Unfortunately, many parents aren’t giving small jobs to their small children because parents can do the jobs quicker or better themselves, and they don’t give their school-age children many chores because, as they say with pride, “school is their job.”
If you’re one of those parents, you should know: This is fallacious reasoning. You and your husband run errands, buy groceries, cook meals, clean the house and the gutters, too, and yet both of you probably go to work every day. Your children should do chores because school is part of their lives, just as work is part of yours. Chores not only make children feel needed, but they teach survival skills as well as time management. This will give them the self-confidence they need to get the most out of college and of life.
It’s hard to make your children do their chores, of course — and for you to endure their many mistakes — and it’s especially hard to deal with children who moan and groan, which they all do. Nevertheless, you still should make your children do whatever chores they can do at their age.
If you want them to do these jobs better or more quickly, take the TVs out of their bedrooms so they can’t watch when they should be asleep, and don’t let them watch TV on school nights, either. You also should ban the use of cellphones while your children are doing their homework, and have them do this work in an area where you or your husband can see what’s on the computer screen as you pass by. It’s amazing how fast a teenager can write a paper if he’s not trying to text his friends, update his Facebook status and watch TV at the same time.
To answer your other questions: Relax. Even the best-behaved teens want as much stuff as they can get during puberty — a stage that lasts about three years and makes teens as self-focused as they were in pre-K.
Your teenagers may tell you that they’ll never be like you, or do what you do, or work as hard as you work, because adolescence is the age when they are supposed to pull away from their parents, and this is one way of pulling.
They’ll pull better — and do their chores better, too — if you always respect their minds and if you encourage their altruism rather than chastise their errors. This will help them develop a purpose in life that centers on something bigger than themselves, especially if they know that their character matters much more to you than their SAT scores or their extracurricular activities. These are the lessons that will keep your boys from burning out as so many young adults are doing these days.
To find out more about children and how they grow, read “Teach Your Children Well” by Madeline Levine, which may be the best book ever written on child development. It not only considers the whole child — physically, mentally, emotionally and morally — but it covers his whole childhood and then gives you the studies that back up her advice. This book belongs on your bedside table.
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