Earlier this week, I read a short online piece by Awesome 92.3’s Rebehka Cramer Moreland entitled, “I Think It’s a Good Thing to Give the Kids Some Responsibility.”
In it, Moreland details how she and her husband have put his two 15-year-old daughters in charge of the household cooking. Mr. Moreland, a former chef, provides ideas and help, and it sounds like the girls excel at the task. This is a great help to Mrs. Moreland, who works unusual hours and is tired when she arrives home. The family has also discussed the idea of the teens helping with yard work. But not everyone in the Morelands’ circle thinks this is a good idea.
“A friend of mine who’s a parent thinks its LAZY for us to let the kids do so much,” Moreland said.
I am going to force myself to assume this exchange was some good-natured joking between friends. Because if I don’t, I am going to write some words that the Democrat will not allow me to print.
Mr. and Mrs. Moreland’s parental instincts are absolutely correct. It is a good thing to give the kids some responsibility — a lot of it — for the children’s sake as well as their own. Far from being lazy, putting children in charge of age-appropriate household work is one of the best ways to prepare them to succeed. It is far more important than extracurricular activities or sports, maybe even more important than school itself. Allowing, insisting, a young person participate in the responsibility of running a family empowers a child to take care of himself. It gives him a share in the success of the entire family, prepares him to be self-sufficient and capable upon reaching adulthood, and respects the desire and actual need for meaningful work that is living at the core of each human being.
“It is certain that the child's attitude towards work represents a vital instinct; for without work his personality cannot organise itself and deviates from the normal lines of its construction,” said famous Italian doctor and educator Maria Montessori. “Man builds himself through working. Nothing can take the place of work, neither physical well-being nor affection, and, on the other hand, deviations cannot be corrected by either punishment or example. Man builds himself through working, working with his hands, but using his hands as the instruments of his ego, the organ of his individual mind and will, which shapes its own existence face to face with its environment. The child's instinct confirms the fact that work is an inherent tendency in human nature; it is the characteristic instinct of the human race."
The average 15-year-old young woman is more than capable of cooking and helping with yard work, as well as doing laundry, keeping her own living space clean, and managing a bank account (with oversight). It’s an insult to a teenager and to her parents to suggest otherwise. But what about younger children? Even the smallest toddler has jobs she can do. As soon as a baby can walk and talk, she wants to “help.” Very small children do not differentiate folding a washcloth or setting the table from playing with blocks or reading a book. It’s all fun and meaningful to them. We adults are the ones who teach them that “chores” are something boring and unworthy. By our attitudes and examples, we’re the ones who spoil it with our grown-up ideas of what’s enjoyable and what’s not.
Maria Montessori also said: “Does Nature make a difference between work and play or occupation and rest? Watch the unending activity of the flowing stream or the growing tree. See the breakers of the ocean, the unceasing movements of the earth, the planets, the sun and the stars. All creation is life, movement, work. What about our hearts, our lungs, our bloodstream which work continuously from birth till death? Have they asked for some rest? Not even during sleep are they inactive. What about our mind which works without intermission while we are awake or asleep?"
Follow the example of Maria Montessori and the Morelands. Blend your work and play, giving attention to both and blurring the lines between them. Cook and plant flowers together. Let your teenagers be in charge and let your toddlers help. Be a family where everyday work isn’t scorned, but championed and seen for the life-giving pastime it can truly be. It might be strange and new. It might be difficult. But it’s definitely not lazy.