When a ‘groundbreaking’ study comes out that contradicts my values and beliefs, I view it with a healthy dose of skepticism. When a study comes out that presents a new idea that neither contradicts nor supports my worldview, I consider it, though my approach tends to be one that recognizes that lying with statistics and proving just about anything is easily done. At the same time, I confess to a feeling of satisfaction when the ‘latest, breaking news’ confirms something that I have been promoting all along.
Hence, the feeling of gratification when Saturday’s Wall Street Journal presented this headline, “Why Children Need Chores: Doing household chores has many benefits—academically, emotionally and even professionally.” As you can see from my youngest grandson’s incredulous look upon being told that infancy is no excuse for not participating in Passover cleaning, we take chores seriously in the Lapin household.
Our motivation for our children doing chores was not so that they would achieve academic or professional success as adults. I don’t think that is the motivation of farm families whose children typically shoulder responsibility in a way that urban children don’t. Our children pitched in because that was the best way for our house to function and thrive. In the process, they became competent human beings and thrived as well.
Furthermore, we know that God created us to be givers and not takers. When we are only takers, our souls corrode, leaving us moody and resentful. Few things fill us with as much exuberance as giving. This is one reason people have children. They allow to be givers in the most meaningful of ways. However, the danger is that some parents, with the most loving intentions, raise children who are only takers. Ensuring that we allow children to give to the welfare and smooth running of the family is vitally important.
We focus, today, too much on individualism. Not the individualism of Thoreau at Walden Pond, but an individualism that says that we are entitled to happiness, a high standard of living, self-actualization and anything else we desire at the expense of others. Either our family, the government or our employers should supply our needs and spouses and children should show up and disappear on demand. We are the centers of our universe and others exist to serve us.
I don’t think that chores, as the article puts it, teach children directly to “care for others.” I think chores teach children that they are part of a greater community; one that stands or falls together. When our children were growing up we had a home full of fascinating guests, amazing summer vacations and a lot of fun. None of this would have been possible if we were each focused solely on our own pursuits, expecting to take from the family and not contribute to it.
Chores shouldn’t stand by themselves as a “to do” item. Laundry, cooking, cleaning up are all a part of the flow of life, necessary things that must be done just as eating and paying the electric bill needs to be done. As I said above, It saps the human soul to constantly take and never to give. Children are by definition needy takers. As early as possible (all right, two months may be a tad premature) children should be given the privilege of contributing to the well-being of the family – not so that they can go to a good college or have a good career, but so that they can grow up healthy in body and soul.