I just finished reading the most incredible book. It wasn't a magical story or a brilliant biography, it was a book on kids and work.
Julie first posted about this book and I knew that I had to read it. The book chronicles the author's attempt to get her five kids to help out around the house, master skills they will need for when they leave her house, and understand the value of work. It started as a plan to lessen the feeling of entitlement she was feeling from her kids, which I think is a huge problem today. I saw so much of this while teaching- so many kids feel as if things should be done for them just because, and there is no sense of earning things.
The outcome of the experiment- the kids realized that they were actually capable of cooking dinner, doing laundry, weeding the yard, and cleaning the bathroom, as well as helping others and hosting a party. And with each task the author finds that her children become more self-confident and self-reliant, as well as more helpful around the house. The big message of this book- work makes kids feel good about themselves- it makes them feel worthy- and by doing every little thing for them we are robbing them of not only the skills but their self-esteem as well. I honestly think that anyone who has any interaction with kids should read this book- parents, non-parents, teachers, baby-sitters, day care providers, you name it. This is especially true for those whose kids have everything and never work for it; those are the kids who will be most damaged by this.
Problems developing in the long term: parents are filling out college applications for their kids and helping them write the essays; parents swooping in to help solve problems and conflicts; parents running to the teacher or principal about grades; parents going to job interviews with their children (this one floors me); young adults who flit from job to job because it's not fun, who think it's ok to continue living in their parents' house. She even cited how kids are now allowed to stay on their parents' health insurance until the are 26. 26!!!! Shouldn't they be paying for their own by then?
(Note: if you aren't fond of Bible passages or mentions of God then you might want to skip this book, but they are pretty benign and easy to skip over without losing the fantastic message of the book.)
To that end, I have always planned on my kids working and knowing the value of accomplishing something and earning something. Gus is at the age where he wants to help a lot, and even though there are things he wants to do that he's not proficient in, we let him try because he needs to learn somehow. An example- Gus has always loved to help in the kitchen even around a year-and-a-half old. He was fascinated by eggs especially, so one day when he was around two and a half, I gave him one. I showed him how to bang it on the bowl and pull it apart. When he tried it, he squeezed the egg, which exploded and he started to cry. Was it a mess? You bet. Would it have gone easier if I had just done it myself? Yep. But what would he learn? He'd learn that he couldn't do it. So we tried again, and again, and again over the course of many meals. He's now just turned four and I can hand him an egg, turn around to do something else and when I come back it will be in the bowl, perfectly cracked with barely any mess on his hands.
I found this on Pinterest awhile ago and I think it's such a well-put-together chart:
Kids are way more capable than we give them credit for. If you start young while they are eager to learn and help, getting them into the groove of working will be easier. Both kids love to help in the kitchen and unload the dishwasher. Gus can feed Casey, set the table, and fold small pieces of laundry, and he's learning how to make his bed. We suggest things we think he's capable of, and things he's interested in. Greta will follow along as she gets older. There's no reason that they can't both be helpful and learn important life skills.