Parenting is a Win-Win

It was a beautiful, million dollar day–blue Utah skies with no clouds–yesterday on Park City ski slopes. Despite the incredible snow and weather, I couldn’t help but overhearing well-dressed children yelling at their parents. “I am never coming skiing with you again!” and “I hate skiing!” I also watched a 5-year-old have a lengthy argument at the bathroom door with the adult she was with, while there was a long line of us waiting.

It made me pause and wonder.

Since I became a parent in 1985, I have sacrificed, scrimped for my children to have social and educational opportunities, and taught life skills to help them launch and succeed in this world. It can’t be one way–only the child benefits. Then you get an entitled child. All of your sacrifice and effort produces no gratitude, no respect and no structure for them to learn how to self-sacrifice themselves.

Parenting needs to be a win-win.

My daughter sent me this article this week by a reporter that shares my fascination with children helping around the home. I love Michaleen Doucleff’s focus and writing. She got my attention two years ago when she wrote about Mayan mothers teaching their toddler’s to work. Reading the headline, Are We Raising Unhelpful, Bossy Kids–Here’s the Fix, gave me hope that other people are noticing a huge social problem of entitled children.

Her suggestions?

#1–To Scramble or Not to Scramble.

Indigenous families encourage a child’s interest in helping from a very young age. We don’t do so well in our more prosperous countries. We are busy, and rushing, and we don’t want a 2 year old helping us scramble eggs. Children learn quickly that we don’t need them, and so we teach them to be unhelpful. We are teaching them to not even offer when we have to do it ourselves, our way.

#2: Three Subtasks An Hour

Michaeleen Doucleff says:

“Instead of waiting for a child to choose their own method of helping, which may not be appropriate with their skill level, parents in many cultures proactively enlist help from a nearby child on a regularly basis. “

Instead of giving large jobs to do like doing the dishes, or emptying the dishwasher, these parents ask for mini-chores while they are working on something.

She continues:

“Say you’re taking out the garbage and your hands are full, so you ask the child to hold the front door for you. Or dinner is almost ready, so you hand a kid some plates and tell them to put them on the table. These are quick, super tasks that kids can do. But they are real tasks. They are genuinely useful and make a real contribution.”

Constantly involving our children in small tasks is teaching them helpfulness and cooperation. It’s interesting to me, reading this article, that highly educated people are traveling, documenting and reporting on very foundational, basic family structures that indigenous people are teaching their children. Have we lost our way so much? All the education, money and culture we have should enhance our parenting, but sometimes we get distracted and too busy to teach our children very basic things, like being helpful, be kind, and please, please make a contribution to the lives of all those around you.

I firmly believe parenting can be a win-win. Teaching our children these basic family traits will bless them and us forever.

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