Whoops! Did I Accidentally Spoil My Kid Rotten?

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Oh, come on! Does she look like a spoiled princess to you? (Please don’t answer that)

“American Kids are Spoiled & Perfectionist Parents Are To Blame.”    That is the title of a recent post over at cafemom – a site that alternately inspires me, confuses me, makes me think, and leaves me furiously ranting.

The author’s basic argument is that children learn from doing, and being a part of the community as a whole.  Here in the good ol’ USA, we tend to isolate children and teach them from textbooks.  She claims that this is, in part, because we want things to be perfect and children, no matter how hard they try, just can’t do things the way we want them done.

First I rolled my eyes.  (Two Oysters in a Bucket of Snot, for those of you who have been with me for a while).  I am not a perfectionist and my kid is not spoiled.  Much.  Well, maybe she is.  A little.

Aw, crap.

My seven-year-old has virtually no responsibilities beyond keeping her room tidy (which she doesn’t really do at all) and helping to set & clear the dinner table.  Occasionally she will ask if she can pick up the dog poo in the yard, or do some other task, to earn a few dollars for herself.  I don’t think of her as a pampered little princess, but the truth is I did twice as much (or more) as she does at the same age.  And she’s perfectly capable.  So why don’t I include her more in the business of life?

Well… cafemom is right, to some extent.  She doesn’t do things “the right way.”  It’s a lot of work to show her how to do something and then I end up coming along behind her to do it over anyway.  I might as well just do it myself from the start!

Also, during the school year, I feel like it’s not fair.  I don’t expect Handsome Hippie Hubby to come home and wash dishes after driving to work an hour in each direction, and being on his feet taking care of people for 8-10 hours at a stretch.  Neither should my girl have to wash the bathtub (or whatever) after “working” at school all day.  Not when I’m home and have the time to do it.

But where does this leave my daughter?  Am I doing her a disservice by trying to be nice?   If I don’t allow her to make (burn?) her own scrambled eggs now, when will she ever learn?  If I don’t take the time to teach her how to sort laundry now, then when?  Maybe she’ll burn her finger or turn her daddy’s white undershirts pink but, really, if I’m keeping a watchful eye, it’s unlikely that anything worse than that would happen.

And, truly, it’s not like my house is a model for Better Homes and Gardens or anything.  I barely manage to keep the dirty diapers picked up off the living room floor.  What is she going to do that is so much worse than the way I do things?

Plus, it’s summer.  There’s no school, or midweek church, or soccer practice.  She’s just lying around playing video games and riding her skateboard up and down the sidewalk.  Not to mention that, now that the past school year has ended, she’s officially a homeschool kid… and what is homeschool all about, if not teaching the basics of life?

I am a big believer in kids being allowed to be kids (ie – run around barefoot and grubby in the sunshine all day playing with imaginary friends and pretending to be wild animals).  But I think I’ve been challenged to make sure my kid learns to be a responsable kid.  After all, in just a moment or two she won’t be a kid at all anymore (excuse me while I go have a good cry over that thought).  I think it’s far past time for her to have more chores.

So that leads me to some questions for you…

What chores do your elementary age children do?

AND

How “perfectly” do you expect those chores to be done?

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14 responses »

  1. The thing is, chores are “work” to us, but to young children they are what make them feel like they’re part of the family. If you start them at a young enough age, children WANT to help. It is WE who discourage their participation… and then years later bemoan the fact that they’re lazy and spoiled. Sure, they won’t do things perfectly the first time (or even the tenth time) but by making mistakes they will learn valuable lessons that are way more important than a perfectly clean house. I suggest you think about what imperfections you can live with and get your child involved in those chores that don’t have to be done perfectly. By not making chores optional, but giving choices of what they can do, they develop both a sense of responsibility and ownership. You know how useless you feel when you go over to someone’s house and they won’t let you help in any way? That’s exactly how we make kids feel when we don’t involve them. It might take some time to change a 7-year olds ways (because after all, she’s come to expect to do nothing) but once the chores are in place and she realizes that the whole family is counting on her and appreciating her effort, she’ll come around. Thanks for writing about this, it’s given me great food for thought for a blog post!!

    • That’s some good advise! I like the idea of choices. I instantly envisioned a list of what needs to be done that day and saying, “ok… I need you to help me… which 3 of these 10 things do you think you can do?” I think she would respond well to that.

  2. Now that I’ve finally taken the safety lock off the cabinet where the garbage is kept, my son (3 years 8 months) is my garbage helper. He’s in that phase where he likes to help with everything and I take him up on it. My plan for the future is to clean their rooms for them because a clean room inspires creativity. The rest of the house is up for grabs. I plan to torture them with the same chores I was tortured with – emptying the dishwasher, cleaning the bathrooms, sorting laundry, etc. That’s the plan at least. I know from experience that parenting plans are written in whipped cream.

    • It does sound like a good plan! 🙂 I think part of the clean room problem at our house is a lack of places to put things… I think some shelves would go a long way toward helping keep her organized.

  3. My daughter (5) is expected to set and clear the table for meals, and to sweep the kitchen after meals are cleaned up from. We are working on how to wash dishes (by hand) now. She also has to make her bed and clean up her toys on a daily basis, to fold her own clothing (and put it away) on laundry day and take care (feeding, helping clean out the cage, playing with, etc) her hamsters. Both her and her brother (3) have been helping cook in the kitchen since they could reach the counters with a stool…right now Chickadee is learning to use a peeler and knife correctly and to use the stove safely and Sharkbait is still at the stirring and rolling pin level of kitchen skills. Both kids help with the vacuuming (actually, its Sharkbait’s favorite chore) and spraying/wiping of cabinets, sinks, bathtub, etc–since we use entirely homemade and green cleaners, I don’t have to worry about them spraying each other in the eye or drinking it or anything.

    Neither one gets an allowance or earns money for doing chores. Although, Chickadee does have a chart where she can earn stars towards an item she really would like. She has three charts right now, one for a Silvermist doll, one for a new hamster cage, and another for a keyboard. She gets to choose which chart to put her star towards, each time she earns one.

    I agree with you that to some extent kids should be allowed to be kids…but I also think that my job (and The Hubby’s) is to raise future (responsible) adults. Its really weird to me that, as a kid, I was expected to do all sorts of chores, but my brothers, who are 18 and 20 years younger than I am, have virtually no responsibility at 11 and 9. As a result they are incredibly frustrated–they have no concept of what to do to get things done, but there is a parental expectation that they should somehow know what needs to be done…meanwhile, my mom and step-dad have never taken the time to teach them and to let them eff it up and try again, because its easier to just get it done (and my mom has far less patience at 55 than she did at 35 to having a kid-friendly house). It *is* easier to just do it yourself…but at some point in time, I’d like to not be picking up after two and a half (The Hubby is still halfway a kid sometimes) kids. I try really hard to accept “good enough” and not push the kids to be perfect–striving for excellence is one thing, pushing them for impossible perfection is something else entirely…and having grown up with an OCD parent, I know how hard that can be on one’s self-esteem.

    • Wow! That’s quite an impressive list. I totally agree with you about life skills… I’m sure that a child who has the confidence and freedom to take care of themselves and their environment is happier and more successful in other areas as well. Thank you for the ideas!

  4. I let my son help put the silverware into the dishwasher and throw items into the trash can. At 15 months old, he’s pretty limited in what he can do, but I try to keep him involved. That being said, I’m pretty sure he’s spoiled rotten.

  5. Ally will be 4 next month. She helps hang shirts, roll socks, and is learning to fold pants for the clean laundry. It is then her responsibility to put *her* clothes into her dresser where they belong. I ask both my kids (Kira will be 2 next month) to tidy up toys in the living room so I can vacuum. This chore is still mainly done by Ally, but over the last week Kira has really started to gain a grasp for picking up toys. Both girls love to throw garbage in the can, or recycling in the bins, and upon request they will put their dishes in the sink. One or both of them will get out their clean dishes prior to a meal, and we ask them to put their shoes/coats away when we come in. Ally also likes to help me dry and put away dishes, although her attention span is limited in this activity. They both love to help cook. 😀

  6. 11yrs: wash dishes, walk dog, vacuum, clean up dog poo, clean room, clean bathroom (not all of these every week, but we usually clean as a family on the weekend, so anything is up for grabs). same for my 15 year old but he’s also done all his own laundry since 13 (he does a TERRIBLE job, but he’s learning). both kids have to make their own lunch and wash their own dishes in the summer. i’m usually in the kitchen too–but we do it together. they don’t do a perfect job, but i don’t let them know it unless they were intentionally careless. i agree that kids need/want to be involved. responsibility breeds confidence. my husband will often fold my son’s laundry, or tell him “i’ve got it” when doing the dishes. i don’t feel like that’s a help to my son. drying the dishes while his father washes is an opportunity to spend time together just “being.” you’d be surprised the conversations you’ll have with a teenager (who usually won’t talk) while doing chores together. it’s great!

  7. Pingback: Big News For This Hippie Mama « lazyhippiemama

  8. Pingback: Why I Think You Should Endanger Your Child Every Day « lazyhippiemama

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