Wednesday, June 7, 2017

How to Raise Children Who Aren’t Entitled

Or at least: “Things we are trying in order to not raise entitled children.”

My children are doing a lot of things lately that I don’t like. They sigh if I ask them to do something (or try to flat out refuse).

Meanwhile, I’m reading Little House on the Prairie and marveling at how much work the children do to contribute to the home.

First I got the idea to create a more specific chore chart so that it was very clear to Henry and Tate what their responsibilities were and how they would grow over time (since part of the problem was that Henry was frequently complaining that Tate didn’t have to do things that he did).

But once we had that idea, it started morphing into something else. We started operating with this mindset instead: When Matt and I are doing work to support our family, our children should be, too. When that work is done, we can all relax and enjoy our leisure time. Just like Little House on the Prairie!

We are only a week into it, but so far it feels so good! When it’s time to clean up after dinner, for example, Matt asks for a “kitchen helper” and I ask for a “house helper.” The kitchen helper helps wash dishes and load the dishwasher. The house helper helps me restore the house, wipe down the dining table, get the bath ready, etc.

The morning routine is the same with Matt. While he’s getting breakfasts ready, the boys are working, too. They are feeding Hoss, helping with breakfast, etc.

There’s still a little bit of whining, but more than that our boys are starting to show a change in their attitudes. They actually volunteer to help even more, and they say sweet things like, “I’ll help you do that, Tate.”

It’s a mindset shift for us to think that our children should be helping instead of playing. We definitely value free play and want our children to have time to decompress, but I think it gives them a warped view of the world if they are doing that while we are working to support the house. We are all a family, and we should work together to contribute to the functioning of that family. The specific things that people do vary depending on a person’s age and abilities, but the amount of time is the same. And in the same way that self-directed free play is good for development, so is doing chores (or “family contributions,” as we call them). They are learning to follow multi-step directions, building fine- and gross-motor skills, strengthening executive function, learning that they are important to the overall functioning of the home, and realizing that they do not exist to be served by others.

It’s definitely more difficult to require them to work alongside us, but I think the benefits will be worth it in the long run! 

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BabyD said...

I have lots of questions but recognizing this is a public blog, I'm not sure how much you're comfortable revealing about your division of labor at home, specifically with Matt. Anyway, are the chores on your chart your actual roles? Because you clearly do a lot more. You're in charge of planning and all the day to day managing of household and cooking! I struggle with this with my husband and wondered how you came to these divisions, if they're a source of resentment for you, if you argue about it, and if it works for you etc. Again, not sure you'll want to share but so many blogs and women don't address this important issue and I always like to improve on communication and division regarding housework. This is a great idea about chore for your kid and a great inspiration! I don't think I'll do a chart but I think I'll start having my son help when we're working! We do a lot when he's asleep though. Do you and Matt do that as well?

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, BabyD!

It's so funny that you think I do more than Matt! I wonder if it's because I didn't put on there that he does the morning routine every day?

I am hypersensitive to equal divisions of labor between males and females because of all the research that shows that females take on more work, even when they are also working full-time.

Matt and I frequently sit down together and re-calibrate the list to make sure it feels even. Right now I feel like he's doing more!

As far as cleaning after the boys go to sleep: we try to clean while they are away--all the dinner dishes and picking up the house, for example.

Definitely feel free to ask more questions--I'm happy to talk about this stuff!

BabyD said...

Thanks for your response. I think it was the "coordinate household things" that makes me feel you do more. That the grunt of life with kids, organizing and facilitating everything. Also the planning, buying, making dinners and lunches that seemed like a lot to me. I think part of it is you have your system down and much of it is online grocery buying from what iv gathered, though I could be wrong. I generally have a meal plan but try to do a lot of rotations and new dishes plus focus only on whole foods for lunches, and no processed or premade foods which makes it tougher. But the fact that you sit down with Matt is awesome. You are really lucky, as most of the men I know don't/won't do that. The fact that Matt is committed to that is huge. My husband is not a planner and has trouble coming up with meals or doing things on the schedule so it makes things challenging and he can also be defensive if I try to say I'm overwhelmed and he's not doing enough. He's not a jerk, he just seems to have lower limits when it comes to running himself ragged with house stuff if that makes sense. The fact that you have two hours potentially at night to relax tells me you've found a good balance. I only have one kid and I feel like I'm doing things until I fall over in bed at midnight! I struggle with all of the above and would love to hear more about how you balance it all. I think you don't fuss as much as I do about things like lunch and have a great system. I'm envious! Also, when planning vacations I hem and haw for weeks and it sounds like you make solid decisions and don't obsess? Anyway, I enjoy reading about how you work all this out. My email is if that's easier. Thanks again!

BabyD said...

Also, is Matt a planner too? Or does he wait for you to take initiative and then you "assign" him tasks/duties? That makes a difference too. Thanks!

BabyD said...
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