A recent article in New Yorker magazine has created quite a stir among U.S. parents and gives Catholic homeschooling moms and dads a reason to examine their own family lives. A sociologist, studying a tribe of indigenous people in South America, accompanied one family on a trip into the jungle to gather leaves. A member of another family, Yanira, went along and, without being asked, made herself useful by sweeping the sleeping mats, and stacking the collected leaves. Later in the day, Yanira would fish and then clean and cook her catch for the entire group. The sociologist was very impressed by the calm and self-possessed Yanira, most especially because she was only six years old. That’s right, six years old!
In the urban area where I live, I often see children of that age still being pushed in strollers because their parents don’t want to listen to them whine if they make them walk. They are unable to tie their own shoelaces, and are not even sure if their shoes are on the right feet. They have no regular responsibilities, and have to be begged and cajoled into performing even the simplest tasks. In first grade, they are not ashamed to cry when they do not get their own way. Even in large homeschooling families, where the children are more cooperative and competent, I certainly do not see any of them fixing supper. Where are we going wrong, and what can we do about it?
Before they enter the first grade, every child should be solely responsible for regular chores. They should be making their beds, stowing their pajamas under the pillow, and putting their clean laundry in the drawers. They should put their dirty wash in the hamper and tidy their own rooms. In addition to cleaning up their own messes, they should help set and clear the table for meals and share in the care of younger siblings. Perhaps most importantly, they should start their schoolwork on time without being told.
Considering the responsibilities of American children of an earlier generation, and some young people in other places today, this is not such a tall order. If parents do not prepare their children to be hard-working and conscientious adults, the alternative will be lazy, unfocused, incompetent adult-lescents.
Don’t let that happen to your children.
Header Image CC santoki41