I ran across an old article from the Wall Street Journal recently that talked about the fact that many teens have no idea how to do laundry. But what caught my eye wasn’t the fact that many teens have to do their own laundry for the first time when they go to college. What stood out was the fact there are loads of independent life skills being de-prioritized in our current culture.
Also, this quote sure made me think.
Some parents tell me they’ve focused so intensely on fostering academic, athletic or other achievements in their children that they don’t have time for household basics; one retailing executive, for example, told me that her teen was too busy doing community service and keeping an honors GPA to clean a toilet bowl or wash clothes.
Too busy to learn how to clean the bathroom?
I won’t put down the pursuit of academic goals and community service, but is that the reason that simple household chores aren’t prioritized? Even if those are the things that keep children from learning to do their share around the house, how much time are they spending on schoolwork?
And athletics are mentioned as well. I know that things like youth football can demand 3-5 days per week from children as young as 10. Select baseball teams begin practicing in January and play 40-75 regular season games. What started as a great extracurricular activity or sport has turned into the thing we spend more time on than anything else.
And the driving force behind all this is you.
The parents can say no to any of these things and instead they embrace them. Taking the lesser role so that their kids are “happy” and doing what they want. We have an obligation to our children to set them up for success. To love them and feed them and clothe them. We do not have an obligation to bend to their every will and desire.
I’ve heard it stated that practice has replaced the family meal, and I couldn’t agree more. Now, instead of sitting down together and talking as a family, one parent is driving a child to practice while the other is picking one up from another thing. And that’s not it, these activities demand that we sacrifice weekends as well. Time that we might be using to foster some of the life skills that our kids may or may not “have time” to learn.
I understand the benefits of athletic activities and have encouraged my own children to be involved. But not at the expense of our family or their future as contributing members of society.
And back to chores.
If these pursuits are prioritized over simple household tasks like cleaning a toilet and learning how to do a load of laundry, we have it all backwards. Being part of a team or spending time mastering an instrument can be hard work. But the opportunity to do that hard work is a privilege. It’s an opportunity most don’t have. Doing your part around the house is a life skill that most of us have to continue to do for our entire lives.
So the next time practice is about to get in the way of a family dinner or household chores, take a second to think about what exactly you’re trying to instill in your kids.