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