here this time and help you but you need to be the only to actually do it and learn'" but then realized that my parents never taught me to write a check. I checked with DH; yup, ditto with him. It's not that I couldn't understand a little bit of "hmm, am I doing this right?" the first time, but really, it should be straightforward for most people.

 

So I wondered if the issue is not training per se but confidence. I apparently grew up feeling reasonably, averagely competent. So the first time I wrote a check (which I don't remember - didn't make an impression on me) I'm sure I double checked everything but I also probably assumed I was competent enough to figure it out. I can imagine situations where a child could be raised to feel so incompetent that they wouldn't even try, wouldn't trust themselves enough.

 

Which leads to another thought - what is the worst-case scenario? It's possible that some kids think mistakes or failure is not an option. Their parents know how to do everything, they know how to do nothing, therefore they can't risk doing something like writing a check because they might screw it up.

 

Or yet another idea - they don't have any resources other than mom and/or dad. Somehow mom and dad were the end-all-be-all to any of life's problems. There were plenty of things I had to learn in adulthood - my parents didn't train me on how to get a mortgage, for example. And it's not like it was completely a no-brainer, either. But for whatever reason, DH and I assumed that researching (looking at applications, websites, financial books and magazines) was the answer. It never occurred to either of us to call our parents, though of course parents are also a valid source of knowledge and advice - just hopefully not the ONLY source.

 

Anyway, I don't think that having chores is unrelated - it's certainly one way to instill confidence and competence, which can be expanded into other areas - but it's also not the bottom line. Some kids either think they are completely incompetent (and that mom and dad are the ONLY avenues of assistance), or they think failure is not an option, or both.


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Old 03-16-2012, 03:34 PM
 
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I don't think it's about having chores as much as having responsibilities, which often involve some kind of work, like chores. So having a list of chores to do isn't necessary or what it's about. I think just being responsible for your own things as they come up could teach the same thing, or having to help out with stuff as it happened. But the only way to learn to be responsible is to take responsibility for things. You learn it by doing it.
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Old 03-16-2012, 04:05 PM
 
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does it matter?

 

I think it might, depending on what we find.  If, for example, we are doing something that actively discourages children's involvement with doing chores, etcetera, helping and being a valuable part not just of the family (of course we love them) but to the *work* of the family, and then later having to instill those values back into them, it would sure be nice to know.

 

 

 


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Old 03-16-2012, 05:20 PM
 
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I don't know, no amount of dusting or scooping up dog poop in the yard prepared me for my present day problems.  Maybe it taught me to care about my environment - which I think has incredible valuable - but independence?  No.  Independence was both desire and trial and error on my part:  to be independent from parents and to make it in the world with minimal flub-ups.  The whole collective farm stuff is great on a collective farm, but I have found that there are more tedious social navigations that I have to perform in order to survive in the modern world.  My attention to detail at home counts a bit, but independence goes beyond the ability to manage a tidy abode.  At least in my world.  I have to be able to handle rejection.  I have to be able to try again when I fail (if I really want to do something).  I have to recognize that there are issues outside my own little world, and know how to deal with them.  I think that is what independence is really about.  Not about knowing how to fry an egg or properly fold a t-shirt.  Those are good skills, but those don't equal independence.


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Old 03-16-2012, 05:28 PM
 
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Knowing how to fry an egg doesn't specifically equal independance, but knowing how to get and prepare your own meals is a part of independance.
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Old 03-16-2012, 05:35 PM
 
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Originally Posted by mamazee View Post

Knowing how to fry an egg doesn't specifically equal independance, but knowing how to get and prepare your own meals is a part of independance.


That has some truth, but only if independence = having certain manual skills.  I didn't know how to cook when I left home (we weren't allowed to work in the kitchen because that was mom's domain) but I had an underlying need to be on my own.  I learned stuff through trial and error, albeit, not always to great success, but the desire to be independent was there, even if I didn't have the necessary household skills to be able to do it immediately.  

 

Independence, for me, is a state of mind.  If someone desires to be independent or if someone is forced to be independent, then survival skills will kick in and they will figure it out.  It's nice to have the skills pre-living-on-one's-one, but I don't think they are necessary for survival and success in the greater world.  I'm a living example.  :)

 

 


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Old 03-16-2012, 05:37 PM
 
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Hmm well I guess it's just a matter of definitions. I think of skills as the tools of independence. If you had a desire for independence, I would still think of that as not being actual independence until you had aquired the skills. Though you'll never get the skills without the desire so that's a huge part of it.
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Old 03-16-2012, 06:09 PM
 
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I see "chores" leading to responsibilities, responsibilities leading to independence

 

ex. you learn to pick up, feed, change, clean up after your sibling, you take responsibility of for overseeing childcare and later independent baby-sitting job ---very small scale example   one can lead to another   

 

I don't buy that you must have desire for all to achieve independence - many situations you have no desire but are forced into due to circumstance 


 

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Old 03-16-2012, 06:18 PM
 
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Hmm well I guess it's just a matter of definitions. I think of skills as the tools of independence. If you had a desire for independence, I would still think of that as not being actual independence until you had aquired the skills. Though you'll never get the skills without the desire so that's a huge part of it.


LOL!  I think it all comes down to a chicken and egg argument.  That being said, I think my greater concern is where the egg comes from?  Can the young person cook the egg because it was simply there, or that he had the independence to acquire the egg in the first place?  

 

Just from my various readings on the subject, I don't think that independence is a concern in this country because kids can't perform certain tasks, but because they lack the ability to get into a situation where the task is required of them.  If the kid is in a situation where the task is always performed for him, why would he even be required to know how to perform it?  It comes down to the idea that we're creating a culture of dependence.  We are in a culture or we have created a culture whereby everything is done for us.  Or, at least it is made easier.  I have a colleague who doesn't do his own laundry.  He sends it out.  To him, that is the norm and as long as he can afford it, he will continue to do it. Why should people pack lunches when there are endless restaurants and food carts who can make your lunch for you?  If you can afford it, why bother with the options.  

 

I live in a city where every service conceivable is available.  When I was out recovering from an unexpected C--section, I had Fresh Direct deliver all my groceries.  It was simple, it was cheap, I didn't have to do much.  I just had to point and click and voila, I had groceries within two hours.  That's the type of world my DD is growing up in...the world of service industry.  We don't eat fast food, we don't have a car, we live in a tiny little apartment...but yet, that is world that surrounds us.  Independence, in my opinion, is about making conscience decisions that positively affect your life.  The world I grew up in has changed a lot.  I want DD to be independent but there are new paradigms.  She has to know how to survive responsibly in this world and in alternate situations.  It is a lot of work.  Being independent is knowing how to say no and when to say yes.  To me, it is bigger than basic skills. 


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Old 03-16-2012, 06:19 PM
 
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Sorry, irrelevant post.


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Old 03-16-2012, 08:01 PM
 
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I see "chores" leading to responsibilities, responsibilities leading to independence

 

ex. you learn to pick up, feed, change, clean up after your sibling, you take responsibility of for overseeing childcare and later independent baby-sitting job ---very small scale example   one can lead to another   

 

I don't buy that you must have desire for all to achieve independence - many situations you have no desire but are forced into due to circumstance 


I agree that circumstance forces people into it in many cases.  I see less of a connection to chores and independence, though.  Independence requires independent thinking, the ability to make decisions.  Doing chores as a youth didn't teach me independent thinking, it was just something I had to do, something that was required of me.  I  was no different than the previous poster's child who does her chores with reluctance and prodding.  I did them because I had no choice, not because I independently decided it was the right thing to do or that it made the world better.  It was a healthy habit to develop, no doubt, and I treat my environment and my house better because of it, but it didn't make me more independent.  Just personal experience and I recognize that there is a line a thought out there that work begets work and responsibility.  

 


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Old 03-16-2012, 08:21 PM
 
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I think  the article used the word "independence" in the sense of being able to feed and clothe oneself, and to run one's own household (as opposed to being and behaving like "a baby to be taken care of" forever.) That's how I understood it in that context.

 

Speaking of independence and related horror stories, I knew this woman who thought it normal to wipe her boy's butt. He also thought it normal and always called for her to do it. He was 11 years old, no special needs.

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Old 03-16-2012, 10:50 PM
 
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This is something that my DH and I talk a lot about. Both of us had "magic moms." We'd go outside and play, and "magically" our rooms would be clean. We'd state we were hungry and "magically" food would appear. Neither of us were ever required to help with the running of the household, the care of our things, and basic care for ourselves. This made life outside of the family home very difficult. Learning how to do laundry, make a meal, use basic household cleaning items, and things like that at the age of 19 or 20 was a really difficult and painful process, that at the ages of 27 and 28 we are honestly still working through in some cases. There have been times where I do call my mother and ask her how she did something to take care of me because I honestly can't work through the steps in my mind in order to make it happen. There are other times where I have to ask for help or advice from others because I can't do something that most people (including myself) think are very basic tasks. This is not only a PITA, but it can also be embarrassing, costly, and in some cases dangerous.

 

Both DH and I believe that we would have very much benefited from being taught to cook, clean, and run a household. I don't know how MIL feels, but when I talk to my own mother she is full of regrets about the way she raised me. She recalls things like at age 11 she finally taught me to pour a glass of milk for myself, because something "clicked" in her brain that when I casually asked her to get a glass for me that maybe she shouldn't. I mean, really at 11 I was still having things "served" to me. She says that if she could do it all over again that she would have instituted mandatory chores, had me help with dinner every night, and would have involved me in discussions about finances and basic running of household decisions at a very early age. She actually -apologizes- every few months for the way she raised me, not because I give her a reason to (it actually makes me really uncomfortable), but because she sees how it affected/affects me.

 

So, with this kind of upbringing, DH and I have both decided that our experiences have warranted that we raise our children in a completely different manner. At age 4 DD has a chore chart. Right now it's not mandatory, but she feels a sense of completion and pride from earning her smiley faces each day, and asks how she can get another one. When it comes to her room, I will sit there and tell her what needs to be done, but she has to do it. She mostly understands where things go, but runs into questions. She helps me with basic tasks throughout the house that are age appropriate. She may not understand how to fold a shirt, but if I open the washing machine and hand her a hand her a bunch of stuff to put in there, she can do that. I explain to her what kind of load we're doing, and why we're only putting in those sorts of items. She has her own cleaning tools. I got one of those manual vacuums like you see used at restaurants and unscrewed the middle bar so that it is now her size. She vacuums up the rugs in our household. She has a child size broom, and is working on learning how to sweep efficiently. I've gotten her some kid-friendly cooking items to help with snacks and stuff, and am looking at getting some sort of stool so she can help at counter height with meals. We also include her in things like making grocery lists, and other things like that. By the time DD leaves my care, I want her to be able to be under the care of herself. I don't want her to feel helpless, and dependent upon others.


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Old 03-17-2012, 12:44 AM
 
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my children are 5 and 2. the 5 year old is already a great help, and i APPRECIATE the help. i can never get enough help. (the 2 year old isn't much of a help yet, but he loves and is very good at cracking eggs. he cracks eggs like an adult, doesn't get the shells in there. i just set him up with a kleenex next to the dish that he can put the egg shell on.)

 

how / why do some parents NOT ask their little ones to help. i can surely use all the help i can get. DD, please put your dishes right into the dish washer. which one of you children want to wipe down the table (they both do. i give two sudsy wash cloths.) who wants to push the buttons on the dishwasher? who wants to scrub the bathroom sink.

 

picking up toys is another matter for the 2 year old. he is being defiant these days i think. his 5 year old sister steps in to do it for him, however, because i make a pretty big deal out of having too many other things to do to have to do that, too. 

 

DD enjoys having her own laundry hamper. she uses it. 

 

i sweep the hardwood floors, but "who wants to get the dust buster and suck up my sweepings?" (they both do.)

 

both of my children know how to plant seeds in the garden, and how to pull weeds, and are learning to identify the various vegetables that grow there (and differentiate the weeds). these are LIFE SKILLS that can make the difference for survival in the future, if / when we need to truly be self reliant (ie, great depression, times of catastrophe, etc.) if / when we ever get our chicken set up, you can bet they will be responsible for egg collection, feeding the chickens and eventually cleaning their coop.

 

the kids help me carry in the groceries. i ask for help in putting certain things away. again... WHO has the time to do ALL of this themselves? while the children do... what... watch TV??

 

little kids can water plants, they can put books back *neatly* on a shelf. they can do MUCH to take care of a younger sibling. MUCH. and yes, for little ones, it is FUN. fun! imagine! chores being fun! when is the last time YOU got such a kick out of putting the soap in the washing machine AND pushing all the right buttons? folding laundry?? 

 

AND they take such pride in doing it right! they WANT to please you! they want to feel "grown up."

 

i say: embrace it, and take a well needed "break." but if your life is like mine, something will inevitably come up to fill any void of time; there is always more to do.

 

ps: i'm very much an AP mom. i still nurse both children to sleep at night (and the 2 year old more frequently than that). i am very much "child-focused". my kids come first and they know it. 

 

attachment parenting and life skills are not mutually exclusive.

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Old 03-17-2012, 02:40 AM
 
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I don't think chores equal independence because...

(a) If you want to have your kid do a certain housework just so they'll learn it for future reference, you don't have to make them do it every week for years.

(b) There are a lot of life skills that aren't housework.

(c) There are some life skills you might call housework but that aren't regularly done by anyone in a particular house, e.g. the task of sewing buttons back onto clothes wasn't done in my childhood home.

(d) Mastering a chore as a child doesn't necessarily mean you won't have to face a learning period related to that chore in adulthood, because the way you do a chore during your childhood might not be the same way you need to do the chore during your adulthood. (e.g., your parents might have one idea about how a certain chore must be done, while other people you live with in the future might get pissy if you don't do it some other way. Or maybe you have a different lifestyle than your parents which necessitates doing things differently. Or technology changes.)

 

Doing a chore just teaches you how to do that chore.
 

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This triggered another thought I had. I was thinking about the girl whose father comes to her apartment every month to write checks for her. First, I was thinking "wow, I would think he would say 'I will sit here this time and help you but you need to be the only to actually do it and learn'" but then realized that my parents never taught me to write a check. I checked with DH; yup, ditto with him. It's not that I couldn't understand a little bit of "hmm, am I doing this right?" the first time, but really, it should be straightforward for most people.

 

So I wondered if the issue is not training per se but confidence. I apparently grew up feeling reasonably, averagely competent. So the first time I wrote a check (which I don't remember - didn't make an impression on me) I'm sure I double checked everything but I also probably assumed I was competent enough to figure it out. I can imagine situations where a child could be raised to feel so incompetent that they wouldn't even try, wouldn't trust themselves enough.


Yeah, I think you're right, or at least onto something. No one ever taught me how to write a check either. Unless you count money orders, the very first time I ever wrote a check in my life was about three months ago, at the age of 24. A box of checks cost $16 from my bank, plus there's an inherent security risk in having a checkbook exist for your account, and I'd just never needed checks badly enough to justify those downsides. (When I first moved out of my mom's house and my childhood friend became my roommate, my friend did teach me how to handle money orders. I was not difficult.) Hence why I was confused that "20 years old and never wrote a check" was some kind of bad thing.

 

I mean, how do you not know how to write a check? All the parts you've got to fill out are labeled! The only way you might not know is if (a) you can't read (b) you can't write (c) you just plain have some kind of check-writing phobia. There might be a little more of a learning curve if you never saw your parents fill out checks as a child, but... it's still labeled.

 

Similar deal with laundry. It's a little more complicated than writing a check, sure, but all the instructions are sown right onto the clothes! And the washing machine instructions are on the inside of the lid and so on. If you've never done laundry before in your life prior to moving out of your house, it's not really a big deal. I think laundry just has this undeserved reputation for being complicated. (I've noticed that some people have a certain laundry "style" and you are wrong-wrong-wrong if you do it differently. Not sure if that's a Cause or an Effect.) Granted, I buy cheapo working class clothes, so there's only about two different washing instructions among all the tags. I know once you start venturing into clothing stores more high-end than K-Mart you start finding clothes that will be ruined lest you gently hand-wash them in unicorn urine or whatever.

 

 

 

Quote:

So if independence as a goal has been declining, what has it been replaced by?

 

I'm thinking "happiness" - though an ill-defined and misunderstood version of it.

 

Safety? We all have an inclination to avoiding something that catches our attention as unsafe, and we've got a bad habit of initially assuming that the status quo is safer than anything that catches our attention as unsafe.

 

For example, parents might not want their child to shave because razors are sharp objects and sharp objects are dangerous, and of course you can't trust little Sally with anything remotely dangerous. But since the time I started shaving as a child, I think I've been injured more frequently and more severely by doorknobs than I have by shaving razors. Yet parents who don't remove doorknobs or put padding on them will forbid their kid from shaving, because razors have a reputation for being unsafe and doorknobs do not. (Someday, when I get my dream house, It's not going to have any interior doorknobs!!!)  

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Old 03-17-2012, 05:12 AM
 
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I don't have time to read all the other responses, so sorry if this repeats what someone else has said.

 

I can't speak for your (presumably American?) husband specifically, but overall it seems to me that in each successive generation: 

#1- There are higher demands on kids, in school, and increased homework loads (I was in accelerated programs throughout school, but my 12-year-old's accelerated math class is studying things I studied in high school; and my high-school freshmen - in regular science class - are hitting on topics I didn't study until college...which a family friend [same age as my parents] says HE didn't cover until medical school!)

#2- It is increasingly "the norm" for kids' lives to be packed with structured activities.  When my parents were kids, there were only so many extra-curricular activities they could get involved in, before high school.  It was perfectly acceptable and common, for their parents to push them out the door most days in the summer and expect them to entertain themselves.  When I was a kid, if I was really interested in something, there was always a team or club I could join; or if I seemed really bored in the summers, my parents would sign me up for something.  But there was no expectation that kids would be signed up for something all the time.  These days, there are SO MANY organized activities for kids - even preschoolers - to join that it can be hard to choose between them; hard to decide when to cut kids off and say, "I know you think you'd love hockey, but what you're already doing is ENOUGH!"  And there's a higher expectation that parents will help their kids identify and hone talents early...because if they wait 'til high school to develop a skill, they won't be good enough to make the school team if they want to...and no one wants to "fail" their kid!  I remember a good article about this, in The Atlantic, several years ago:  http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2001/04/the-organization-kid/2164/.

 

Even if your kids aren't clambering to join extra-curriculars and you're not worried about it; and even if they don't seem to have especially challenging workloads at school, your impressions of what kids their age tend to contribute around the home will still, almost unavoidably, be colored by families around you - or families depicted in the media - where kids quite genuinely may not have time to help with housework.  

 

I do not want it to be that way, around my home.  I don't think it should be.  My husband and I limit how many activities our kids can be involved in at any given time.  Yet, on weekdays, between after-school sports practice, a shower, homework, dinner and kids needing to get to bed in time to get enough sleep before school the next morning...often there's only enough time left over for our kids to hang out with their friends, outside, for a bit OR do some chores.  Not both.  We tend to err on the side of saying, "Go out in the fresh air!  Ride your bikes!  Play Ghost-in-the-Graveyard!  Say hi to your neighborhood friends!" and save chores for the weekend.

 

Now, as far as what you described - with your husband feeling it's easier to just do things himself - that's natural, but should be overcome.  Of course adults can do everything better than kids, but our job is to give kids the chance to learn and be patient with them.  I don't think failing to recognize that is an American ethic of any sort.


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Old 03-17-2012, 08:54 AM
 
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I read this article and had several thoughts. 

 

First of all, the portrayal of the 8 year old asking for help tying his shoe brought up a lot of unpleasant emotions for me because it reminded me of when my oldest son was about 8 or 9 and I shamed him for not knowing how to tie his shoes. I still feel bad about it and he's 11. It wasn't his fault. All his shoes up to that point had been velcro or slip-on. I guess when I discovered he couldn't tie shoes I felt like that reflected how bad I'd screwed up. I mean, he could play the violin, but he couldn't tie his shoes. I spent hours every week helping him learn to play his instrument but I hadn't taken twenty minutes to teach him a basic life skill that I knew by the time I was 5.  I guess my criticism of using shoe-tying as an example is that it is not something that kids *have* to learn to do these days, so they are not going to learn it as quickly as we did, and we shouldn't blame them. Not knowing how to tie shoes at 8 is not a character flaw; it's just a natural result of living in a world where most children's shoes don't have laces. 

 

Another thought that popped into my mind is along the lines of the pp who wrote about her DD sweeping a yurt and gathering eggs, but not loading the dishwasher.  Modern tools and methods are just not as easily mastered by children as simpler ones. For example, what could possibly go wrong with a kid sweeping with a broom? But a vacuum cleaner is different. It's heavy; if it breaks, it's expensive to replace. I'm not as likely to just ask my 5 yo to vacuum as I would be to ask him to sweep. 

 

It seems like the kids who are really the most competent are the ones on the two opposite ends of the family-life spectrum. The kids who come from unfortunate home situations, where the parents are absent or addicts or whatever, learn to do for themselves because they have to. On the other end, there are families in which the parents are tireless and extremely committed to teaching their children everything. Those families usually have two very involved and devoted parents who are on the same page and support each other in raising the kids to be competent. Because it does take time to teach a child to cook safely. It takes discipline and consistency to teach them how to be responsible and self-sufficient.

 

My mom grew up having to take care of herself and her younger siblings because her dad was gone, her mom worked, and my grandma's next husband drank a lot. She wanted different for her kids. She wanted us to be free to play and study and not have to worry about chores. I appreciate and honor her feelings and understand why she parented us that way. However, even as I try to take a different approach with my own family, I find it challenging. It is really hard to teach my kids to be responsible WRT housework when I am still trying to figure it out myself. I've been a mom for 11 years and I'm still trying to find the magic system that's going to help me get things --housework, time management, etc.--under control.  I do have my children do some things, but it's not consistent because I don't do anything consistently.  

 

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Old 03-17-2012, 09:26 AM
 
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I don't require chores (not adding that to the argument necessarily) but I do see them learning these skills, albeit haphazardly.  They don't like picking up their toys, but they love to scrub the tub.  (Actually, my 5yo recently started a game where she makes a tiny room for her alter-ego in a corner, messes it up, then tidies it.)  They love baking and cooking, especially if they get to turn on the stove or flip the pancakes.  They love loading the laundry and adding the soap, planting seeds and mowing the lawn (reel mower).  They come to work with me when I clean a local farmhouse where the girls are welcome, and they get paid handsomely for doing the work.  I let them ring items up at the self check-out and hand over cash where I can.  They love washing the car.  

 

For pouring their own milk, I filled a small pitcher with the milk so they could handle it, trusting them that they wouldn't put too much sugar on.  I let them take pictures on the camera, I let them decide for the most part how to dress for the weather.  I'm giving them small allowances, and we talk about making a farm stand to sell things, which can be a reality for us because we have the time.  They are motivated by the thought that they can really learn this stuff and make money at it one day!

 

So, I require them to do very little, but they are finding their own way in bit by bit.  I try to make a point of not grumbling about chores.  I always love having help and I always love to help.  I try to show patience with their slowness, and I try to trust them as far as I am able (which is an amazing project for me because I am naturally nerve-y.)

 

I'm not saying all is perfect here, not by a long shot.  They often fuss to help dress them (damn lycra and spandex in everything!  Fie on them!)  They want help wiping, though not as much as before.  They can do these things, but mainly still want me to be a part of these activities, wanting to hang on to the closeness and neediness of the toddler years--capable, but not ready to make the emotional leap (in some areas they do, but not others.)

 

You see, for me growing up as a latchkey kid, packing my own lunches (rather poor ones) in 1st grade, getting myself breakfast, walking myself to school, this independence was just one more degree of abandonment.  I don't remember my mother much except cooking dinner and sitting in front of the TV.  Oh, she did a lot more, but she worked, my dad worked.  The world of kids was separate from the world of adults. Partly this was a pre-boomer, Silent-Generation parenting thing.  But for me, it was all just so lonely.  Overwhelming sometimes.

 

Extra thought:  my parents often talked and laughed together about the day when the kids would finally leave the nest.  Within my earshot.  Yeah..... feelin' loved there.


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Old 03-17-2012, 09:58 AM
 
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 By the time DD leaves my care, I want her to be able to be under the care of herself. I don't want her to feel helpless, and dependent upon others.

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Knowing when to reach out for help is important - it is those who just don't care that get me! Those who as adults, they still don't have to do things because mom or dad will run and do it and still no desire to learn to do on their own.


 

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Old 03-17-2012, 10:16 AM
 
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I don't think chores equal independence because...

(a) If you want to have your kid do a certain housework just so they'll learn it for future reference, you don't have to make them do it every week for years.

(b) There are a lot of life skills that aren't housework.

(c) There are some life skills you might call housework but that aren't regularly done by anyone in a particular house, e.g. the task of sewing buttons back onto clothes wasn't done in my childhood home.

(d) Mastering a chore as a child doesn't necessarily mean you won't have to face a learning period related to that chore in adulthood, because the way you do a chore during your childhood might not be the same way you need to do the chore during your adulthood. (e.g., your parents might have one idea about how a certain chore must be done, while other people you live with in the future might get pissy if you don't do it some other way. Or maybe you have a different lifestyle than your parents which necessitates doing things differently. Or technology changes.)

 

Doing a chore just teaches you how to do that chore.

 

I personally think there's more to doing chores than just learning how to do the chore. When you do something that helps the household ie. doing the dishes or the laundry or the vacuuming for the whole household, then you're learning about interaction, value to the family unit, and knowledge about timing related to that chore. While I agree that you may have to "re-learn" a chore in a different way when situations like a different family unit/technology/personal preferences change, it's still good to have the original learning as a touch stone to base your changes off of. In other words, you may have done laundry in your parent's house for 6 people, and then moved in with your boyfriend so you're now only doing laundry now for 2, and you may have a different washing machine, and with less people you may have to do the laundry less -- but you still know how to do laundry, it's an integrated part of your life, and you don't just throw all the clothes on the floor and wait until you no longer have underwear before you consciously realize "hey, maybe I should do some laundry." I think a big part of chores is realizing that they have to be done to keep the family unit running. They have to be a part of your life, not just something that you do when it becomes a problem. If you're used to completely ignoring the fact that chores are going on in the household, when you become responsible for them later in life, you're more likely to continue to ignore them until you basically have to stop the rest of your life to take care of them. This is because chores are not a part of your life... they're a new thing that you now have to figure out how to fit in with the other things you used to fill up your days with, and that's where I think a lot of the learning curve comes in.

 

I do agree with you that there many more pieces involved in the puzzle of independence than JUST chores though. Budgeting, inventory, people skills, and confidence come to mind. You need to be able to handle all of the finances of your family. You need to know how to keep a household stocked with food, cleaning supplies, clothes, hygiene products, and other essentials. You need to know how to handle yourself with tradespeople -- for example you need to know how to call a plumber and get them to resolve a plumbing issue properly without screwing you over. (That is if you don't have the knowledge of how to deal with the plumbing issue yourself.) And, if you decide later that you'd like to learn a task to add to your household, you need to be able to have confidence that you can figure out. If you don't know how to do any of the basic things that you were raised around, and you're struggling hard to learn them, it can be very difficult to believe that you even have the ability to add something else (like in your example, basic sewing) into the mix. You already had a full life of things going on, you've now cut back on all the things you used to do in order to learn and incorporate all of the other tasks that you "know" (through life experiences in your childhood home) need to get done, and NOW you think you should add in another thing... it honestly might be overwhelming, and because you are now figuring out that you "don't even know how to take care of yourself and your family" you might be thoroughly discouraged from even trying something new because you already believe that you are so knowledge deficient in other basic areas.


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Old 03-17-2012, 10:26 AM
 
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I don't have time to read all the other responses, so sorry if this repeats what someone else has said.

 

I can't speak for your (presumably American?) husband specifically, but overall it seems to me that in each successive generation: 

#1- There are higher demands on kids, in school, and increased homework loads (I was in accelerated programs throughout school, but my 12-year-old's accelerated math class is studying things I studied in high school; and my high-school freshmen - in regular science class - are hitting on topics I didn't study until college...which a family friend [same age as my parents] says HE didn't cover until medical school!)

 

#2- It is increasingly "the norm" for kids' lives to be packed with structured activities.  When my parents were kids, there were only so many extra-curricular activities they could get involved in, before high school.  It was perfectly acceptable and common, for their parents to push them out the door most days in the summer and expect them to entertain themselves.  When I was a kid, if I was really interested in something, there was always a team or club I could join; or if I seemed really bored in the summers, my parents would sign me up for something.  But there was no expectation that kids would be signed up for something all the time.  These days, there are SO MANY organized activities for kids - even preschoolers - to join that it can be hard to choose between them; hard to decide when to cut kids off and say, "I know you think you'd love hockey, but what you're already doing is ENOUGH!"  And there's a higher expectation that parents will help their kids identify and hone talents early...because if they wait 'til high school to develop a skill, they won't be good enough to make the school team if they want to...and no one wants to "fail" their kid!  I remember a good article about this, in The Atlantic, several years ago:  http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2001/04/the-organization-kid/2164/.

 

Even if your kids aren't clambering to join extra-curriculars and you're not worried about it; and even if they don't seem to have especially challenging workloads at school, your impressions of what kids their age tend to contribute around the home will still, almost unavoidably, be colored by families around you - or families depicted in the media - where kids quite genuinely may not have time to help with housework. 

 

I think this is an epic fail by the American school system - wasting kids' time from 8:00 to 16:00. They should be done at about 12 in elementary school, and at 13:00 in middle school, and at about 14:00 in high school. That was my schedule abroad. Some kids stayed till 4-5 pm, until their parents came home after work, and the after-school care had another lunch, homework, and recess or PE (for elementary school, there was also a nap / quiet time included.) Those kids went home with homework already done.

 

The kids whose school day ended at 12 or 1pm had enough time for lunch, relaxation, homework, playing with friends, and chores. I know I did - so when my mom came home after a full day of work, I was ready to pounce on her and demand quality mother-daughter time. :-) And just as a disclamer, I also was in honors programs, had very involved extra-curriculars starting at age of 6, competed in various sports *and* sciences (at levels from city-wide to regionals), blah blah blah.

 

I think the American "long school day full of wasting time" ruins a lot of things, including participation in running the household. But if the parents have it as a priority, it can still be done. They will have to struggle with this evil school system of corralling the kids and not using their time efficiently, but it's country-wide, so it's a default and people still have to work on what's important to them, no matter how the whole educational system tries to ruin them. The parents just have to swim against the current.

 

But I agree with you, it's a lot of time wasted that could be used for other things. 3 hours ruined every day, x 5 days a week = 15 hours that could be used for all kinds of great activities.

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Old 03-17-2012, 04:39 PM
 
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Quote:

 

I think this is an epic fail by the American school system - wasting kids' time from 8:00 to 16:00. They should be done at about 12 in elementary school, and at 13:00 in middle school, and at about 14:00 in high school. That was my schedule abroad. Some kids stayed till 4-5 pm, until their parents came home after work, and the after-school care had another lunch, homework, and recess or PE (for elementary school, there was also a nap / quiet time included.) Those kids went home with homework already done.

 

The kids whose school day ended at 12 or 1pm had enough time for lunch, relaxation, homework, playing with friends, and chores. I know I did - so when my mom came home after a full day of work, I was ready to pounce on her and demand quality mother-daughter time. :-) And just as a disclamer, I also was in honors programs, had very involved extra-curriculars starting at age of 6, competed in various sports *and* sciences (at levels from city-wide to regionals), blah blah blah.

 

I think the American "long school day full of wasting time" ruins a lot of things, including participation in running the household. But if the parents have it as a priority, it can still be done. They will have to struggle with this evil school system of corralling the kids and not using their time efficiently, but it's country-wide, so it's a default and people still have to work on what's important to them, no matter how the whole educational system tries to ruin them. The parents just have to swim against the current.

 

But I agree with you, it's a lot of time wasted that could be used for other things. 3 hours ruined every day, x 5 days a week = 15 hours that could be used for all kinds of great activities.

And who is going to be minding these kids?  I often came home to an empty house, even at 7yo.  My mother did not get home until 6:00.  For a while we had a babysitter, after an attempted abduction of my sister and I near our (parentless) house.

 

And when I did get home I sure as hell didn't do chores or homework.  I ate and watched TV.  Except those days I had to shovel the driveway so my parents could drive into the garage after work.
 

 


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Old 03-17-2012, 05:42 PM
 
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That's why there was an after-school program for kids who needed to be "minded". My grandma often picked me up when I was 7-8 years old. At age 9, I came home and was just fine by myself. Those kids who weren't, stayed at after-school program till 5 pm, but the point is, they went home after another meal, rest, playtime, and with homework done (under a teacher's supervision). They had free time available and didn't need to unwind after a long day of school and to do homework. School was basically made of two parts: Part 1 - Learning,  Part 2 - "Minding" for those who needed it.

 

And even with after-school program being the way it was, I often thought it was awful and that I was so lucky I never had to stay there. I can't imagine what it's like when all the kids in the school have to do it, day after day. I'd go nuts. I needed to rest, read, and unwind (even in elementary school). Chores weren't that awful either - sweep the floor, vacuum, dust, take out the trash, pick up clutter, wash dishes, wash & cut veggies, etc.

 

Back to OP's article - I'm not sure how to understand "not fostering self-worth." I think if someone demands that other people tie his shoes, then he must have a hell of a lot of inflated self-worth. A more humble person will tie his own shoes. Or is it that the parents don't have enough self-worth?

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Old 03-19-2012, 03:34 PM
 
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hmmm I am not sure. I'm not actually American, I'm British, and I do think British culture is slightly less risk adverse, though we're going the same way as you guys. 

 

I suppose the thing I'm stuck on is this idea that you need to do a lot of chores or be taught to do chores in order to understand how to do them well. TBH, although I grew up with parents who were fairly often working long, long hours, and sometimes just absent in my dad's case, and although I did have to do stuff like laundry and cooking and so on (so I had clean clothes and could eat), I also didn't come from a very tidy home or one where chequebooks were balanced or anything like that. From fairly young I went to the shops alone. Not a nice middle class home really, though we generally loved each other and generally muddled through. I think what is right is that kids get a sense that they should contribute and that this stuff is their responsibility but I don't think they actually practically need to gain specific skills, iyswim. I think, tbh, there are plenty of books and resources out there on home management, its not something you have to learn young. The issue is something else, this belief some kids have that their parents should be doing everything for them.

 


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Old 03-20-2012, 12:20 PM
 
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My two are 22 and 19 now.  I am guilty of doing just about everything for them for much of their childhoods.  I wish I had done things in a way that made them more a part of what I was doing and gave them more experience with it.  They were around me all the time, though, so maybe a lot of parenting-by-osmosis took place.  They'd overhear our decisions, transactions, and exchanges as we ran the household, they went along on errands, and they saw the way we did things.  Not the same as doing it, but I guess in some cases the fact that certain things have to be done isn't even in the background (like household help that takes care of things while a family is away, or pick your example).

 

Someone upthread very wisely said that chores may not necessarily equal independence, and that really hit home.  Both DS1 and DS2 were possibly the only kids at their suburban car-centric high school going down to a major metro area on their own for day trips.  We'd stick them on the bus down in the morning, and they'd make their way around the city walking or taking public transit, sometimes with friends, sometimes on their own, sometimes for an event or class, sometimes for no reason at all.  Each of them sought out and got themselves into distant academic summer programs at 17.  DS1 took multiple overnight trips to NYC, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Chicago at 18 and 19 arranging his own travel and lodging.  The only reason DS2 had DH with him on a ten-day college visit his senior year was the unavailability of public transit at some of the areas he was visiting.  These are all things that are unfamiliar to DH and myself from our own youth.

 

Through more luck than skill on my part, both sons are away and functioning at school.  DS1 is off-campus, handles groceries, part-time work, a commute, and bakes his own bread.  DS2 is on-campus but off a meal plan, cooks his meals, and (due to a lack of probationary literature reaching DH and myself) seems to be holding his own very nicely.  They do come to us for backup -- DS1 had a broken stove and a mix-up from the appliance repair company, so I touched base with his property manager (DH is on the lease), but the two of them handled it from there; DS2 submitted a written statement for a housing request due to a medical condition and asked me to proof and make suggestions if he missed anything, but had the whole thing prepared before I even saw it.  We're more sounding boards than anything else.

 

I will also say that it startled me hearing about an entitlement attitude in children whose mothers did a lot for them.  We have friction -- hah, more like insurrection -- with our kids in some areas, but they were always, always grateful when DH or I did something for them.  They always asked for something rather than stating they were hungry and expecting me to hop to it.  Someone mentioned "magic moms."  I guess that's what I've unwittingly done here, but the boys always acted like it was a gift rather than a requirement, and like they're aware that someone had to actually work the magic.  I have no idea what might be involved to contribute towards a certain attitude, but there it is.


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