Why Don't Kids Do Chores Anymore?

Why Don't Kids Do Chores Anymore?
http://www.careerjournal.com/myc/workfamily/20050701-opdyke.html http://tinyurl.com/gwrn8
By Jeff Opdyke

When I was growing up, I spent many summer days struggling to shove a bulky Toro mower through the thick mat of grass that was my yard. That was my main weekly chore. I pushed that same mower around the neighborhood with my buddy, Mike, hawking lawn-cutting services for $10 a yard.
I mention this because I've noticed something peculiar while driving around town in recent weeks: Though it's summer, I've yet to see a single kid out mowing a lawn. I don't see any kid-produced signs offering mowing services. I see teams of lawn-maintenance workers neatly tending yards...but no kids.
It's not just lawns, mind you. During our time in New Jersey, I don't recall seeing any kids raking leaves in the fall. In three years not a single kid stopped by our house offering to shovel the snow off the driveway. I never hear my son's friends lamenting the chores they're charged with after school or on weekends. All they ever do is ride bikes or dash off to this practice or that game or some camp.
I don't blame the kids. I blame the parents.
To put it bluntly: We've gone soft. Partly, I think, we remember how much we hated the chores when we were younger. Partly we feel guilty about all the time we spend working. Partly we're just too lazy and it's easier to hire somebody than force our kids to do it. Whatever the reason, many of us are slacking off when it comes to imposing on our kids the same sorts of obligations our parents required of us.
In watching my son water some plants for me the other day -- meaning, watching him barely sprinkle the plants amid his goofball antics with the hose and an anthill -- I realized that it's time to reverse the trend. Child-labor laws be damned, it's time my son went to work.
* * *
I don't recall how old I was when my grandfather -- who, with my grandmother, raised me -- started asking me to cut the grass, though I'm pretty sure I was about 9 or 10. I remember in second grade helping him in the garden and with odds and ends around the house. I also remember hating it: I would much rather have been down the street playing with my friends, or inside watching Scooby Doo on a Saturday morning. Occasionally, he might give me a couple of dollars for my effort, though usually he just patted me on the back and said, "Good job, buddy."
Looking back on those days, I realize now what my grandfather was trying to teach me then: that you must establish a work ethic; you must learn to take care of your property; you can't always expect money for simply helping the family; and you must earn through an honest day's work what you want in this life.
I can't say that I've sent an equally meaningful message to my own son up to this point. In fact, the message I'm sending is pretty much the opposite.
For instance, we have a lawn-service guy who cuts the grass and edges the yard for $35 every week or two. I hired him because I don't have the time on weekends, between writing and rehabbing an old house I bought with a friend. The amount of money I can make on those activities far surpasses what I pay the lawn guy to cut my grass.
Yet I'm beginning to see that the cost of hiring somebody to cut my grass goes beyond that $35. This is the first house we've owned -- and we've owned six -- where I haven't done the yard work. What my son sees is his mom and me paying someone else to do what we could do instead. So, I imagine he figures: "Why should I do what Mom and Dad won't?"
Traces of that come out when he's assigned a small chore. He gets bored quickly and begins to play, and soon drops the task all together. It isn't a priority for him because I haven't instilled in him that it should be a priority.
A couple of weeks ago, for example, I asked him to water some day lilies we had just planted. I watched him through the window: He spent about a minute on that duty, then began spraying an anthill, stirring up the ants and watching them busily try to preserve and rebuild their mound. When that lost his attention, he turned off the water, left the hose splayed across the yard and came inside to watch cartoons -- while the day lilies wilted in the heat.
I know I've got company here. Not only do I see it in the absence of kids cutting grass and raking leaves and shoveling snow, but I also hear it from friends I talk to. Lots of parents don't force their kids to do much work around the house. Why, though? Why do we let our kids shirk the same responsibilities we once had?
I can think of a few reasons...
* * *
Perhaps the key reason is that we live in an age that's more touchy-feely. Many parents -- and I concede that I am one of them -- are more lenient and less authoritarian than were our parents. When I was a child, my grandparents gave me a chore and they expected me to do it. Period. These days, Mom and Dad aren't so much setting the rules as they are negotiating with their kids. And kids learn to negotiate themselves out of tasks they don't want to be burdened with at the moment.
But that isn't the only reason. It's also a question of money: Many of us have more of it than our parents did when they were raising us. If we can hire somebody to cut the grass every two weeks for less money than we'd spend on one dinner out, why not?
Also, so many kids are overscheduled these days. They have soccer practice and tennis lessons and dance class. By the time they get home, there are barely enough hours for homework and dinner. Who has time to weed the garden?
And then there's guilt. More couples both work nowadays, often logging long hours. That leaves us anxious not to waste those precious hours we do have for our kids. Chores, we rationalize, are inconvenient when we could be doing something as a family.
So there are lots of reasons, many of them valid. But I'm convinced that none of them are good enough, and I'm going to change things around my house.
My son isn't quite old enough to push a lawnmower across the yard yet, but he is old enough to help me weed the many flower beds we have. He's also old enough to rake leaves in the fall, to help me change the oil in the cars and to help me wash the dishes at night -- all of which will soon be on his to-do list. I may decide to pay him a little something for a few of those chores, since some of them are beyond what I view as weekly obligations.
For the most part, though, I'll just pat him on the back and say, "Good job, buddy."
-- July 01, 2005
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The recommendation is to not let children mow grass because of the danger of cutting off limbs and/or accidents.
--
Sue (mom to three girls)

"fgoodwin" < snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com> wrote in message
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Sue wrote:

I began mowing lawns when I was about ten years old, and never had a problem, even with equipment (early 60s vintage) that wasn't nearly as safe as today's models.
I think parents today don't give kids enough credit -- if taught how to use mowers & trimmers properly, there's no reason a boy 10, 11 or 12 couldn't handle them safely.
If we could it do it back then, why can't they do it now?
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I mowed lawns starting from 10 years old. It was enjoyable work and good pay. Many kids today get allowances without doing any work.
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They do round here
David
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Well not often for other families but that's because the properties are somewhat sparse and "yards" here are rather big and generally daddies (or mummies) mow them with a tractor. However kids do things like water gardens, gather manure for same, feed animals etc - usually at their own place - they do baby sit for neighbours (for pay) however.
Before moving here when we lived in the suburbs with our own kids they did chores for their pocket money at home and baby sitting etc for neighbours. We didn't have a mower (no lawn) so I wasn't too keen on them learning not to cut off extremities on a neighbour's machine even if they wanted to.
David
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says...

There are kids in the neighborhood who offer to mow yards (for pay, of course). As there are who offer to shovel driveways in the winter.
The difference I see from when I was younger is that, I'd take on a chore like that as a committment. That is, I have x customers counting on me to shovel their driveway when it snows. So I'd be out the door when the snow stops, with three driveways to do.
As a homeowner, though, I find that it was more, my driveway will get shovelled OK, but only if there aren't a bunch of kids putting together a ski trip that day. In the latter case, the driveway stays snow-covered. Not good. So I have a contractor with a truck who picks up a lot of cash on snowy days do it - it gets plowed every time. But then I'd have to turn away the kid that does come to my door.
Except now my son has enough muscle to do it - so, yes, some chores do get done by kids.
I ran into similar things getting babysitting. I arrange babysitting for my bowling night. Back when I was babysitting, such an arrangement meant that Thursday nights are spoken for, period. As a parent, I found that I'd get calls from my regular babysitter if there was a club meeting or something that night.
So anymore, before my son got big, I'd hire kids for one-off chores or single babysitting nights, only. Can't make any continuing arrangement. Disappointing.
And, yes, it was coming from the parents. I've had all of three conversations with parents about this pattern, and the response is along the lines of "you don't expect them to give up THAT ...". So I'd go elsewhere to make arrangements I could count on. But then the kid's parent would be disappointed. Oh well.
Banty
--


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my
that
calls
night.
single
My oldest daughter would love to babysit, but today's mommies don't tend to leave the baby's side for a minute. So finding customers has been rather hard for her. She has a news paper route though.
--
Sue (mom to three girls)



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I don't tend to want highschoolers. I'm sure some are very mature, but I prefer older babysitters, as I know many other moms do.
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My sister babysat a lot in hs - I didn't do as much. Mostly New Years Eve as a last resort kind of thing.
I didn't use babysitters much as most of the time I would take the children to the base nursery instead of getting sitters. I didn't much care for the older ladies because I wasn't sure they would do things as I wanted, because things changed since they had their children. Also they cost more.
DD#1 was babysitting by the time she was 11 - at least with her own siblings for short periods (half an hour) and a little later for the lady down the street. So after that I almost never had sitters.
grandma Rosalie
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We don't use sitters much, either, just one college age one who fills in. We do have a dcp who is a mother with grown children, but being that she is professional, she does respect our wishes WRT the kids.
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My preferable age for a sitter was 13-16. Any older than that and they are interested in boys, being on the phone, and/or having more of a social life than sitting. I have had great experiences with sitters of this age group, as they love to sit and play with the kids and will do stuff with them, rather than sitting them in front of the TV. Then if you go any older, then it costs an arm and a leg to have a sitter come in.
--
Sue (mom to three girls)



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wrote in message

I don't know if I have a preferred age other than I want an adult. We have a college age sitter who is great with the kids. She's not as you describe. She gets down on their level and plays with them. They totally love her and they beg to see her. She charges $10/hr whether for one or both of my kids. We often give a little more. I think she's very much worth it.
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Sue wrote:

I think it's a combination of age, interests, and temperament. You are probably most likely to get that mix in the 13-16 age, however! I remember when I was growing up. We had a favorite babysitter would always play with us. When she got too old (I forget how old - probably when she went away to college), her younger sister starting babysitting for us. She was probably the same age - but wasn't as interested in playing with us, and preferred to watch tv and/or do her homework.
My problem finding a babysitter is that the girls I wanted to babysit were also active on the basketball team, and didn't sit during the season. I'm really looking forward to when the two girls down the block turn 12 - they are planning to team-sit together. One of them is better with kids than the other (she has already shown aptitude - one day last summer she had 4 3-4 year olds practicing Stop Drop and Roll by rolling down the hill next to her house, for instance) while the other I think mainly wants to hang out with her friend.
Irene
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That's very true. I was generalizing too much with just my experience.

That is a problem too. Kids are very busy these days. DD1 is not able to play any sports, so she isn't as busy as most kids, but she still has choir.

they are >planning to team-sit together.
You can do what I did, if your interested. You can have them start coming over now and just be a mother's helper to you. I trained my friends daughter this way. When she was 13 or so, she came in the summer while I was working at home and play with the kids and then as she got older, I was able to leave her here on her own and then gradually worked up to more hours, when I needed her.

aptitude - >one day last summer she had 4 3-4 year olds practicing Stop Drop and Roll

Yes, temperment of the person definitely the key.
--
Sue (mom to three girls)



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to
My oldest daughter turns down babysitting jobs constantly, and only occasionally babysits for one family down the street. She started sitting for the when she was 14, and is now 16. They are now 7 and 12. Her friends who like babysitting are overwhelmed with offers. However, these aren't diaper aged kids, they are 4 and up.
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friends
Too bad you couldn't give some sitting jobs DD1's way. She is getting frustrated. She did have one family that had her sit, but they moved away. There are some new families moving in the sub behind our house, so maybe there is hope. It certainly isn't like it used to be. I was very much in demand in my babysitting days.
--
Sue (mom to three girls)



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When my kids were in high school and babysitting, they got most of their jobs through church -- after they volunteered to help in the nursery or preschool classes. The kids liked them, and the parents got to know them a bit, so THEN they'd ask if they did any babysitting. (The youth group also sposored a babysitting class, which they took together over several Saturdays, so that helped, too.) It worked out pretty well -- for a time, there were people who would call here to ask which of the three was available; they might have a preference, but would accept any of them.
--
Children won't care how much you know until they know how much you care


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