Thursday, April 12, 2012

Kamikaze Parenting - Responsibility is Not a 4-Letter Word

Courtesy A. Squires
Chores Won't Break a Kid Nor Do Chores Shorten Life Spans

Her eyes widened as she fought to hide a rising sense of indignation. She harrumphed just a bit. “I do NOT believe in child labor.” I stepped back as if to to avoid the impact of her words. My blinks matched hers. Were there more words coming behind this opening salvo?

She continued to stare as if to stare me down. I shook my head a bit trying to get my bearings and searched for words. “Wait? Aren't you a juvenile parole officer? Your job is to baby sit youthful offenders that have run afoul of the law, right? Did it ever occur to you that if some of your clients had more with which to fill their time, like chores to develop a sense of self worth and responsibility, you might have a reasonable case load you could actually handle?”

Her case load was, in fact, enough to keep 3 officers busy and growing by the week. “I still don't think child labor is right. My daughter doesn't have any chores. Never will.” Her implied rebuke might have stung if I had been in the mood to let it. All these years later, I look back and wonder if she was just trying to see what reaction she could get out of me.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I remembered our conversation some 14 years later. A salesman listened as my husband excused himself and took a phone call from our 20-year-old son. I could see a look of amazement spread across his face as realization dawned on him. Son #1 had called to tell his dad about progress on the yard work underway.

How old is he?” the salesman's voice rose an octave signaling his incredulity. “He's doing yard work? How much are you paying him?”

Paying him,” my husband replied. “What do you mean paying him?”

You don't pay him?” Then, the salesman went on to tell us how his own son wouldn't lift a hand around the house unless he got paid for it. Even then, he would often leave the requested chore half done. “He takes the money and runs,” he explained leaving me to wonder why he'd pay for a job left half done.

We reverted to our oft told explanation, “Son #1 makes us look like better parents than we are. He's just a good kid.” In a lot of ways, that is true. In other ways, we are now reaping the benefit of a lifestyle set in motion many years ago. Do I still have to ask for chores to be completed. Sure I do. Sometimes I have to ask more than once. ;-) Sometimes, I get right testy when I ask...again!

Both my fellas will tell you that while I am patient, if I ask, I don't give up and do it myself just because I have to ask more than once. After 20+ years of parenting experience, I think I can draw some pretty reasonable conclusions:
  1. Family chores are a dying art in our modern, gadget oriented, extra-curricular oriented society.

  2. If parents have to choose, they will defer chores to make room in over-scheduled lives for the “must do” activities that fill our time. 
  3. As a society, we preach a lot about self-esteem but fail to realize that healthy self-esteem grows out of a sense of mastery and accomplishment as we develop skills that will serve us for a lifetime.
    3 Generations

  4. An easy way to build self-esteem early on is to give children a sense of ownership in the family dynamic. As they succeed in being successful citizens at home, they see themselves as empowered to function outside the home as successful citizens.

  5. Action that involves skill building will build self-esteem a lot faster than words and programs to build self-esteem. 
  6. I'd even hazard a guess that children, in whom a responsible work ethic is instilled, will have a lot less time to engage in bullying – social media or otherwise.
Wedding Day
I have to admit that, all these years later, I laugh at my friend's definition of 'child labor'. In my Dad's day, child labor was a 12-hour shift in a southern cotton mill. In my day, some folks defined it as keeping a bedroom clean and tidy. Go figure.

It is a FRAIDY cat world, I'm tellin' ya. You know it's true. College-aged kids riot and destroy property after a WINNING basketball season. Children commit suicide because of relentless bullying. Cheating scandals have rocked the 'sanctity' of College Board testing scores. And on and on it goes. It seems like the world spins more out of control every day.

Schools have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop curricula to address the flagging self-esteem of our nation's students. Yet, depression is rampant among the same students for whom those programs were designed. You have to wonder if we are living life upside down. I know I sure do.

Courtesy B. Creasy
Thanks for dropping by. I missed you while I was gone. I really do hope you'll find a friend or 2 and invite them in from out of the cold. Tell them all fraidy cats, especially weary, over-wrought parents, are welcome here! Love you long and strong. See you tomorrow?

Proverbs 12: 11 (Amplified Bible) He who tills his land shall be satisfied with bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits is lacking in sense and is without understanding.

Proverbs 14: 23 (Amplified Bible) In all labor there is profit, but idle talk leads only to poverty.

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