We spend plenty of time trying to figure out the best ways to teach our kids the values of helping with chores in our homes. I mean, the whole idea for ChoreMonster came from a desire to make chores fun, and that point remains essential to the process and to our business.
Once in a while I read an article about chores and household dynamics from a different country and try to pick out the cultural differences.
I recently read an article that got me thinking more about the culture of American homes and how it is perceived outside of our country. One article from The Guardian in particular was a really interesting read. I invite you to read it all, but here are a couple of paragraphs that stood out to me.
We have studied other societies in which small children are raised to help others (and themselves) as a foundation of cooperation and respect. We have wondered, what’s going on in middle class America that is so different from elsewhere?
Parents invest huge amounts of time (and money) to nurture children’s interests, intervene whenever children face a problem big or small, and give children sole credit for accomplishments that required considerable parental involvement. Yet, these same parents garner little or no assistance in chores from their children in return. In our UCLA Sloan study of Los Angeles households, children ignored, resisted, or refused to respond to parents’ appeals to help in 22 out of the 30 families observed. In the 8 families where children were cooperative, they were requested to do very little.
This is a somewhat uniquely American phenomenon. Middle class parents in other prosperous nations are less tolerant of children’s reluctance to do their part around the house. In Sweden, for example, middle class parents insist that each family member is responsible for cleaning up after themselves and keeping the house in order. Small children are expected to clean their dishes and rooms. Sweden’s idea of a universal social welfare state begins in early childhood.
The problem in many American households is that parents place a high value on their children’s right to pursue their individual desires. It’s as if children’s “rights” obscure children’s obligations. Is it my imagination or has “duty” dropped out of the American child-rearing lexicon?
These thoughts fall in line with something I’ve written about here in the past, asking the question about whether we are raising a nation of brats or not. My thoughts haven’t changed much, but I think this is a great place to continue the discussion and look closely at how we are raising our children.
In America, have we sacrificed instilling obligation in our children because we want them to have a clearer path to their goals? I think ideally, as parents, we want the best of both worlds. We love our kids and want them to succeed and be able to pursue individual desires, but we also want them to have a high regard for the value of hard work and how to be a contributing member of the home, and later, society. But in a culture where extracurricular activities are growing, and distractions are everywhere, it’s tough to figure out how to find a balance. Especially when one thing shines much brighter than another.
It’s not easy to tell your son he can’t go do something he loves because his room is a mess. It’s very easy to overlook a chore half done because your daughter’s best friend just came over to play. But they are only kids for so long, and as adults, we sure do work a lot and long for the freedom of childhood, right?
How do we find balance?
To come full circle with my own thoughts on this, I will offer that it’s a goal in my own household to help strike some balance between “duty” and “rights.” When chores are seen as difficult, tedious and sometimes terrible, it’s easy for us to lean towards the “rights” of our kids and overlook some of the “duty.” If your kids care about the rewards they are striving for, AND you, as a parent are reminding them why it’s so important for them to contribute to the home, you have a better chance at achieving that desired balance. We hope ChoreMonster helps you find this balance in your home.
Another piece I read this week had a great quote worth ending this post with.
How do you find balance between duty and rights with your kids?