Is it motherly love or laziness?
I was recently chatting with a friend about how much we do for our kids. She’s a mum of three (aged 17, 15 & 12) and still makes them cooked breakfast every morning and prepares their lunches for school. I thought this was really sweet and a clear sign of motherly love – especially as I, too, make my kids their breakfast as well as pack lunch for my 11-year-old, who’s perfectly capable of doing it herself.
Nevertheless, we questioned whether we’re setting our kids up for a future of incompetence and misplaced entitlement. Should kids have to do things like this, as well as looking after pets (which my friend and I also confessed to doing on their behalf)? What’s the right balance?
In a post on A Fine Parent entitled Are You Teaching Kids Responsibility? 50 Simple Challenges to Get You Started, blogger Cara Sue Achterberg says: “Many kids today live a life of entitlement. Very little is asked of them in terms of responsibilities at home. I know, at least in my house, this is mainly due to parental laziness. It’s much easier to do a job myself, especially if I want it done right (interpretation – the way I think it should be done). I get tired of nagging, demanding, and threatening. Consequently, instead of teaching kids responsibility, I accept half-hearted efforts because, well, at least they did something.”
She also mentions Kay Wills Wyma’s book Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement, in which Wyma talks about the frequency of young adults who quit jobs because they don’t like them and throw away educations because they’ve changed their minds. She says that 28% of 22-29 year olds rely on money from their parents to fund major expenses, and they don’t feel responsible for paying the bills, especially if it means taking a job that is hard and doesn’t pay well.
Is this what we’re setting our kids up for? I think it depends on the individual child. My college roommate didn’t know how to do laundry her freshman year, but she went on to become a very successful lawyer, which certainly requires responsibility, determination and lots of hard work.
My mother always did the cooking, breakfasts and packed lunches until I was 18 and ready to leave for college. And I was very fortunate that my parents paid my university expenses. But I think I turned out OK. I took the initiative to find jobs in high school and throughout university so I could contribute to some of my expenses, and I’ve always had a job in the (many) years since graduating. I consider myself reasonably responsible and independent.
Although I don’t want my kids to be entitled brats, I think it’s possible to strike a balance without having to go to extremes. What do you think?