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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.  50sMum

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?

2 Comments

  1. Vicki

    Hi Karen, this is very timely! I’m always complaining how my husband’s mother did everything for him, rendering him incapable of cooking anything beyond a fried egg. And of course, I’m bringing up my kids the same way. The moaning that goes on here when I ask them to help around the house, it’s just not worth it! However, I’ve found one thing one son enjoys and doesn’t find a chore, and that’s helping me with the cooking. So I’ll be nurturing that (and hopefully taking advantage of it in a few years time). Thanks. Vicki x

    1. Karen Finn

      Thanks so much for your comments, Vicki! I’m sure my lack of cooking skills is also down to the fact that I never cooked as a child, but it doesn’t mean I’ve failed as a human being (at least I don’t think so). My brother has always been interested in cooking, even when he was a kid, and my mother supported that. He’s a fab cook. So I think it’s a great idea to encourage them if it’s something they enjoy doing, but maybe it’s OK not to always force them if it’s something they dislike. I was always into baking and still am. My mum never made me tidy my room or make my bed either, and I’m a pretty lax house keeper, but I like to think that it makes me more chilled out in messy situations. 😉 My kids actually don’t mind cleaning (certain things) or helping with DIY (sometimes), so as long as they see it as fun, they’re still learning important life skills. Of course we all have to learn to do things we don’t want to do, but if we don’t see it as a chore, all the better! Karen x

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