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 in modern times has caused this false idea to flourish. While kids are now busier than ever, chauffeured to this and that activity, they were once raised to pursue domestic activities which actually served to help their family with the necessities of living (growing food, building shelters, making clothing, etc.) That’s not to say pursuing activities outside of the home is wrong or bad or somehow not as good as pursing domestic activities, just to say our culture now accepts the false idea that only interests pursued outside the home are worthwile and those pursued inside it are somehow less important, or not valuable at all. The older my kids get, the more I realize people really don’t believe children can enjoy cooking and cleaning and may actually want more responsibility as they grow older.
The reality is, that children will usually enjoy whatever they’re taught to enjoy, whatever they see those around them enjoying, and whatever they have a positive experience doing. Baseball might be fun for the child who grows up playing catch in the yard with mom or dad and might be miserable for the child who is pushed to achieve and 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 they might look forward to a 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 the necessities of living. They love to cook, sew, hunt, build things, take care of the animals, and – believe it or not – some even like to clean. My oldest son recently asked if he could have scrubbing the toilet as a daily chore, and my oldest daughter told me, while I was pregnant and feeling miserable, “I’m really glad you haven’t been feeling well, because I get to help more.” This is the child upon whom most of the housework fell during my pregnancy, yet instead of feeling resentful, she felt thankful. Not long ago, she wrote me a letter which, among other things, said: “I love to cook and sew with you!”
It’s unfortunate we live in a society that considers “having a life” to mean going to the movies or playing sports or watching TV when none of these things actually have to do with what we must do in order to live.
It really doesn’t have to be that way.
Why we don’t let our kids read books (it’s not what you think)