I'm not running a one child, Walmart-esque sweatshop in my basement. She does the dishes and takes out the trash. I don't think this is too much to ask. But still I will hear "Oh, you're so lucky she will do the dishes! My little Quinoa won't do anything around the house," or "Harrison won't let me get anything done. He requires eight hours of playground time and an evening massage!" Whut? When did these little pint sized people become the boss?
What people don't understand is that my daughter wasn't magically born a little cleaning machine. It took years of work to get her to not only do these chores, but do them without my asking. And it's not just her. According to this 2009 UCLA study, which looked at children from three very different cultures (rural Peru, Samoa and urban L.A.), kids freaking hate chores. No matter where they live or their culture, kids would rather chillax and play games over tilling a field or walking the dog. DUH. It takes incentive and WORK to get kids to take responsibility.
What I don't do is coddle my kids. Roald Dahl said it best, "A girl can't spoil herself, ya know."
According sociologist Emile Durkheim, children in the west have become "economically useless but emotionally priceless," and that attitude is turning a lot of kids into brats. Of course, I doubt anyone is trying to raise a little hellion. There are exceptions to every rule, but for the most part we, as parents, are just trying to get through the day in one piece.
I think people forget that 100 years ago kids were working in factories. Obviously I'm not calling those times "the good old days," but children are way more capable than many parents give them credit for. When I was my oldest daughter's age, I knew how to work the stove. I knew this because someone took the time to show me, instead of doing it for me and treating me like a invalid (or a little empress).
I'm not saying it's always easy. My oldest child is a tween. She resists all the time, but there are consequences to that (no video games, earlier bed time, no friends over after school, etc.) Yeah, sometimes it would be easier to just do the work myself. But what lesson would that be instilling in my kids?
The most important factor is limits. Well, that and I'm not offering beyond a candy bar or three when needed. Seriously though, kids need structure and limitations. Your toddler shouldn't be running amok in a restaurant (unless you want to get the stink eye of doom from your fellow patrons), and your tween shouldn't be sitting on their butts watching "Dragon Ball Z" while you clean up the mounds of garbage around them.
My dad always told me that he wanted me to feel deserving, not entitled, and that's what I want for my kids. I want to teach them the value of things (both physical and not physical), just as my father did with me. Giving my kids chores to do around the house is part of that goal. We're all in this together.
There is an episode of the television show "Roseanne" where she is discussing how she is raising her kids compared to how she was raised. She said something that stays with me to this day:
"I always felt that it was our responsibility as parents to improve the lives of our children by 50 percent over our own. And we did. We didn't hit our children as we were hit, we didn't demand their unquestioning silence, and we didn't teach our daughters to sacrifice more than our sons."
I think this hits the nail on the head. The way I see it, my job isn't to keep my kids constantly entertained. My job as a parent is to mold them into competent adults and good people. They need to contribute to society, and that means a sense of responsibility. My ultimate goal as a mother is to raise three little people who will make the world just a little bit better by being in it.
And that starts with washing the dishes and taking out the trash.