Living with Children
Copyright 2011, John K. Rosemond
Full disclosure in four parts: First, I am not a tech-savvy person and never intend to become one. Second, I am convinced that the less technology, the better the life. Third, the technology in my life consists of a laptop, basic cell phone, stereo system, DVD player, flat-screen television, ROKU, and a Digital Video Recorder. Fourth, I do not believe children should have cell phones until they are able to take full responsibility for them, including paying the monthly bill.
I recently ran across news of technology available as "apps" for mobile phones and tablet computers that entices children to do household chores. I'm not going to list them, because I don't want to appear to be endorsing them. In fact, I am dis-endorsing them.
One of these products was named "Best Parenting App" of 2011. Parents create a list of chores, responsibilities, and desired behavior for the child in question and assign point values to each. Points are then exchanged for rewards. The other programs are variations on the same theme in that they make a game out of doing chores and result in children receiving rewards for becoming Housework Heroes.
This is what I call Parenting of the Absurd. In other words, these products will enjoy great appeal, especially among parents who drink often of the post-1960s parenting Kool-Aid. For their sake, let's break this issue down into digestible pieces:
First, a family is the most fundamental of social groupings. The family, not the individual, is the building block of a functional society. As such, family is the training ground for citizenship. Good citizenship is defined by contribution, not entitlement. Therefore, children should be contributing members of their families. The most meaningful way they can contribute is by doing their fair share of the work that must be done to keep the home clean, tidy, and otherwise habitable. Are you with me so far? If you are confused already, then there's no point in you reading any further.
Anyway, we have arrived at the point where the question "Should children be paid for chores like adults are paid for the work they do?" should be answered. Ponder this: Adults are not paid for doing housework. They are paid for doing work that children are prohibited, by law, from doing. Children don't bring income into the home-not until they are old enough to be legally employed that is, at which point they should give back a certain percentage (I recommend 20%) of their income to the family. Keep in mind that Dad and Mom give ALL of their income back to the family. So, to answer the previous question: No. They already enjoy free room, board, transportation, medical care, and so on. That is their "payment."
Also, when one pays or rewards a child for chores, the impression is created that if the child does not feel the immediate need for the payment or reward, he is not obligated to do the chores. And that brings us right back to entitlement.
A child should do chores because his parents tell him to do them, period. There should be no rewards for this other than the reward of being a member of a family that is blessed to live in a single-family dwelling that is heated in the winter, affords protection from weather and critters, and within which there is lots of love and good food. On the other hand, if the child fails to do his chores, then he should pay a price of some sort. That's what happens in Real World, and remember, this is all about helping children learn about Real World.
In summary, these apps are appsolutely stupid, the antithesis of what "family" means.
Family psychologist John Rosemond
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