Not long ago, I had a comment on my article, In Defense of the Duggar Defenders, that went something like this:
“Kids need to be able to pursue their own interests… helping out around the house is fine, but kids should have a life.”
The interesting thing about this statement is the assumption that a child’s “own interests” will automatically fall outside the realm of household responsibilities, and that in order for a child or teen to “have a life” that “life” should be experienced away from home. I think the shift in the way we raise our kids has caused this false idea to flourish. While parents are now becoming busier and busier, chauffeuring their kids to this activity and that activity, kids used to be raised to pursue domestic activities which actually served to help their family. That’s not to say that pursuing activities outside of the home is wrong or bad or somehow not as good as pursing domestic activities, it’s only to say that our culture now accepts the false idea that only interests pursued outside the home can be exciting and fun and that those pursued inside it are somehow less important, or not valuable at all. The older my kids get, the more I’m realizing that people really don’t understand that kids can actually enjoy cooking and cleaning and that children may actually want more responsibility as they get older.
The reality is that children will enjoy whatever they’re taught to enjoy, whatever they see those around them enjoying, and whatever they have a positive experience doing (if you have any doubt about that, just consider the fact that some children actually want to walk around hitting a little ball again and again until it lands in a little hole – up to eighteen times.) Baseball is fun for the child who grows up playing catch in the backyard with mom or dad and watching the
Red Sox Yankees on TV. It’s miserable for the child who is pushed to achieve, ridiculed when he strikes out and is forced to practice against his will. In the same way, we can make domestic activities fun or drudgerous. We can make them something to look forward to or something to avoid. We can actually raise our children in an environment where cooking, cleaning, sewing and helping others are the activities they look forward to… just as much as other kids look forward to that friday-night football game.
How do I know? Because I’ve seen this play out in my own life. Inadvertently, and without consciously being aware of it, we’ve raised children whose favorite things to do revolve around family life. They love to cook, sew, hunt take care of the animals and – believe it or not – some of them even like to clean. My third daughter (age 10) recently started to do an amazing job on her chores, because my oldest daughter told her I wasn’t going to give her any more chores until she could be trusted to do a good job on those she already had. She’s now determined to prove to me that she deserves more chores. My oldest son asked me not long ago if he could have cleaning the toilet as one of his chores every day and my oldest told me, while I was pregnant and feeling miserable: ” I’m really glad that you haven’t been feeling well with this pregnancy… I feel like it’s a God-thing… I feel like you and I are a team now and I feel like we’ve gotten a lot closer.” If any of the children were asked to help me more around the house during my pregnancy it was definitely my oldest. And yet, instead of feeling resentful or angry about this, she felt thankful. Not long ago, she wrote me a letter which, among other things, said: “I love to cook, sew, practice, and do school with you!”
As I wrote in my response to the commenter, it’s unfortunate that we live in a society that considers “having a life” to mean going to the movies, playing sports and watching TV when none of these things actually have to do with living.
It really doesn’t have to be that way.
Why we don’t let our kids read books (it’s not what you think)