Monday, August 25, 2008

Child Labor, With Love




Since my children were small, I’ve tried to give them household tasks to do that matched their ages and abilities. But I recently realized I’d fallen down on the job in that area, unknowingly falling into DIY syndrome.

You see, I’ve always been a firm believer that children and teenagers should be given responsibilities and chores growing up. I roll my eyes when I hear my teenage siblings (yep, you read that right) complain about having to walk the dogs or clean up their rooms. When I was growing up (now I sound really old), we lived on a farm. Guess who fed the cow, goats, horses, chickens, and various other animals TWICE per day? Guess who was required to spend a whole hour every summer day pulling weeds out of the garden? Not to mention helping can vegetables, mow the lawn, haul wood, take care of the house, on and on and on… My sister, Mom, and me. I WISH all I’d had to do was walk the dog and clean my room.

But there was a positive upside to this type of lifestyle. When I moved out on my own, I knew how to take care of myself. Fixing my own meals, doing laundry, cleaning up after myself, held no mysteries. I’d been doing it since I was 10. Heck, during college I cleaned other people’s houses to make grocery money. And I want the same for my children. To me, there is no excuse for sending your child out into the world not knowing how to do laundry. It’s part of life. A parent’s job is to prepare them for what they will face in life.

Well, I recently realized that I’d been slacking in this area. It all started with the dishwasher…

I hate unloading the dishwasher. Actually, I hate dishes in general. I’m solely responsible for them at my house. That’s one thing I honestly try not to ask my hubby to do, because he owns a restaurant. He does dishes at work. Not a bunch (he has help), but he has been known to help clean up the kitchen. I hate doing them. I’d started Drama Queen out teaching her to put away the silverware. She could actually do it pretty well from the time she was about 4, but with moving and everything, we got out of the habit. I’d fallen into the old, “It’s easier to do it myself than wait on someone else” trap.

Then I was over at Instigator’s one day and watched her girls putting their dishes into the dishwasher after they ate dinner. What? They were younger than my kids. Could I? Should I?

Yep, I did. Actually, I haven’t started making them load the dishwasher yet. We have one of those older models that, if you don’t rinse the dishes really well before putting them in, they don’t come out clean. But they could EMPTY the dishwasher….  Yay!!!

I started by teaching Little Man, who is now 4, to put away the utensils. It’s like a sorting game and he is so proud of himself when he’s done. Unfortunately for Drama Queen, now 8, she gets to put away the brunt of the dishes, sorting them onto the counter then putting them in their proper cabinets. We have to do that because the position of the dishwasher blocks some of the cabinet doors. Then I load the dishwasher with dirty dishes from the sink. Combined effort, and hopefully once everyone gets the hang of it, less work for moi.

Hmmm… I wonder what else they can do? What did you feel was important to teach your child before they moved out? What responsibilities have you passed on to your children at different ages? (In other words: Please convince me I'm not a slave driver.)

Angel

Update: Our own Maven Beverly Barton is guest blogging today at Fresh Fiction. Check it
out here:
http://freshfiction.com/blog/

16 comments:

Rhonda Nelson said...

You are not a slave driver. :-) Mine are not allowed to leave the house without making their bed. They help with dishes, dusting, swiffering. (And occasionally one of them will get bathroom duty.)

Instigator said...

You are not a slave driver! Sweet Pea has chores she must complete each day before we leave for school - feeding all the cats and dogs :-) She wanted them she can help take care of them. It's been her chore since she was five.
Last year when Baby Girl started school she ASKED for a chore (because we must do everything big sister does) so she was given the task of turning off electronics and lights on the way out in the morning. They're both fairly small in the grand scheme of things but it's a start.

And they do both clean their plates and put them in the dishwasher. Most of the time. Quite often without prompting. But they aren't always perfect and will forget on occasion. I simply have to remind them.

Honestly, they don't do anything else. 'Zilla, wonderful man that he is, just hired a neighbor friend to come clean our house a couple times a month. We love her! She's a great friend and she does a great job. But that means the opportunities to teach the girls those lessons aren't really there. As they get older I'm going to have to make an effort to remember they need the joy of scrubbing their own bathroom every once and a while.

Instigator

Problem Child said...

It's not like you're sending them into the the coal mines...

Of course, I'm not one to talk. I'm just now pulling out of the DIY syndrome. AC has a list of stuff that has to be done--setting and clearing the table, swiffering, etc, and it's hard for me to remember to make her do it. But I'm working on it.

But major props to you for making Little Man help too. His wife will appreciate that one day.

Playground Monitor said...

Trust me. The child welfare people will not be coming after you. We were more diligent about having the boys do household chores when I worked outside the home, but they always had yard work to do. The DH really hated when #2 son left for college and there was no one to mow the lawn but him. I don't mow lawns.

PM

Lynn Raye Harris said...

My brothers and I all left home knowing how to cook and clean. We always had chores. Our parents worked, so we had to help out. We had horses to feed, and a variety of barn animals to take care of. And then there were the indoor chores -- dishes, cooking, laundry, etc.

Contrast that to my hubby, dear man though he is, who didn't have to do those things at home. He can grill, but couldn't cook a meal to save his life. The military taught him to do laundry, balance a checkbook, and create a budget. Yeah, I include those things because they are important and because I think a child who has responsibility early and consistently will be more prepared for the big responsibilities like bill paying, etc.

So you go, Angel. You aren't a slave driver. You're doing your children a favor that will help them cope with life when they are grown. :)

Smarty Pants said...

My mom was a little OCD when I was a kid (she's doing much better now) so she did a lot of the cleaning, but she made sure I knew how to do it. She worked long hours and I would take care of myself a lot. I can't imagine going out into the real world without knowing how to cook or do my laundry. I don't think people do their kids any favors by waiting on them hand and foot.

KansasSue said...

My son, who is a high school senior has always had responsibilites, even if we haven't always enforced them until he wanted something. (No you can't have Charlie over, your bathroom and room are a mess.)

That said, when supper is over, he automatically clears the table. In the summer, the diswasher is emptied when I get home, his laundry is sorted (and sometimes washed), the yard is mowed, and the mancave (which turned into a teenage boy cave) is his and his alone to clean - just like his room and bathroom. He can and has cooked an entire meal for us (includeing the planning and shopping.)

He knows how to calculate a tip, as we taught him how to do that once he was in middle school. He also handles his own bank account, and makes his own doctor, dentist, hair, and other appointments. I could clean a house and cook a meal when I left home, but had no idea how to balance a checking account, schedule a service appointment on my car, or any of those day to day things we do so often, they're usually accomplished without even thinking about them. We're trying to make sure the kid is prepared in all ways.

Maven Linda said...

Slave driver? You jest, right?

I'm the second oldest of six; I've been changing diapers and feeding babies since I was eight. But even before that, at seven, I was cooking meals -- yes, that's right, full meals -- washing dishes (by hand) and ironing. All of us actually started washing dishes at seven. Children can actually do a lot, if they're only taught, and expected, to do it. When we were grown, we left home knowing how to take care of ourselves.

BTW, all of my grandsons began learning how to drive at the age of four. I'm now teaching my great-nephew how to drive (he's four and a half). A farm is the best place for learning how to drive. By the time they're old enough to drive on the highway they've been practicing for years, and it's nothing special to them because they've been driving farm equipment and hay trucks for most of their lives. So far (fingers crossed) there have been no accidents and no tickets, because they were driving veterans before they ever got their licenses.

Maven Linda said...

Slave driver? You jest, right?

I'm the second oldest of six; I've been changing diapers and feeding babies since I was eight. But even before that, at seven, I was cooking meals -- yes, that's right, full meals -- washing dishes (by hand) and ironing. All of us actually started washing dishes at seven. Children can actually do a lot, if they're only taught, and expected, to do it. When we were grown, we left home knowing how to take care of ourselves.

BTW, all of my grandsons began learning how to drive at the age of four. I'm now teaching my great-nephew how to drive (he's four and a half). A farm is the best place for learning how to drive. By the time they're old enough to drive on the highway they've been practicing for years, and it's nothing special to them because they've been driving farm equipment and hay trucks for most of their lives. So far (fingers crossed) there have been no accidents and no tickets, because they were driving veterans before they ever got their licenses.

Maven Linda said...

Pardon the double post -- Blogger requested I retype the word verification, and when I did it send the message twice.

Jen said...

You're not slave driving. You're rearing a responsible child. Mine doesn't do enough on a regular basis and I'm about to put together a chore chart. Last year, however, much to her dismay, in the summer of her twelfth year, she had to start doing her own laundry. And she has to unload the dishwasher. Occasionally, she'll push a vaccum cleaner.

birdzilla said...

You were not alone as a child Angel

The girls each have their own gardens. They also insist on weeding, pruning trees, and watering.
Household help includes dishes, laundry, and organizing (so proud of baby girl).

It might take 3 times longer, but they enjoy helping. The responsibilty gained (not to mention time spent with each other) hopefully will last a long time.

Liza said...

You are not a slave driver. My 4 year old niece has to help put all her toys up everyday and at least pull her blanket up over her pile of sheets. Her older sisters(17 & 14) have to do dishes, their own laundry, clean their own rooms and bathrooms, and take out the trash each week. Punishment is pulling weeds.

Angel said...

Well, I'm glad to know I'm in good company. :)

As hard as it was, I don't resent the work we had to do growing up. I wished it were less many times... especially working in the garden, but it paid off. When I was 18 years old (in college part time and working), my 6 week old baby brother contracted spinal meningitis and was in the intensive care, then pediatric ward for six weeks. An hour away.

My parents didn't come home. My dad went from the hospital to work. My Mom stayed at the hospital. And they could do that knowing the house/farm was in really good hands. I even remember my sister and I giving the house a really good cleaning the weekend before they came home, because my Mom was a big stickler for a clean house. No one had to tell us to do it. We just did.

Like PC said, it is often a case of forgetting this is now THEIR chore, rather than MINE. :) I know that sounds odd, but I often forget. But the dishwasher thing is really helping me remember. I hate to do dishes, so this is a big help.

They also pick up their rooms and the living room (toys). The oldest folds and puts away her laundry, and helps dust. I can't wait until they can take out the trash and clean bathrooms. Hallelujah! :)

Angel

Anonymous said...

You are not a slave driver, just a responsible parent. I did the same for my son. He had to get the mail in, help with the dishwasher, get the trash out and put the trash can back in its place, get groceries out of the car, whatever was needed. We need to send our kids out there in the world as a responsible person. Those who don't let their kids do chores are doing them a major injustice, trust me. I work at a college and some of these kids are so unprepared.
robertsonreads

PM's Mother said...

PM sent me a plaque several years ago that started out..."To The Meanest Mother In The World". I presumed she meant me; but it ended with a thank you for raising her right. I don't recall being overly strict about my daughters working in the house until I went back to public work and then they had certain chores to help with the housework. It didn't kill them. Look at them today...they appear to be happy and well adjusted.