Last month, my mother, fed up with arguing with my son about practicing piano, told him she would pay him to practice 4x a week. He responded with, “I’m good. I don’t need any money.” You could have seen the smoke coming out of my ears. As soon as he saw my face, he realized his mistake. I told him that he was right, he did not need any money…but that he would practice, for free, 4x a week. It was not a choice, but his responsibility. End of discussion.
Last week, I read “How to raise kinder, less entitled kids (according to science)” in the Washington Post and wondered how the author, Karen Weese, knew me so well! Children, not meaning to sound entitled, are only responding to whatever norm has been set for them. If they are paid to do chores, then what will motivate them to help out in other areas around the house? What we try to do (emphasis on the word try) at our house is what Ms. Weese suggests at the end of her article – she suggests framing chores as part of the responsibility of being a family. Chores are what help the family function well.
I probably sound like a broken record to my children, but I often talk to them about all of the things I do for them for free, as part of my job as a parent. Things like providing food and clothing, taking them to sports practices and play dates, and helping with their class parties. What I am attempting to avoid is an expectation that I will always provide their favorite cereal, a new pair of stylish boots, the latest and greatest Xbox game…
It is especially difficult to remember not to shower our children with gifts, particularly as we enter the holiday season. It is, however, also the perfect time to teach them about others in the world that may not have what they have. Each year around this time, my children fill two shopping bags with “give away” items for those less fortunate. First, it is showing them the value of giving to others, but also, cleaning out their rooms! If we give them everything they want, what will happen when they don’t get it all, or have to work for it? As parents, it is difficult to say “no” to our children – but remember that we are setting them up for success. I know I complain about my seemingly ungrateful teenager, but honestly, he is usually not so unwise in his comments. Thank goodness.