In a recent New York Times Motherlode blog post, the author confesses “I’ve Ruined My Boys” as she describes how she has “over coddled” her 6, 9 and 11 year old sons to the point that they are unwilling to do much of anything for themselves around the house. In her post, found here, she confesses that she has “reveled in having them need me so much” but has decided that she is through with waiting on them hand and foot, but worries that it might already be too late.
This post struck a responsive chord. However I have succeeded as a mom, I have definitely failed in teaching my children to fend for themselves domestically. I did not enforce the chore chart or give stars for taking out the garbage. I know my children know how to make up their beds (at least I got that far with them) but they never got gold stars for doing it (or punishment for not doing it). They will wash dishes (i.e., put dishes in the dishwasher) if reminded, but only if reminded. Why is it so hard for some of us moms to teach our children to do things for themselves?
Perhaps some of us, like the blog post author, secretly enjoy being needed. We feel wonderfully efficient and useful when we can quickly dispense with a chore rather than wait have to for our sons or daughters to do it in their own fashion and timespan. As our children grow older and more independent from us perhaps we want to feel that we are still indispensable to them. But if we continue to do the simple things for our children, how will they learn to do it themselves? (Truth be told, they ultimately do learn to do these things for themselves when they have to. But we won’t see it because they only have to when we are not around doing it for them.)
I am sure some of you parents will read this and be completely unable to relate. Your children grew up doing chores, and you were determined to make sure all of them, the boys and the girls, became very responsible domestic citizens and great cleaner uppers. Kudos to you, and please leave comments letting us in on the secrets of how you did this.
But the rest of us can take solace in knowing that we are not alone (and perhaps feel a tiny bit cheered if we are not quite as indulgent as the blogpost author). Knowing how and when to make our kids do things on their own is one of the tough journeys of parenting. We will look further into this issue and provide some tips in an upcoming post.