Kids, Chores and Money

A few months ago when buying clothes for my kids, the 20-year-old male salesperson stunned me by folding the pants and T-shirts with aplomb. I asked how he'd learned that not-insignificant skill. "When I was 10 and old enough to reach the dials on our washing machine, my mom had me do my own laundry. Folding is one of my talents."

My parents taught me many invaluable life lessons, but when I left home at 18 I had no clue how to balance a checkbook or change the oil in a car. A few years later, having paid too many bank overdraft fines and ruined my first car, an old Chevette, by ignoring that flashing green "oil" light on the dash, I was a lot more self-sufficient. My three kids are still too young to reach the washing machine dials, see inside a car's engine or to grasp the concept of debits and credits, but I want to teach them essentials about the value of money, work and independence.

They keep track of a 25 cent daily allowance. Each has a small bank account. They set the table, walk our dog, make their beds, pack their own suitcases (and sometimes even mine). I'm starting to plot teaching them to do their laundry.

What are your thoughts about teaching kids to be self-sufficient? What are your successess (and failures)? What were you taught as a child that later proved invaluable?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  October 20, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Free-for-All
Previous: A Holiday Worth Taking Time For | Next: Wynonna on Motherhood

Add On Balance to Your Site
Keep up with the latest installments of On Balance with an easy-to-use widget. It's simple to add to your Web site, and it will update every time there's a new entry to On Balance.
Get This Widget >>


Please email us to report offensive comments.

I think teaching children to be self-sufficient and independent is invaluable. My daughter is only 2, so she still obviously needs me to do a lot of things for her, but whenever possible I encourage her to "help" me, whether it's with picking up toys, handing me laundry from the basket to place in the washing machine, or helping me pick out items at the grocery store and then place them on the check out counter.

In many ways, I think my parents failed at teaching us some things - we weren't expected to do many chores around the house, for example - but we definitely learned self sufficiency in other areas at a young age. I know my mom expected us to make our own lunches very early on - probably by the end of elementary school. We were also encouraged to do a lot of problem solving - making our own plans, our own phone calls, and doing projects completely on our own.

When I was in high school, I knew a lot of kids whose parents were very involved, for example, in their science fair projects. Many of these projects won awards, and the children went on to study sciences in college, but I always thought it was unfair, to both their kids and the other kids competing against them. My projects were never grand and I struggled with them, but at least they were my own.

I also look often at my sister-in-law - her mother has always done EVERYTHING for her, from making plane and rental car reservations, to scheduling doctors' appointments, to ordering prescriptions and mailing packages for her. It makes me sad that her mother never gave her the opportunity to do these things on her own. She's in her late 20s and is a very capable young woman....

Posted by: Vienna mom | October 20, 2006 7:36 AM

Teaching kids to be self-reliant is so important. My husband and I try every day to instill a sense of independence and responsibility in our 2- and 4-year olds. They both put their dirty laundry in the hamper, put their shoes away, help to clean up their toys, stuff like that. My son clears his things from the dinner table and my daughter loves to help load and unload the dishwasher. They actually get into arguments over which one presses the buttons to start loads of laundry, and will eagerly help me load up the washer with dirty clothes. They love to help -- which I know will go away all too soon, but if I can replace the declining desire to pitch in with a growing sense of responsibility about picking up after themselves, I'm all for it.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 20, 2006 7:37 AM

I think kids helping with chores is a win-win strategy and one of the most best coolest things we can do to eventually achieve balance. My siblings and I were not given chores because we were supposed to study all the time, and as an adult I look back and see how this cost us. When kids have to do chores, they learn time-management, self-sufficiency, self-respect, and lots of skills that will make their adult lives easier. My 2 year-old helps with laundry and we're working on getting him to do some regular chores like put his dirty clothes in the hamper after his bath, and set his shoes by the door after he comes in from outdoors. But we'll adopt any good ideas proposed on here!

Posted by: m | October 20, 2006 7:49 AM

Teaching kids resposibility, self-reliance and to contribute to the community are IMHO the foundation for bringing up kids. Doing the laundry is a biggie - boy does the homemaker get a little more respect form the minions once junior has had to take the wet stuff out and hoist the load to the dryer. Cranky perfectionists get their due whilst trying to fold contour sheets - anybody know how to fold those(^%&$*^% things anyway?

Laundry triage is a key life survial skill too. Prioritizing the work load into a: clean enough to be worn again, b: probably should be washed, c: NEEDS to be washed, and d: better throw it out, is a solid metaphor for life.

Metaphors be with you.

Posted by: Fo3 | October 20, 2006 7:54 AM

Good topic today!

My mom and dad did a good job with me and my brothers with chores and resposibilities as kids and teens. I had to clean bathrooms, dust, unload the dishwasher and keep my room clean by the time I was 8 or 9. They made the mistake in not teaching my oldest brother about balancing a checkbook and he had money problems in college - went through all his money in one semester. They realized their mistake and my other brother and I were the benficiaries. I have always been a good saver and budgeter.

Unfortunately I married someone that had no domestic training. My husband had to mow the yard, wash the car, clean out the garage and carry in the groceries for his mom - but that is about it. He used to think a magic fairy washed and folded the clothes and dishes while we are sleeping. Don't even get me started on money - he didn't even have a checking account till we were married and he was 28. I started working on him after my daughter was born because I could not do it all anymore - and I am still battling him to help me out.

Mothers - teach your sons the basics - washing clothes, dishes, dusting, PICKING UP AFTER THEMSELVES! Their wives will appreciate your efforts and you will eliminate one thing to fight about!!! I am doing it with my son (and daughter) and hope to stop the cycle of domestic upkeep ignorance!

Posted by: cmac | October 20, 2006 8:03 AM

Not for nothing, but looking under the hood of one of today's cars probably wouldn't do any good anyway. Teaching them to dial AAA though is a good skill.

Still not sure where I stand on an allowance (my son's only 7 mos., so still some time to think about it). I never got one. Chores were chores, no pay for that. To earn money I - gasp - got a job. Though there's no such thing as paperboys any more, so maybe that's not an option for today's kids. I'd definitely be interested to know where people stand on allowances.

Money skills though, are certainly one of the first things I'll teach him.

Posted by: paperboy | October 20, 2006 8:06 AM

Having the kids help with chores fosters a real team environment. I like to place my 4 yr old's folded laundry on the floor in her bedroom. She's expected to put it away. Also, responsibilities, and good habits, need to be consistently applied to all family members. My daughter loves to catch either my wife or I not washing our hands after we use the bathroom. She laughingly reminds us "that we must have forgotten". These mundane examples are the tools parents have to teach bigger issues. Telling kids to be independent and strong is about as effective as pushing a rope!

Posted by: equal_too | October 20, 2006 8:09 AM

To cmac:

I totally agree on the helpless husband thing. The red flags were waving all over the place with my husband, but I was completely blind to them. My MIL was a SAHM for over 20 years who did EVERYTHING for her husband and kids. There isn't enough space to list the things my husband didn't/wouldn't learn how to do. Sometimes it was amusing, but most of the time it was a drag.

I raised my children in an entirely different fashion and they are much more self reliant adults than my husband was at age 40.

Posted by: DZ | October 20, 2006 8:17 AM

We are teaching our five year old little chores. She loves sweeping the floor with her dad, changing laundry, loading and unloading the dishwasher, and she puts her dirty clothes in the laundry. By next year I think she will help make her bed.

Her dad did not even know how to change a light bulb when we got married. He does now and is a better sweeper than me.

Posted by: shdd | October 20, 2006 8:25 AM

Some multi-tasking scenarios are better than others. Watching TV at this house requires that you choose one or more of these activites:

*sort laundry
(loads in/out between ads)

*fold laundry
*resort folded laundry into separate baskets by member
(to drawers between ads)

*button re-attachment and other hand mending

*ocassional sock-sorting fest

* polish shoes with neutral polish, which works on all colors

*sort school papers, tossing tons but keeping some in large box labeled for each child -- they can "scrapbook" someday if that floats their boat

*seasonal -- sort mittens, scarves, hats, setting aside outgrown for the "Planet Earth" collection sites near us

*seasonal -- sorting/cleaning/bagging off-season equipment/clothing

*after age 10-11, light ironing

Posted by: College Parkian | October 20, 2006 8:35 AM

This is my opinion on giving kids allowances for doing chores:

It doesn't teach them a thing about the value of money. What it teaches them to do is beg and whine for a ride to the 7-Eleven so they can squander their "hard-earned" money on a Slurpie or something else filled with sugar you don't want them to have in the first place. Then if you ask them to do a favor or help with a task outside of what is normally expected of them, they try to negotiate for money. Then they cop an attitude if you don't pay them the asking price. If you have multiple children, add extra frustration for keeping things fair between the siblings. Although allowances may seem to be a good idea to teach your kids about the value of work, the truth is the family economy doesn't transfer to the outside world.

On the other hand, if you want your kid to grow up and get a union job, allowances are probably the best way to go!

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 20, 2006 8:38 AM

My parents meant well, but lacked basic adult skills (cleaning, lawn maintenance, saving money), which meant that I learned how to do a lot of things at a young age. I bagged my own lunches, did laundry, and major house cleaning in elementary school; began working in junior high, and started a retirement account in college. Basically, by the time I was 18, I had most of the skills I needed to function fully on my own. I essentially learned what to do by doing the opposite of my parents. I hope to raise my son to be as independent as I am, but hopefully through the power of positive modelling and age appropriate chores.

Posted by: East Coast | October 20, 2006 8:38 AM

The single most important thing my parents did regarding self-sufficiency was to raise my sister and I with the expectation that we would have to support ourselves.

Honestly, housework is not difficult and if you prioritize a clean house (not everyone does), it's not hard to figure out how to wash the floor and vacuum and do the laundry. My mom did my laundry until I left for college; once I was there, it took me five minutes how to figure out how to do it myself. No one taught me how to cook; I figured it out myself. My sister isn't such a foodie and therefore didn't devote so much time to learning to cook. Each of us set our own priorities and devoted efforts in that direction. There were chores that we were expected to do, but that was because we were members of a family sharing a house with one another; not due to any idea of self-sufficiency.

I'm sure my husband and I will expect our kids to do chores, as they'll be members of the household and will be expected to contribute to it. As far as self-sufficiency goes, though, I would hope that we raise our kids to be able to figure certain things out for themselves, and, more importantly, to be able to support themselves.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 20, 2006 8:43 AM

I still remember the shock I felt at my first family dinner with the new in-laws. My husband, his dad and his sister sat on their rumps while my MIL, who had done all the cooking, started to also do all the cleaning up. Not in my presence! After years of my attempts to set a good example and some pointed looks, my husband and his dad now at least clear the table.

As to laundry, if you or your husband are inclined to leave money in your pockets, your children will soon realize that doing laundry is in fact a money-making opportunity.

Posted by: Olney | October 20, 2006 8:47 AM

This is a good topic. My daughter is almost three and recently I have started letting her set the table. She likes it and is very happy that she is helping. She also picks up toys and puts clothes away.

father of 4, you kill me, the way the world is going there probably won't be any union jobs for your kids!

Posted by: scarry | October 20, 2006 8:50 AM

"Telling kids to be independent and strong is about as effective as pushing a rope!"

...but sometimes the rope does move. Our 3y-o is the most polite and helpful of the three - relatively speaking - since she has had the benefit of us instilling manners and obligations on the older two - often at alto voce. As a result she insists on clearing her dishes "Myself!" Resulting in some spectacular messses between the table and the garbage - which she insists on cleaning up with dustpan and broom "Myself!"

In exchange for this, her folding skill and frequent "thank you's" she gets to stay up alot later than the others did when they were 3. Or maybe its just because she's so headstrong we cant get her down at 7 with the rest of the house still up slaving over the ridiculous homework load.

Come to think of it the biggest help has been getting DD/DS to read bedtime stories to the 3yr old so their counterpart can get some focused time on homework. Our attemps at getting 3-yo to "do homework" at a more reasonable homework time - coloring whatever - only lasts so long before she wants play time with her older siblings. She can be an agressive distraction.

on money - we finally opened bank accounts in our kid's names at the bank. Half of what they get in gifts, allowance etc goes in the bank, the other half in a wallet in a jar. When holiday time comes along the wallet comes out, by that point it is usually filled with IOU's from mom or dad when they were short on cash - thus teaching them about the scourge of consumer debt and collections agencies. My son has become adept at getting his cash back - a future repo man perhaps?

We dont pay for chores, but when we NEED and hour of babysitting, or help with a big kid task: painting, weeding. We pay by the hour.

Laundry folding gets rewarded with concurrent TV time.

Posted by: Fo3 | October 20, 2006 8:55 AM

When my daughter started high school, we gave her an allowance of $100 per month. She is also required to contribute at least $30 a month to this account from babysitting, dog-walking, etc. She is responsible for: her cell phone, makeup, gifts for her friends, "running around" money, 1/2 of her clothes, and pretty much anything else she wants (we cover school related stuff). I am AMAZED at what a careful shopper she has become. If there is something she wants (for example, a software program to help organize her thousands of digital photos), she researches carefully on the internet, comparing not only price, but quality, and then thinks about the item for three days. If it still seems like a good idea, only then will buy it. She keeps careful track of the balance in her account, and is more proud of the money she has saved then the amount of her possessions.

BTW, my husband not only taught both kids how to change the oil and change a tire, but he is the one who taught them how to clean a bathroom! Both our son and daughter can cook, and clean up after themselves (OK--they at least know how...execution is sometimes a different story). And, at 15 and 11, they do the family laundry. Yes--we have a woman who comes in to clean every other week, but every once in a while (before guests come over, for example) I have the kids dust and vacuum, so that I know they have the skills.

Flashback: years ago, when I came home one weekend from college, I woke my then 14 year old brother on a Saturday morning, pushed him into the bathroom, and taught him how to clean a toilet. I had been to a party at an apartment inhabited by three guys, and the bathroom was beyond disgusting. My mom had taught all her daughters this skill, but it hadn't occured to her that my brother needed it too. He told me years later that having a clean bathroom in his own place impressed every girl who came over!

Posted by: WDC | October 20, 2006 8:55 AM

How do you clean a bathroom?

Posted by: Fo3 | October 20, 2006 9:00 AM

llowances and Chores should be separate. The normal chores are because they are part of the family. Anytime my daughter complains she does to much I start on the list of what I do for her (including working so we can eat, etc) and she gives in. If it is for money they can say fine don't pay me I don't mind and go back to playing video games or whatever.

I find an allowance is helpful. The amount is based on age and what needs to be bought from the allowance (solves the multiple kid problem - different ages, different responsibilities, different allowances). I find it cuts down on whining. If you want X you pay for it. When they are spending their own money children tend to be pickier about what they buy. Of course some of the saver vs. spender attitude is personality driven, but it is better to make the mistakes when the lack of money is for just extras and not rent or food.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | October 20, 2006 9:02 AM

The headlines for your column and Checkout are switched on the homepage.

Posted by: a | October 20, 2006 9:03 AM

It can be costly to not teach your kids these skills. In addition to comments others have made about checkbooks and money management, there are lots of things people should be able to do for themselves that they end up paying others to do if they don't have the skills. I'm thinking of my friends who have to pay people to assemble Ikea furniture for them because they literally can't figure it out, but lots of people spent a lot of money hiring handymen and repairpeople to take care of things that they should be able to do themselves. Case in point -- my husband's parents wouldn't allow him to use tools because they thought he would get hurt or damage something. So now he's a homeowner who doesn't know how to unclog a sink or fix a toilet or hang a shelf. (Luckily he married someone who had very practical parents.) And we all know that dishes and clothes need to get washed, but there is a lot more involved in running a household and in particular in being a homeowner, that if your parents didn't teach you (by involving you), you might never know what you don't know.

Posted by: H's Mom | October 20, 2006 9:05 AM

I have a 5yo son and a 2yo daughter. Both of them are expected to help out - and the 5 year old is pretty good about it. Just the other day he was up in their room by himself and when he came downstairs, quite proudly, he told me he had put away all the laundry I had left folded in a basket. (I didn't even have to ask.)

Kudos to all of us who are trying to raise good, responsible kids.

I still remember a friend of mine Freshman year in college (1990) who was utterly proud of herself for having ordered a pizza the night before. Seriously, she was proud of calling dominos. Her parents had done everything for her and she was clueless.

Posted by: GS | October 20, 2006 9:08 AM

F04 - Have to disagree with allowance. My kids have never begged to go to 7-11 to squander their allowance because we do not teach them that it is for spending. They have to save their allowance. The get paid half their age (so my 8 yo gets 4$, my 5 yo 2.50) on dad's payday - every other week. They only get their allowance if they have done their chores (for the most part) and had no major behavior problems. There have been a couple weeks where one or the other - or both has gotten nothing because they did not listen - even when I warned them that not completing chores, etc. would lead to no allowance. We don't negiotiate on extra money for extra chores. One day I asked my daughter to go downstairs and bring me a roll of papertowels from the storage closet and she told me only if I gave her extra money in her allowance, I told her she would never see her allowance again if she tried that again and it has not happened since.

They take a portion (50 cents or a dollar) of that to church to put in the collection plate and the rest goes in the piggy bank. Every couple weeks/months we count up the money - go to the local bank branch. They get such positive feedback from the tellers, they fuss over them about what great savers they are - it is really fun for them.

Eventually I will let them spend a portion of their allowance, but not on junk. If they want to save up for a video game or special outing - they can do so. Maybe the oldest can start this in a year or so.

My kids also get "paid" by their grandparents for good report cards. That is the grandparent's treat, not mine. I tell them good grades are expected.

Posted by: cmac | October 20, 2006 9:09 AM

My MIL was one of those women who had a pampered husband. Like cmac, she swore that she would not bring up her sons the same way. My husband had far more domestic training than I had, and is the better housekeeper. The sons did a lot of the cooking, cleaning, repairwork, etc. around the house (while the Dad did almost nothing). I wish I had been taught more when I was young.

I am so grateful to my MIL, and my husband is too (he likes feeling competent rather than helpless). My MIL humorously calls it "the theory of selfish parenting"-- in that it eventually makes the parents' life easier to have the kids know how to do things. Of course, it's good for the kids, too.

So, cmac and others, keep up the good work of expecting help from your sons and daughters! Perhaps one day they will thank you-- and their spouses will too.

Posted by: Ms L | October 20, 2006 9:11 AM

Olney, we must have the same MIL! I went through the exact same shock as you when I had my first meal at my in-laws. My father in-law, husband and his brother did not lift a finger! I too now shame them into it - at least my husband and brother in law. FIL still sits there like a potted plant. It's amazing how much they revert when they go home to mommy. My husband, though, is pretty good about helping out around the house and can actually do things I was never taught - like ironing.

The most valuable thing I learned from my mother was cooking. Because she worked, she called me everyday at 5pm and asked me to take the chicken/roast/etc.. out of the fridge and often walked me through preparing and putting it in the oven. By the time I was in high school I was often doing the cooking for my parents. This taught me not only how to cook, but what I believe is an equally important skill, how to PLAN and time a meal. My mom didn't really mean to do this, it was out of necessity. My sisters never learned this, but I was the last child at home, and wanted to eat before 9pm!

Posted by: DC | October 20, 2006 9:21 AM

About the only thing my mother taught me was 'just shut up and do as you're told.'
Anyway -- in addition to being self-sufficient and doing chores, none of you mentions teaching your children common courtesy to others and respect for elders. Unbelievable what sass and backtalk I've heard from children when speaking to their parents and other adults. I'm sure your kids' teachers could tell you horror stories. Courtesy and good manners are invaluable tools that are needed in everyday life.

I work in an office with lawyers who graduated from Yale and Harvard. The words 'Please' and 'Thank you' never pass their lips. We had one who was a screamer, horribly rude to support staff, couldn't keep a secretary, and he was recently appointed as an Ambassador. Go figure.

Posted by: Childless by Choice | October 20, 2006 9:23 AM

Great discussion! I learned to do laundry at 11 when my mom couldn't lift things while recovering from minor surgery. It's amazing when you get to college how many of your peers can't do laundry, sew a button, iron a shirt for an interview, etc. Teach your kids to cook affordable meals and they'll save a ton of money on food when they live independently - I made it through 4 years of college without resorting to ramen noodles. (Maybe that's un-American?!?)

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | October 20, 2006 9:24 AM

Our almost 6-year-old makes his bed, takes his own shower every other night, feeds the dog, sets the table for dinner, and is responsible for putting away his own things when he gets home from school and after a project is completed, etc. He is also an excellent cook's assistant--snaps asparagus, washes and peels carrots and potatoes, kneads dough, mixes ingredients. It helps that cooking is really fun! (On the other hand, he has a 14-yr-old cousin who does not even know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich). We have not started an allowance yet, but when we do, it will not be tied to helping around the house. He will help around the house because he's part of the family, not because he's getting paid.

Posted by: dc | October 20, 2006 9:26 AM

Please teach your kids these things. It'll save future generations from having clueless roommates who are mistified by cleaning. I have taught roommates why the ironing board is pointed on one side (the family had always sent out all clothing to be cleaned), how to mop the floor (no, the swifter isn't going to clean that), that the vacuum bag has to be changed, and that baking soda will clean that pan you burned but you'll have to scrub hard (the pan "soaked" in the sink for two weeks).

My mom used to work Saturday mornings I leave a list of heavy cleaning chores for my dad and I (divided between us). On pain of death these had to be done by the time she got home. My dad and I sat in our pjs watching cartoons until about two hours before then rushed like madmen to get it all done. House looked great and my dad and I both learned (he was on near the same learning curve as I was in house keeping).

East Coast, I knew a guy who could do everything because his mom wasn't in the picture. Sometimes it seems parents get too much in the way.

Posted by: Running | October 20, 2006 9:27 AM

Growing up I had an allowance, it wasn't much but i was overly concious about saving and buying things for myself. The allowance wasn't large by any means, but after a few weeks or months I could afford a toy or music. I never received any gifts from my parents other than birthdays and chanukah. And of course, clothes for a boy are a necessity, not a treat :)

OTOH, my wife didn't have an allowance and got money for going out when she wanted it, probably received gifts more often too. She says it was a terrible way to be raised. Kids need to learn the how to save money and make sound economic choices. It's easy stuff, but needs to be ingrained from early on.

Our plan with our kids is to give them X+Y allowance a week. Make sure that they give the Y portion to a charity of their choosing, and save or spend X as fit. Has anyone else done this? It's just a plan right now (since our son would probably put a dollar bill in his mouth then throw it on the floor these days :).

Posted by: Fo1 | October 20, 2006 9:27 AM


I anticipate that at some point I will be giving out an allowance. I agree with those opinions that chores and allowance be separated and I also agree that kids should have to pay for all those crazy extras that they want. My dad opened an account for me and we put my allowance in there for christmas. Can you imagine how proud I was to have all that money to spend on gifts for my family? In the 70's it was huge.

As far as teaching them about the value of a dollar and money management, I just may follow my sisters way - when her teenage daughter was complaining that Mom wouldn't buy something for her, she threw her checkbook and a stack of bills on the table and told her to organize the bills by due date, add up the amounts to be paid, compare that with the amount in the checkbook and if there was anything left over then gave her a list of things that needed to be purchased that isn't a bill like groceries. Jenn learned really quickly how the system works. When she discovered that there wasn't even enough money to pay all the bills, she backed down. But to this day, she handles her finances a lot more maturely. Her younger brother however is a different story.....

As far as helping around the house, I truly hope that I will be able to train my children to be more helpful and not take on the procrastination attitude of their father. This is not to say that when Dad helps out he doesn't do a good job. However, it's what he does that doesn't get finished completely -- he will wash the clothes and hang up what need to be hung up and put the clothes in the dryer, but nothing ever gets back to the bedroom. The dishwasher could be empty, but still leaves dishes in the sink to "soak". But at his mommies house, he rinses and puts in the DW. (FRUSTRATING) I know that I will have a harder job of this becuase there will not be a consistent example for my son to learn from. Hmmmmmmm, I wonder if an allowance would help my husband......

Posted by: CJ | October 20, 2006 9:27 AM

My siblings and I grew up in the 50s and 60s. My SAHM did most of the chores except for help she had with the ironing. We mowed the lawn, did the dishes, hung the clothes on the line (pre-dryer days), and washed the car. Most of our domestic skills(ha!) came from our Home Ec classes in high school. Other than that,we figured out how to cook, repair items, balance budgets, and clean on our own either in college or after we married. Our weekly allowance was about the equivalent of one hour's work at minimum wage.

My mother did teach me a very negative lesson about saving money. When we were kids, we could either have a birthday party or take the money (one dollar for each year we were old, $8 for 8 years). She encouraged us to put our money in the local bank and save for an item we wanted. We watched as our little bank books swelled with savings. When summer approached and I announced that I wanted to use some of the money for a swimsuit and my sister wanted a Barbie doll, she said "no". We felt that we had passed up our parties and understood that a defered pleasure could be the result. We whined. She stood firm. We whined more. My father thought that logic was on our side and gave us our savings. But the bad lesson had been taught... if I put my money in that bank account, I might never get it back. I didn't put another cent into a bank until I was in college. All my money stayed in my purse or underwear drawer.

Posted by: c | October 20, 2006 9:32 AM

My favorite comment from my husband was "But I don't know how to mop." Um, it's not rocket science! He does know how to do other things like iron and clean the bathroom. I found out much later that his mother never mops, she always gets on hands and knees to clean the floor. Yikes!

One of the things I had a hard time learning was how to cook b/c my mom would always start to show me how to do something and then just take over. So I make a special effort to let my 4 yo do the things he can (in cooking and other things) even if his technique isn't perfect.

One thing that has worked for us (admittedly because he's 4) is making jobs a treat. "You want to help me vacuum? Well, only if you're good!"

Posted by: LQ | October 20, 2006 9:35 AM

I gave up on allowances because it was too hard gor me to keep track of, although I think the systems described by today's posters are all good. My kids do their chores because they are part of the family, with no pay. There are additional (non every day) chores for which they get paid, such a leaf raking. I pay $4 per hour. They get money from grandparents for holidays and save up to buy what they want. So true that when it's their money, they are much pickier! (I buy the basic clothes and pay their expenses.)

At age 14 they get a summmer job in food service. Talk about life experience. All those hours and all that hard work doesn't amount to much money at minimum wage. Definitely encourages them to get good grades during the school year so they can go to college.

Posted by: experienced mom | October 20, 2006 9:36 AM

During my childhood years my Parents provided an allowance based on assigned chores and my ability to accomplish them as instructed and without being reminded. Today, as an adult, I think an allowance for a child should be provided without being tied to chores or any other task. An allowance should be used to teach a child about the value money, saving and spending. Chores are chores and are themselves a teaching/learning experience. I believe additional money in exchange for special assignments (not regular chores) teaches a child the basic concepts of earning, responsibility and reward. Unrelated to the allowance comments, here is a brief list of other things my parents helped me learn that in today's world, I am more grateful for the knowledge.
1. Making correct change (using my brain)
2. Reading an analog clock or wrist watch
3. Cooking (and I'm a guy)

Posted by: Tiki | October 20, 2006 9:38 AM

ditto on the great topic comments.

Sure, one way to achieve balance is to outsource some chores...and what better place to outsource than to the other inhabitants of the house? Exercise...check. self-sufficiency...check. maybe some pride...maybe check.

Just don't expect them to do the chore the way you would do it. Expect to see some corners clipped. I'm always amazed at how teenagers somehow don't see that scrap of trash in the corner and what is missed during kitchen cleanup. I figure...I don't care if it isn't perfect, it is good for them. It is good me to a) have someone else do the job and then b) NOT NAG THEM ABOUT IT!

if I had to nag, then I wouldn't be on balance.

After all this, my kids have been cleaning off the table since they could walk, they 'clean' the kitchen after dinner, feed/walk the dog, mow the lawn, take out the trash...and they don't get an allowance for these chores. They just aren't consumers...even though they're 16 and 11.

Notice what's missing: they're supposed to keep their room neat and tidy, but they fail this one routinely! ha ha.

Posted by: dotted | October 20, 2006 9:42 AM

I have two siblings, all of us about 3 years apart.

My father read to us every night sitting on the floor between our bedrooms.

We got to pick the story if we won the contest...and the contest was designed so that we actually each had a chance to win. I can see that now looking back. We each had to achieve a different age appropriate task.

This is how my brother learned to thread a needle and sew on a button. This is how my sister learned to fold clothes. This is how I learned to scrub a bathtub without getting wet.

Chores are chores and should be done regardless of allowance. But teaching skills can still be made fun.

Posted by: Connecticut | October 20, 2006 9:44 AM

Our chid is almost 3 and no allowance yet. However, I have been informing him when we walk in the door-- "No popcycle until you have taken yoru shoes off and placed them neatly by the door." The popsysle is just made from juice. But is that manipulative or just inforcing priorities and scheduling? I read somewhere that it is abusive (mentally at least) to reward behavior from kids-- that they should just do things out of respect and love for you and because it is logically. (I.e., I'll take off my shoes because I don't what the house to get dirty/ because I trust that mommy knows what she is talking about.) Does this actually work? Seems all parents "manipulate" in some way. And maybe applying logic works when they are older, but a 3 year old? I would LOVE it if my kid would just do what I ask, but he doesn't and I assume that is normal-- right?

Posted by: capitol hill mom | October 20, 2006 9:45 AM


I agree with your comment about the cooking. My mother had all of us work with her at the cooking so all three of us including my two brothers are now capable of planning and cooking healthy meals. My grandmother was amazed to see us working in the kitchen when we were three or four but has agreed it paid off.

As far as allowances, I have a friend who did the following with her son. He got an allowance adjusted to his age maybe starting around 4 or 5(I'm not sure of amounts). He was allowed to spend 1/3 on whatever he wanted at the time (mostly toys - he couldn't indiscriminately buy candy). He had to save 1/3 for bigger purchases (gifts, bigger toys, video games, etc.). He had to put the remaining third into a bank account and this money was to go for a car when he was old enough to drive.

She got this technique from some financial adviser. It seems to have worked well. At almost 16 he is going to have enough money to make a substantial contribution to a used car (I think he's going to buy one of his parent's older ones). He is very responsible about money and understands that if he wants something he needs to budget and save for it.

Posted by: kep | October 20, 2006 9:47 AM

My kids are definitely going to learn to be self-sufficient -- I'm just too dang lazy to be doing "for" them for the next 17 years! But seriously, I don't think you do your kids any favors if you never require anything of them. One Dr. Phil-ism that I really like is that you're not raising kids, you're raising adults (and seeing my 5-going-on-15-yr-old, that totally makes sense to me).

But beyond basic chores and such, I want them to not be intimidated by new things. My husband and I both have areas in which we are very confident and areas that intimidate us -- it's completely stereotypical, but he can fix anything or build anything but is terrified in the kitchen, whereas I can cook anything but am lost when it comes to electrical wiring, etc. I hope my kids can learn the best parts of both of us, so they don't have to call the plumber when the toilet needs a new flapper vale, or are too intimidated by the kitchen to invite friends over for dinner, etc.

The problem I am having is, like someone else said, how do you "replace the declining desire to pitch in with a growing sense of responsibility about picking up after themselves"? My daughter is moving from the "I do it myself" stage and into the "why do I have to do that?" stage. So we're having a lot more of the "because it's your [lunch/jacket/shoes]" conversations of late. And I also have to fight my urge to be efficient and get stuff done as quickly as possible -- it's so much quicker short-term just to do it myself, but so important long-term for me to take the time now to teach them.

One thing we haven't even remotely figured out is the allowance issue. We're starting to teach my daughter about money (if she wants something beyond what we would normally get her, she pays for it out of her piggy bank, etc.), but the connection is not there yet, and I just don't know what is appropriate for a 5-yr-old. One of the best things my mom did when I was in 10th grade was move me to a monthly allowance -- basically, she turned my dad's child support check over to me, with the proviso that the first 1/3 had to go into my college fund, and the rest was to pay for my clothes, school lunches, and anything else. I of course blew through the first month's money in two weeks, but figured it out real quick when I had to brown bag it the rest of that month. By the time I got to college, I was ready to handle the bank accounts and budgeting. So I have a decent sense of what to do when my daughter hits 15-16 -- I just don't know what to do for the next ten years until we get there!

Posted by: Laura | October 20, 2006 9:50 AM

Cranky perfectionists get their due whilst trying to fold contour sheets - anybody know how to fold those(^%&$*^% things anyway?


Only about 5 people in the world can fold those sheets. My sister is one, and I'm assuming Martha Stewart is another. The rest of us should just admit defeat, roll them up as best you can, and stuff them behind the nicely folded flat sheets.

Posted by: can't be done | October 20, 2006 9:51 AM

"I read somewhere that it is abusive (mentally at least) to reward behavior from kids"

Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

I know how to fold fittted sheets. I figured it out by myself and when I saw Martha Stewart's method a few years later, it was exactly the same as mine. I don't think that folding fitted sheets, or, indeed, anything at all, is a good index of how self-sufficient a person is.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 20, 2006 9:55 AM

Mine (6 & 9) get an allowance which is decoupled from chores. They get 'ice cream money' of $0.50 per school day which they can buy ice cream with, or save. They usually save it :-)

Their school lunch money is on an account, which we keep replenished automatically online. They memorized their 7-digit account number as kindergarteners, and punch it in at the cashiers. I think that's common nowadays, but it impressed me!

I was also very impressed at the preschool ritual where even very young preschoolers clean up their classroom, with a cleanup song and work that goes quickly. Our problem is that unlike preschool with clear structure and transitions, we often don't see the mess when it's created. Our kids are older and on a longer leash so we often don't notice that their quiet play/crafts has hit 3 different rooms leaving a wake behind them, til either 1) the next day or later, or 2) we need to rustle them up for the next agenda item: out to a scheduled activity, or to eat, or to set the table/prep for dinner, or start the bedtime wind-down, etc. So the mess piles up as an unpleasant surprise . . . I think they could handle the cleanups better if they didn't get so big, and become separated from the fun of making the mess in the first place.

What we do do for cleanup, though, does work pretty well, and it was a 'parenting' suggestion I saw somewhere. We do a cleaning 'blitz' where everyone is cleaning for a given amount of time. We play loud music with a good beat (I was particularly taken with 'I'm never going to clean up my room' by Cathy and Marcy for a while, just set on repeat, but lately it's been kids' rock chosen by the kids.) For a mild cleanup, I'll tell them they have to help clean for 4 songs; for a big cleanup (almost always motivated by wanting to have a playdate over), they help clean for the whole CD. I do have to give the youngest (6) specific manageable tasks, otherwise she is overwhelmed. It's amazing how much having the distraction of loud, upbeat music, and an absolute quitting time helps cheer you up to get through cleaning! I've also explained to both girls how cleaning up makes everyone feel like Cinderella very fast; everyone hates it, it's boring and seems like it will take forever, and it always seems like you're doing all the work and nobody else is helping or appreciating you. It was easy to convince them of this because they used to see how grouchy cleaning up makes me! They learned too fast that steering clear of a grouchy mom for a few hours was the price of a cleaned up house (and my oldest really prefers the house cleaned up, she gets frustrated by the mess; in fact she moved out of her shared room + playroom with her younger sister to a space of her own in our converted attic, to get away from her sister's 'mess'). The blitzes are an attempt to make cleaning both cheerful and shared. Anyway, the Cinderella spiel seemed to help; my youngest will come to me when sheh feels too oppressed and say "I'm feeling like a Cinderella," and she then gets happier if I shift our tasks a little so that we are working in the same room, and she has some cleaning company.

My oldest is really a good sport about it; I try to keep her cleaning in common space but she's right that the lion's share of the mess was made by her little sister. I just remind her that we're a family and we all take care of the house together no matter who made the mess, those aren't elves that pick up *her* dirty socks every day. . .

As for chores, we do have a 'kaper wheel' for dinner-time; parents + kids are on it and a spin determines everyone's dinner job, with choices of set table, clear table, waitress (get everyone's drinks), and sweep.

Posted by: KB | October 20, 2006 9:58 AM

My experience is that kids are usually eager to help with chores until they're competent, then it's no fun. My 5 year old is now learning that a job needs to be done, even when you don't want to do it.

Both my girls love to help build or fix things-- dh's goal is to require they learn how to change the oil on a car before they learn to drive.

I go back and forth with the allowance issue. I have heard good things about _The First National Bank of Dad_ by David Owen. Basically he acted as a "bank" for his kids, giving an outrageous interest rate so they could actually see the benefit of saving and letting their money "work for them". One of these days I'll actually read the book.

I know that money skills can be taught, but based on my kids, I think savers and spenders are born, not made. My older dd hoards candy, chuck e. cheese tokens, you name it. My younger dd blows through them as fast as she can manage. But both my kids will understand budgeting and interest before they leave my house (which will be around age 21, or they'll be paying rent).

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 20, 2006 10:04 AM

My folks had three kids and we grew up in CT. From the time we were safe to do so we set the table, washed, dried and put away dishes and did laundry. We learned to iron by doing my dad's handerchiefs. We were responsible for the lawn mowing, leaf raking and shoveling the snow. My parents gave us an allowance for these. We also babysat and had paper routes. We had elderly customers on our paper route who we also mowed, raked and shoveled for on one condition: our house had to be done first! My parents had us convinced that if dad couldn't get out of the driveway to get to work we wouldn't eat or have a house to live in. They provided the basic clothes for church, play and school. If we wanted something above and beyond the one winter coat then we had to save for it. I remember one winter I just HAD to have a ski jacket. I worked very hard to earn the money and you can bet that I took the best care of that jacket possible. Teaching kids to do things is so much more than getting chores done - they learn the value of hard work and money. Sometimes people didn't pay us - we learned how to collect for our work. I think we all turned out very responsible with our money and have a good work ethic.

Posted by: KB Silver Spring | October 20, 2006 10:04 AM

Allowances? Housework? Not in my family.

Okay, not in my family as a child.

My wife and I have gone through phases, while I was in school and working full time I had less housework, while she was in school full time she had less housework.

A few funny stories. My wife told me I cleaned the bathroom wrong one time. I guess the military floor drains are apparently available or installed in rental apts. or houses. So I told her if I did it wrong she'd better do it. I got out of cleaning bathrooms for over three years. Until finally she wised up and told me she didn't care how I did it, but could she please show me a few of her tricks, then I could do it however I chose. I can clean a bathroom in 12 minutes now, and yes, I was doing it wrong.

The trick to folding fitted sheets is to tuck the corners inside the other corners. Just poke your fingers up there like the edge of the bed, fold in the two sides neatly and fold like a regular flat sheet. Whoops my wife taught me that too.

My 7, 5, and 2 year old daughters all clear the dishes, save a few full cups or runny items. They have a salary. And if they don't clean up after being told they have to buy back those items they need before a week has passed.

My oldest daughter is saving for a kid saver club prize at our Credit Union and is learning the value of money.

The 7 and 5 year old both know how to empty the dishwasher, put in a new trash liner, take out the trash, vacuum, dust, and make their beds. Do they do this things every time they are supposed to? I wish.

But they do such a great job I can forgive them. Especially since they put away their laundry tubs (thanks honey I love this idea) and it teaches them to sort by A, B, C patterns which is all the rage in early math these days.

There is nothing more fun than doing yardwork or housework with helpful little hands.

Now if someone could just help me realize the 7 and 2 year old are pleasers and love to clean while the 5 year old is too much like her dad. Uninterested in housework.

My daughters will have their own bathroom, laundry, and cleaning responsibilities by the time they are 12. That way we can go golfing or to the movies as a family on my days off. Thanks to my older sister I learned kids are really just slaves to free up family time that the wife and I would spend cleaning, etc.

Posted by: Mr. EstrogenCentral | October 20, 2006 10:05 AM

gmac, I applaud your effort in giving your kids an allowance and making it work. However, if you are going to control how they are to spend or not to spend their own money, I think it misses the point. For me, the allowance strategy just ended up being extra parenting effort on my part.

Last night after my wife left for work, my 2 middle kids wanted to go to Border's book store. I told them I didn't have any money, which is partially true, but most of all, I just didn't feel like going, besides, the house was a mess. So without being asked, they spent an hour and a half doing the dishes, vacuuming, helping each other out with laundry, and what finally got me, my annoying son brought me a beer without shaking it up first.

So at 9:00 pm, we began a half mile walk out into the rain. My son got a Valvin and Hobbes book, and my daughter got the 7th book of "A Series of Unfortunate Events".

I got my house cleaned, a little excersize, and my kids reading books. Not a bad evening at all.

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 20, 2006 10:06 AM

From what I've seen, parents who do everything for their children appear to be acting out of unconsciously selfish reasons: "Look at what a great parent I am, helping my kid in this way. I am Helpful Parent! Yay for me!"

The result then seems to be kids without skills (or confidence) and potentially life-long weaknesses.

But perhaps I'm wrong. Can anyone make an argument for why some parents do everything for their kids? Serve their kids lovingly? Take care of their kids' every need?

My understanding of the reason is above, but maybe there's a real argument out there.


Posted by: Mass. Prof. | October 20, 2006 10:07 AM

As the only child of a single mom, I think I was a little too spoiled. I did chores around the house (mowing, folding laundry, vacuuming, etc.) but my mom wasn't very regular or structured about making me help. Sometimes I wanted to help more (I always begged to help with cooking, but that was her 'me' time and she would get easily annoyed if I didn't do things the way she wanted). She also often did things for me that I look back on and think, wow, I was spoiled (e.g. in high school, waking me gently with a cup of hot tea and chatting for a minute since she knew I wasn't a morning person and tended to wake up slowly). By the time I got to living with roommates, I honestly wasn't very good at picking up after myself and expected others to do things for me (of course, my roommates quickly disabused me of this notion :-). On the other hand, my mom kicked my butt to be independent and financially responsible-- I financed my own college education entirely through scholarships and working and she always encouraged me to be debt-free.

My husband had a traditional, old-school SAHM who did everything for her kids, including cleaning their rooms and putting their folded, ironed laundry in their drawers (she did everything for her husband, too-- and he still doesn't lift a finger at home). My hubby didn't learn to cook or clean and neither did his sister. However, when my husband was a teenager, he just decided one day that he didn't think this whole arrangement was very fair and took it upon himself to help out! When we visit his parents, he and I were the only ones helping his mom for a long time-- now we've gotten his sister in the habit of pitching in, but his dad is a lost cause. Somehow, my hubby grew up to be very neat. He always picks up after himself and does 50% of the household chores. When we started to live together, he trained me to be better about picking up after myself (and we use a chore chart to help us keep track of things) so in the end we were both able to overcome our upbringing. (He did bring me hot tea in bed this morning though, so I guess I'm still a little spoiled :-)

We both agree our kids will have to do chores and learn to pitch in as members of the family. Thanks for all the many suggestions here on how to do this-- it seems kids can start to help out at a very early age!

Posted by: JKR | October 20, 2006 10:08 AM

Wow! I never realized how much my parents had my sibling and I do around the house until I read this! I was one of four, and we were always expected to help out with laundry, dishes, yard work, groceries, etc. It was just what you did as part of the family.

When I got my drivers permit at 15, my dad taught me to pump gas, check my oil/fluids, check the tire pressure and put air in the tires. It was incredibly annoying at the time, but I couldn't get my license until I could do all of these things competently. At 23, I am sooo greatful that my dad took the time to teach me these basics. They seem like common sense to me now, but some of my friends can't even pop the hood of their cars! That is just not safe.

Posted by: neige108 | October 20, 2006 10:08 AM

Ironically, my husband, who grew up in India with servants, is MUCH more domestic than I am. In the US, he became a wonderful cook. He is the designated bathtub cleaner in our house, and is overall quite a handyman. He can whip my butt in any domestic chore (and occasionally enjoys lecturing me on a more proper and efficient way to do it). However, I still plan to teach our now-14-mos-old son all about chores and money management. My DH had to learn all these things out of necessity when he came to the US alone at 21 (and happily did so) but I want my son to help around the house!

PS. Servants in India are not like you would think (it's not like the British model). They are completely uneducated and in great need (you supply their clothes and food too). Each servant requires a lot of supervision and training. Because of their extreme poverty, they may steal from the household. Once you train them, they often will leave you without another word, for better work. It's a sad situation in the society. People there who are kind to their servants know they are helping to save them and their families in far-off villages (who they may see 2x year), literally, from starvation.

Posted by: Rebecca | October 20, 2006 10:11 AM

Yes, Martha taught me how to fold those fitted sheets too. I saw it on TV once, which was probably more helpful than her website:

Posted by: Monica | October 20, 2006 10:11 AM

"Look at what a great parent I am, helping my kid in this way. I am Helpful Parent! Yay for me!"

I think it's more likely to be impatience with the learning process. It's time-consuming to supervise a 5-yo who is dusting the living room; it's easier and quicker just to do it yourself.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 20, 2006 10:12 AM


It is truly a talent. My mother folds sheets like a pro, the fitted sheet is perfectly square and fits into the final fold of the flat sheet with the pillow cases. It is like a square taco and lies flat - it is a work of art. Sadly I did get the folding the fitted sheet gene..

Last comment on allowance. Agreed that seperating "chores expected of kids" - like putting away clothes, clearing the table, hanging up bath towels, and toys put away from "chores that kids get paid for." My kids get paid for the extras - helping clean up before and after company, yard work, brushing and walking dog, cleaning cat box (gross!), helping mom and dad when they need it. If I get "lip" about something I ask them to do they are warned. The balance is going to shift as they get older and they will be expected to do more as the basics and "earn" the rest.

Posted by: cmac | October 20, 2006 10:14 AM

Capitol Hill Mom-- if you're looking for some other ideas for how to motivate your 3 y.o. without bribes (which is hat it sounds like the popsicle is?), I've heard good things about the book "playful parenting".

Or, instead of offering a popsicle, you could offer an activity, using a prediction "after you take off your shoes, we'll go get your blocks out-- what do you want to build?"

I try to avoid bribing my kids, because the implication is that the activity isn't worth doing unless you're paid for it. Research shows that it almost always backfires. Apparently even the reading reward programs actually reduce the amount of time kids read-- they figure out how to do the least reading possible to get the reward, instead of reading for the sake of reading.

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 20, 2006 10:15 AM

Childless by choice,

You are right that children need to learn respect, but if parents teach their kids to respect everyone who is older or in a position of power, they are setting their kids up for who knows what because they will never stand up to adults.

Respect is earned not given.

Posted by: to childless | October 20, 2006 10:19 AM

Great topic today - yippee!!

My parents were both the youngest child in their families. Mom had a stay at home mom AND a recently retired father, and dad had parents that both worked (but had an older sister that was the only one with any chores). Consequently, to this day I don't know how they manage to get through a day (still trying to get the whole grocery shopping/bill paying/house cleaning thing down). I learned from my grandmother a lot of things - how to mop, iron, sew a button, cook simple stuff - and taught myself lots more, at a young age. My younger sister didn't learn that stuff then, though, due to chronic illness so she's still learning, too.

I came into DD's life at the age of 10. Partner is capable of running a house, but had been in a deep depression due to the ex-wife leaving them (selling the house they lived in, threatening to take DD away after she'd abandoned her for years to live only with my partner, etc). DD had never had chores consistently at our house (now has joint custody with her other mom). When I came in we started looking at it, and now DD does a few chores consistently (takes out trash, feeds animals, takes laundry from washer to dryer in another part of the house and then folds) and does kitchen stuff (and is a pretty good basic cook at 13). Her other mom owns a lawn service, and DD works for her for her cash - we pay for appropriate things, and some treats, and DD spends her 'work money' on everything else.

Unfortunately, this is leading to the mindset her other mom has, which we both hate - "Oh well, I screwed up, I'll just pay for it". DD has used this mindset for breaking her cell phone, losing a check from church camp that was her roommate's part of the room we prepaid for them, for breaking things around the house, and for forgetting to tell us about things she's got planned. Has anyone found a way to deal with this mindset? We want to make sure she feels responsible for the mistakes she makes (especially big ones) but at the same time, when she's got $500 in the bank it's hard to make having to pay the $20 rush fee to mail her camp registration seem like a big hit, even though she was supposed to write her essay for months before it was due.

Posted by: Rebecca in AR | October 20, 2006 10:19 AM

"From what I've seen, parents who do everything for their children appear to be acting out of unconsciously selfish reasons: "Look at what a great parent I am, helping my kid in this way. I am Helpful Parent! Yay for me!" "

Hmmm, I'm not sure this is always the case. My MIL was and is a virtual slave to the family, but that's just her culture (she's not American) and her way (she's very modest and selfless). I think she really does it out of love and a belief that this is what she should do for her family. Also, I think the reason she didn't train her daughter to do chores and cook is because subconsciously she wanted her daughter to have a different life than she did (i.e. professionally focused, not domestically focused). And in any case, though she didn't teach her kids how to do cook and clean, they aren't in the least bit bratty or irresponsible-- they're both thoughtful, respectful and kind (they just have to eat sandwiches if they're on their own for dinner).

Posted by: JKR | October 20, 2006 10:20 AM

Mass. Prof.--here's one theory defined by a scenario. Frankly, every parent probably has a different reason. There is no "everyone".

It's time for kid to go wait for the bus. This is the day that both parents have meetings first thing in the morning and CAN'T take the time to drive kid to school. This is the day kid decides to learn to tie shoe laces. Which would take about 30 minutes, and ruin everyone's morning. Mom ties kid's shoes. Kid loses motivation.

Kid wants to clear table. Dad takes one look at fragile dishes and quantity of food remaining on plates. Dad does dishes. Kid loses motivation.

Sometimes it's just easier/faster/more accurate/no nagging to do it for them. Although my husband and I try VERY hard to plan ahead so that these problems don't arise.

Posted by: Connecticut | October 20, 2006 10:22 AM

FO4 - I am trying to teach my kids to save. I don't know too many kids that save - most spend their allowance as soon as it hits their hot little hands. Plus, I want them to think about HOW they spend their money. Eventually when we start the spending phase I want them to learn to prioritize, not blow it all on candy.

Case in point, my parents basically did the same thing and I really THINK before I spend. My husband didn't have much guidance and blew every pay check he collected till we started dating.

Posted by: cmac | October 20, 2006 10:26 AM

Capitol Hill mom

Another problem with the bribe, and it is one, is that you are teaching your child that she is entitled to sugar if she does what she's supposed to. Not a good idea to ever use food as a bribe, with the possible exception of dessert, and even then it is more the removal of something that is a given if nutritious food isn't eaten first. We're still struggling with that one. It acts as a bribe, even though we actually see removing it as a consequence.

Don't feel attacked by this. You have been doing the most natural, common thing there is. It should just be thought through a bit more. As you are doing by asking the question. Kudos!!

And for what it's worth, sometimes the immediacy of a bribe is necessary. Just try to spin it as a reward!

Posted by: Connecticut | October 20, 2006 10:30 AM

One word I will pass on about children doing their own laundry:

BANISH bleach from your laundry room.

I have had more disasters when children did laundry and used bleach. You can keep it put away and use it for your own laundry, or when you have specific things that need help, but to leave it out for everyone to use is a disaster waiting to happen.

Posted by: RoseG | October 20, 2006 10:32 AM

childless by choice said:
"Courtesy and good manners are invaluable tools that are needed in everyday life."

Considering the source, I just find this statement to be unbelievably funny.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 20, 2006 10:33 AM

My brothers and I each had weekly chores that we were expected to do (age appropriate--watering plants, folding laundry, sweeping floors) with no allowance attached. If we wanted to earn money there was a set of additional chores we could "sign up" for (mowing the lawn, washing the windows). By the time we were twelve, we were expected to buy our own clothes & pay for any meals eaten outside the house. Our parents were not well off, so this was a great solution to teach us responsibility and also keep the whole family's finances in order. We quickly learned to pack lunches, and shop at the Salvation Army!

However, while this training served us really well through our starving student years, it's funny... all three of us entered adulthood with a probably undue appreciation of luxuries. Sure, we can get by on very little and we know the value of money. But all three of us decided we would absolutely NOT be poor in our adulthood. For me, and the youngest brother, this has been a good motivator, and we both went into excellent careers (not wealthy, but much more comfortable than our parents). For the middle brother, who has a learning disability & hasn't yet been able to obtain any great job, it's backfired completely. He blows his money on luxury goods and never has enough for necessities. He knows he shouldn't, but he's just so tired of going without.

Moral: your kids always learn something from you but it's not always what you planned to teach them.

Posted by: worker bee | October 20, 2006 10:36 AM

"Courtesy and good manners are invaluable tools that are needed in everyday life."

Well, considering that Rude Dude was appointed as an Ambassador, clearly courtesy and good manners are *not* necessary, although I do agree that they can make life easier for many people.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 20, 2006 10:38 AM

capitol hill mom,
when my son was two and three he was very stubborn. (Not anymore!) I learned to give him choices, I can't remember where I read about this. For example: do you want to put your shoes by the door first or take off your hat first? Either choice was good, then he'd do both. He just wanted some control. It was sometimes hard to think up choices in the heat of the moment, but it worked! The funniest time was when he wanted cookies, and I said no, and he had a fit, so when I presented him with two identical cheese sticks, and said do you want this one or that one, he carefully considered them both, picked one and was happy. Sounds crazy, but this technique worked really well with him, still does at the age of 10. (Do you want to do your homework now or after you play outside? I know he's going to say after, but he has made a choice and a commitment, and he sticks with it on his own because it's his decision.)

Posted by: experienced mom | October 20, 2006 10:39 AM

"Courtesy and good manners are invaluable tools that are needed in everyday life."

Where is the respect for the wife of the guy you are shaggin?

Posted by: yeah right | October 20, 2006 10:41 AM

"they just have to eat sandwiches if they're on their own for dinner)."

Hah, at least these folks figured out how to feed themselves. My FIL and husband would sit for HOURS waiting for my MIL to feed them!

Posted by: June | October 20, 2006 10:42 AM

On cooking --- my 6 and 9yo girls love to help when we do 'recipe' cooking, with measured ingredients, etc, though we don't do that often (mostly foods go straight to pan/ steamer/ rice-cooker for us, in a post-work rush; usually we actually reheat for tonight and cook ahead, and by we I mainly mean DH :-) ). The girls even have a dish of their own, that they make for potlucks (I just help fetch the ingredients and remind them how much of each - easy as the name, 5 cup salad, says it all, each of 5 items is either the whole can, or a cup; it's an ambrosia-like salad with pineapple chunks, mandarin oranges, sour cream, dried coconut, and mini-marshmallows, definite kid-food).

They both would love more opportunity for cooking.

I have an idea my oldest is keen on that we will probably try soon. One of those pre-assemble dinner places is opening here soon, where you go and in 2 hours from precut and preorganized ingredients assemble 12 dinners to freeze and cook later. You can bring a partner to help assemble - for this place, the partner can be a child 8 and up. I'm wanting to do it with my oldest, and she's enthusiastic. I'm thinking we'll have a pleasant outing, get a bunch of dinners to try and even if it doesn't become a regular thing, maybe expand our repertoire by a few dishes. Also, my dd can be a moderately picky eater and I'm thinking that her helping prepare the meals makes her more likely to like them. We have so many meal options that 1 kid dislikes, we need more everybody-likes options . ..
Anyway, that's my dastardly plan . . .

Posted by: KB | October 20, 2006 10:44 AM

My folks gave us a weekly allowance when we were growing up. They gave us the exact amount that a week's worth of school lunches cost. If we wanted to have spending money, we had to pack our lunch in the morning, and save what we would have spent in the cafeteria. Believe me, there were no Ho-Hos and twinkies available in the packed lunch option!

Chores were chores. No payment for keeping the room clean, helping before and after meals, etc. However, certain "above and beyond" tasks, like mowing the lawn and washing windows, paid $2 per hour. We didn't always have a choice about whether we performed these tasks, but we were paid for our compelled labor!

Another view: a friend's family worked their kids like you wouldn't believe, running the family farm. The kids weren't paid for their two or three hours PER DAY of farm work, but when they asked for a little money to go to the movies, it was always freely given. This was the "family finance" lesson: everyone works, everyone shares, everyone benefits. It wouldn't work in most situations.

Posted by: Columbia Heights | October 20, 2006 10:44 AM

Our 2-year-old likes to help with the laudry, loading the dishes, and feeding the doggies. At this age, that's about all that's appropriate. I will teach her to do her own laundry, have her do the dishes, set the table, cook, etc., when it's age appropriate. What I will NOT do, however, is force her to get up before 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning in high school to polish the silver or clean her parents' bathroom (which was a regular occurence when I was a teenager!) I hated chores so much by the time I left my parents' house that I was a total slob through the first couple of years of college! After the novelty wore off, I became much tidier. :-)

Posted by: PLS | October 20, 2006 10:49 AM

My kids are so busy with after school activities that chores are hard to fit in. I'm looking forward to the end of this sports season so that my son can go back to garbage duty. I hate doing garbage.

He's older and less organized than my daughter. I have two laundry baskets in his room. One for clean clothes and one for dirty. All I ask is that the dirty clothes go into the dirty basket and not the floor. On weekends he washes what's in the dirty basket and pours the results into the clean basket. No folding or putting away. Just grab something, wrinkled, out of the clean basket and go.

Every summer I teach him to cook a few things. When he has a group of friends over it is his resposibility to feed them.

My daughter is a little better about chores. She puts the clothes in their proper drawers. I gave up on the folding because after spending time folding her clothes, she and her best friend would just rummage through her drawers and mess them up anyway.

I bake with her as a way to help her with her math skills as well as the joy of baking. Hopefully, we have time on weekends for family cleaning time. The kids get to vacuum, dust and help with the backyard. My husband always has my son, and sometimes our young daughter, help when he works on the cars. And that's not because they're any help, it is just so that they have some idea what's going on.

Posted by: always busy | October 20, 2006 10:56 AM

My 2 year old is a lot like yours, PLS - he loves to help with just about anything. It was actually a great revelation that I can cook dinner now if I can make up little things he can do to help me - so I'll chop up the vegetables on the cutting board and put them on a plate, and he (a safe distance away on his stepping stool) moves them from the plate to the bowl. When he's older, hopefully he can do things that actually help and don't just make extra dishes, but for now, I love getting him involved in the cooking process, doing something together, and actually accomplishing something. Same with vacuuming, sweeping - we just got him his own little vaccuum so I don't have to give him one of the attachments to the big one. He loves it. I seem to recall reading that most kids around that age develop a strong sense of order and also learn by copying their parents, so it's a great time to teach them. Today we are going to go buy a kid-size set of garden tools so he can help up rake the yard.

I haven't decided what to do about allowance. My parents gave us allowance when we were older that we could save up for christmas gifts, and when we were in high school they gave us enough to allow us to buy our own clothing. ON the other hand, one family that I really admire has taken the "family finances" approach that someone else mentioned with great results, so I don't know. We'll see.

Posted by: Megan | October 20, 2006 11:00 AM

Childless by Choice was talking about good manners and courtesy, not morals. Clearly, she does not think good morals are necessary, or at least, in her own life, she can ignore the issue of morality.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 20, 2006 11:00 AM

FO4, your son has great taste in books. I LOVE Calvin and Hobbes.

Posted by: Emily | October 20, 2006 11:04 AM

Ha, I hope he says please and thank you every time he visits her house and tells his wife he is sorry for cheating. I always thought that morals tied into good manners and courtesy.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 20, 2006 11:05 AM


The public library is a free or nearly free source of books and other great stuff for your family.

Posted by: George | October 20, 2006 11:05 AM

In our family, the kids get allowances and do chores, because they are part of the family. If they don't do chores or help out when I ask, they're not acting like a family member, so they don't get an allowance. There's no direct $$ per job. That way, there is no negotiating for more money when an additional request for help comes their way. And, they are expected to use their allowance for everything that is not food, shelter or clothing. So, a trip to the video store is paid for by them.

Posted by: Part-timer | October 20, 2006 11:05 AM

Re the helpless husband thing --

I believe that the single biggest factor in people (women and men, both) being good domestic partners is having spent a significant amount of time living alone and being self-sufficient.

Both my husband and I lived alone for about 10 years before we met. Consequently, he had no expectation whatsoever of my doing housework for him, and he still doesn't. He does far more of the heavy cleaning than I do -- vacuuming, scrubbing bathrooms, cleaning the cat boxes, etc. We each do our own laundry; he does more of the communal laundry (e.g., towels) than I do.

Early on, it was hit or miss as to who cooked dinner. However, as I follow a vegan diet while he's happy to eat pretty much anything, I do the grocery shopping and the cooking (he does cleanup).

Also, my husband grew up in a household of women -- mother, sisters -- with no dad around, and I think this made him instinctually sensitive to women's issues. In the 15 years we've been together, I can't remember a single instance of his leaving the toilet seat up! :>)

Anyway, I agree with cmac that children -- and particularly little boys -- should be taught useful household skills as well as the expectation that no one is going to take care of them when they're adults.

Posted by: pittypat | October 20, 2006 11:05 AM

just want to point out in my defence, again, that the popcycles are just juice-- there is no sugar except for whatever is naturally in fruit juice.

And does it really count as a bribe if I was planning to give it to him anyway as an after school snack? My kid is super skinny and juice has lots of good stuff in it, doesn't it?

I like the idea of saying "Let's take off your shoes and then do a project" but if he really wants a popcycle, I don't think he'll enjoy the project much. When a kid's got to eat, a kid's got to eat!

Maybe better would be trying to make a game or joy out of taking shoes off? Maybe that "Playful PArenting" book has some ideas along those lines.

Posted by: Capitol Hill mom | October 20, 2006 11:06 AM

"They both would love more opportunity for cooking."

Rachael Ray has a good cookbook for kids called "Cooking Rocks!"

My older kids have an allowance, but I don't hand it to them. Too much trouble to have the right amount of cash in the house. I have an excel spreadsheet where I keep track of their "bank account."

Their allowance is small, I think - $6/week for the 14 year old and $4/week for the 12 year old. They're expected to pay for social activities - dances, movies, etc. - snacks, and gifts for friends, as well as anything they're saving for like video games. It's not tied to chores but is their spending money for being part of this family. It keeps me from just handing out money willy nilly - if they don't have money in their account, they don't have money! My 14 year old also had a paid job this summer working for Parks and Rec where he earned about $300 in 4 weeks, and they get some birthday money from relatives.

They're expected to help when asked around the house, but I consider their main "jobs" to be doing their homework and keeping up in school, taking care of themselves re: hygiene, going to their sports practices, and practicing their instruments. I agree with whomever it was that said that learning to cook and clean isn't rocket science. I don't need them to do the dishes for me every night or do the laundry every other day to learn how to do it and be self sufficient when they're on their own.

Posted by: momof4 | October 20, 2006 11:07 AM

My partner travels to Europe for business quite often (mostly Switzerland and Germany), and he brings home currency from both countries (CHF and EUR). We set up mock bank accounts in each currency. Our 6 year old daughter may choose her allowance in any mix of currencies (though half at least in dollars) or she may exchange dollars for another currency (though we charge a transaction fee). This teaches her to monitor exchange rates, and to evaluate fees vs. value of currencies. We allow her to negotiate interest rates based on whatever research he has to support her requests. If she wants to purchase trifles like a bracelet or a dress, she must take the money out in dollars. We also offer her other instruments like CD's (and will introduce more as she gets older).

Posted by: Liam | October 20, 2006 11:11 AM

I always thought that morals tied into good manners and courtesy.

They can, courtesy and good manners can also be a veneer to hide a decrepit interior. CBC seems to want the veneer without the solid foundation. If she can focus on the outside veneer, maybe she can forget that the foundation has rotted.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 20, 2006 11:12 AM

Capitol Hill Mom, I wouldn't say it's abusive to reward good behavior, but I have read that numerous studies show that rewards and even praise tend to lower kids' motivations. One study showed that kids as young as 10 months shared less often when they were praised for it.

That said, I think of a lot of it is semantics, because most of parenting is trying to encourage one set of behaviors over another. What I've read is that providing recognition without a value-judgment is more effective (ie, "oh look, you cleaned up your toys" instead of "good job cleaning up your toys") or asking questions about what the child is doing instead of just saying good job. We've been trying to do that more and it actually has led to a lot more interaction and conversation with our two year old about what he's doing than just saying good job did.

On the "rewards for doing what I want you to" front, I agree with a lot of the other suggestions - giving choices, activities etc. Our son is also very strong willed so we go through a lot of struggles and mostly it's just a matter of time. I save the bribes for when we really can't spend ten minutes getting him to do what needs to be done.

Posted by: Megan | October 20, 2006 11:14 AM

Thanks everyone for your comments about how sometimes it's easier to just do something for the kid so that everyone can get to work / get to school / sit down for dinner, etc. This is good to know.

My new question is this: how do you balance these logistical constraints with teaching the child something useful?--especially since logistical constraints are ongoing.

For example: Does Age 6 become Laundry Age, with a 3-month window to teach so as to avoid logistical constraints? Or does everyone just plan like madpeople to work around logistics, as Connecticut tries to do? Do you say "lost the opportunity to logistics this week, but we'll try again next week?"

Another question: These MILs we're hearing about who do everything for their families. Surely the reason is larger than logistics alone? Or culture alone (as JRK rightly points out)?

Does the idea of "service to others" play a role here? Is it a useful role or a pernicious one? Can we serve others too much? Can service lead to spoilage, or towards increased generosity in those served?

I'd love to know what you all think about this. Thanks.

Posted by: Mass. Prof. | October 20, 2006 11:16 AM

To Liam - that is a riot! As someone who really does not know anything about interest rates, CDs or other longterm money management things, I know that I would have appreciated that!!

Posted by: Betty | October 20, 2006 11:18 AM

"Respect is earned, not given."

I've heard this quite a bit over the past several months, usually accompanied by the justification that children will grow into adults incapable of standing up for themselves when faced by authority figures giving doubtful orders.

I question this mindset. I don't think anyone here would argue that it is a bad idea to teach children to be polite in public -- to say please when asking for something, to hold a door open for the person behind you, to not interrupt someone in the middle of a sentence -- just the small, everyday courtesies that make living a bit more tolerable. Those small gestures are respectful. The total stranger entering the store behind you didn't "earn" your respect through any action; do you let the door slam in his face because he hasn't done enough for you to justify holding it open? Of course not!

Maybe I have a different definition of respect. Respect is not mindless obediance to authority. Respect is treating someone else the way you want to be treated: The Golden Rule. It takes so very little effort to be pleasant to people, whether strangers or not -- so easy to smile politely, so easy to ask "May I please...", so easy to *be kind* -- and at worst, even if the recipient of such courtesy fails to acknowledge your actions, you have the satisfaction of knowing you did right.

How can there be any justification for not teaching children to respect others in this way? By teaching them to give respect to others, earned or not, you teach them to achieve respect for themselves.

(And, should you wonder, yes, I do treat children the same way I treat adults. They are as deserving of politeness and respect, even when misbehaving, as we all are, and the small ones are usually tickled to be treated "like grown-ups".)

Posted by: Another Childfree Lurker | October 20, 2006 11:18 AM

Lurker spare me that's not what I implied at all. I just don't think that children should have to follow orders mindlessly. I said nothing about saying thank you or holding doors for strangers. I think some of you childfree people like to put your own spin on things.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 20, 2006 11:24 AM

Ummm....I agree with Childfree Lurker and I am anything but childless.

Posted by: momof4 | October 20, 2006 11:30 AM

"I just don't think that children should have to follow orders mindlessly."

Get out of the street right now!

Stop climbing out that window this minute!

Get away from that hot stove immediately!

Parents expect their children to follow orders without thinking about them all the time, at least during certain stages of childhood. Suggesting otherwise is dishonest.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 20, 2006 11:30 AM

There are two lessons about chores: developing self-sufficiency and also conveying the idea that everyone in a family has to work to make things happen.
So, my daughter makes her lunch every day, and my son handles his own snacks and weekend lunches. But all the family laundry is done together over the weekend, and it is a total group effort -- everyone separates their own clothes, son (mostly) monitors wash, dad and kids fold, mom irons.

Posted by: BTD | October 20, 2006 11:30 AM

"You" childfree people?

Maybe some of "you" parents need to learn how to spell defense and popsicle right

And no, we don't put our spin on things, we see them as we call them. Indeed, seeing a well-behaved, manneryly, courteous child in a restaurant, grocery store, or movie theater is not the norm. It makes for a nice experience when we can enjoy those outings without some sprog ruining it!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 20, 2006 11:31 AM

To 11:24
I hope when you teach your kids not to follow orders mindlessly that you teach them that questioning is OK; outright refusal is just plain rude! Unless, of course, the order is "get in my car" from a stranger! See, there are so many gray areas, you can't make a blanket statement.

Posted by: nocutenamesorry | October 20, 2006 11:33 AM

Actually, I think Another Childree Lurkers comments are not baseless (and I'd say we all like to put our own spin on things here...)

Many of my friends who have worked to raise children who are bright, independent thinkers (and the kids are) also have kids that are rude. I hope there's no reason the two qualities have to go together, as I would like my child to be both independent and polite, but I think sometimes parents have a hard time distinguishing between questioning authority/thinking freely and simply being rude.

Posted by: Megan | October 20, 2006 11:35 AM

I once read an article that talked about raising kids, and it said that obedience is highly overrated. Kids should not be taught to be obedient. They should be taught things like responsibility, respect and courtesy, but their will should not be stifled. Instead, their will should be directed toward what is good. A child who is strong willed is more likely to tell a bully or a drug pusher to stuff it than a child who has been taught to obey mindlessly. I tell my son that if he really wants something (it does not have to be material) and I say no, that he gets one chance to convince me to change my mind, but he has to have a really good argument. Whining does not cut it. He has to give me reasons. I hear him out on everything, even when I think I won't change my mind. It actually reduces the number of times he challenges me, because it is a lot of work to come up with good reasons why I should change my mind. And sometimes, I do change my mind, because his reasons are good. He feels he is heard, and I feel good that he can form good arguments in his defense.

Posted by: Emily | October 20, 2006 11:36 AM

Sorry- after posting I saw the idea about choices-- LOVE that! What a funny story with the cheese sticks!

Obviously, this isn't just about taking his shoes off- it is a habit that I'd gotten in to on so many levels and I'm worried about it. I want him to take a bath and he wants to read a book, so I say "After you get in the bath, then I'll read to you." HE wants candy and I want him to eat a banana, so I say "First eat the banana and if you are still hungry then you can have a few m & ms." He wants to watch a vidoe and I say "OK but you need to put your game away first."

It's a constant thing. I think breaking it up with some other ideas I 've heard here would be good for both of us-- get us out of our rut where we are playing "Deal or no deal" with each other. Thanks!

Posted by: Capitol Hill mom | October 20, 2006 11:36 AM

"Kids should not be taught to be obedient."

I see where they're going with this, but up until a certain age, I'm not sure I agree. I also don't think that kids have much chance of becoming mindless automatons unless they're temperamentally inclined that way.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 20, 2006 11:41 AM

To Mass Prof: why some parents over-function regarding children's sphere, especially chores.

I say this carefully, because each family finds a balance-spot on competing claims for time, especially. AND, that spot changes, and we have to chase it, and reset the balance.

Some families value schoolwork and say sports or arts as the "work" of children. I do also, yet am perhaps more willing than some of my friends and colleagues to say, that the family work around the house is to stay in-sourced and this responsibility carried by all.

Having said that, school homework loads are sometimes draconian, making a shift necessary in how the family covers these responsibilities.

One example of how the balance point shifts:
Children facing a AP paper plus two college applications in a week, in my house, earn a "get out of jail" card. But not all responsibilities are off. For example, that child might later rake extra loads of leaves or make homemade lasagna to celebrate with all.

Another child in a family may really struggle with "regular" algebra, so perhaps the entire school year requires a balance shift. To create time for tutoring or special computer instruction, perhaps that child carries a lighter load on a daily basis but compensates on the weekend or in holiday stretches.

More generally:
Like F04's story early, you can make a fun, child-desired activity dependent on some household task. I sometimes say, "Well, I wouldn't have friends over if the bathrooms and kitchen look like that." Poof. Done in 22 minutes, just before the friends arrive.

I find that the window for children and chores is very early, well before junior high. You have to ask this early and often of younger children. If this family-work ethic is in place early on, the tween/teen years are much easier.

Posted by: College Parkian | October 20, 2006 11:43 AM

"Respect is not mindless obediance to authority. Respect is treating someone else the way you want to be treated: The Golden Rule."

I couldn't agree more. It's really interesting that my hubby, who is Turkish, views respect (as defined above) as one of the number one values he wants to teach his kids. When I met him I was very bad about saying "please" and "thank-you" and it really bothered him. I told him that in my family, we viewed those things as 'understood', i.e. you don't have to say them as long as you ask in a nice tone of voice-- he said his view was that in the family is where you should say them the most! Strange how here we think that the closer you are to someone, the less polite you have to be-- in my family, people display better manners with strangers than they do within the four walls of their own house.

He also *always* offers me (and anyone else he's with) some of whatever he's having to eat or drink, or offers to get something if he's helping himself in the kitchen. I remember during a group ski trip in grad school, he finally decided one guy was a jerk (the rest of us had realized long before) when the dude went into the kitchen after dinner and got himself some ice cream without offering any to anyone else (none of us thought anything of it, but my husband later told me he viewed it as totally rude). He'll give most people the benefit of the doubt and forgives all kinds of flaws in people, even in people I find totally annoying-- but a display of bad manners is one thing that can make him not like a person fast.

I eventually came around to his way of thinking and after 7 years with him have gotten to where "may I... please" and "thank you" and automatically offering to give food, drink or help to others has become unconscious for me-- I do it automatically. But it wasn't always that way-- I had it modeled on a daily basis for years by my sweetie until I fully picked up on it. I think this how kids learn best too. (I find it highly amusing when I see parents who themselves rarely say 'please' try to teach their three year old to do it... what's the kid going to learn: what you do 99% of the time or what you tell him to do 1% of the time?)

Posted by: JKR | October 20, 2006 11:46 AM

Capitol Hill Mom, the examples you just gave sound very reasonable and a lot like what often happens in our house too! I think there are fine lines between compromising, learning natural consequences, and bribery, and we all do a little of each!

Emily, how old was your son when you started doing that?

Posted by: Megan | October 20, 2006 11:47 AM

Wait a minute, 11:24: if you go back to the original post, Childfree by Choice WAS specifically talking about manners -- please and thank you, common courtesy, etc. -- not blind obedience to authority. A later post (yours?) at 10:19 then conflated that with blind obedience. All "Another Childfree Lurker" did was point out that there's a difference between saying please and thank-you (CbC's point) and mindless obedience (10:19's point). I'm not seeing how that is somehow putting some sort of childfree "spin" on things. Good Lord. But maybe that's just my parenthood "spin."

Posted by: Laura | October 20, 2006 11:51 AM

Someone is leaving some incredibly inappropriate comments here without signing their name. Can we PLEASE have them removed?

And by the way, the person writing those posts has absolutely no business attacking somebody else's comments on courtesy and manners. If you have something to say to somebody, please grow up and say it to them, rather than leaving anonymous comments in a WaPo blog.

Posted by: jen | October 20, 2006 11:51 AM

I think there is a big difference between holding a door for a stranger, saying thank you to a waiter, and in general being kind to people, then teaching children to say yes to every adult who who tells them to do something.

Yes, Lizzie I expect my kid to listen when I tell her not to touch the stove, she's three, but I don't expect her to listen to every adult she passes on the street. There is a difference.

This whole argument reminds me of the time one of the football coaches told a boy in my class to run five laps around the track for being late to practice. He didn't ask why he was late or what happened. The boy tried to say he didn't feel good but the coach told him to do it anyway, he did and passed out. They had to call his parents and they took him to the doctor. Turns out he had low blood sugar. So I guess his parents subscribed to the listen to what adults tell you to do philosophy too. people.

Posted by: scarry | October 20, 2006 11:52 AM

Pitty - I think growing up with a house full of women makes a huge difference. My husband grew up with 2 brothers and a sister - and the sister was a tomboy. To some extent I can see why my MIL wanted the boys out in the yard, cleaning cars, etc - at least they weren't wrecking the house. Unfortunately all 3 boys are miserable with household chores as adults - the sister didn't learn much either (her house is a mess). Funny - my FIL was wonderful in the house - the man was always cleaning, organizing - it just didn't rub off.

I try to shoo the kids out the door myself so that I can clean - so I make myself tell them to do one thing before they go out to play. Something like carrying the laundry upstairs or walk the dog around the block.

Posted by: cmac | October 20, 2006 11:52 AM

"Maybe some of "you" parents need to learn how to spell defense and popsicle right"

Har! Actually, that is the way "defense" is spelled where I come from--England! And it is spelled that way in Canada, South Africa, Ireland, etc.

And Popsicle is a trademarked name for frozen, artifically colored and flavored water. My family always called the frozen juice things that we make at home popcycles. i assumed that's what everyone did-- I don't think the "Popsicle" company would like me to refer my homemade stuff by their name, but it really bothers you Yanks, I guess that's what I'll do!

Posted by: Capitol Hill mom | October 20, 2006 11:56 AM

"Yes, Lizzie I expect my kid to listen when I tell her not to touch the stove, she's three, but I don't expect her to listen to every adult she passes on the street. There is a difference."

Of course there is! The anonymous individual wasn't saying that, though; (s)he was saying that kids shouldn't have to obey mindlessly. I was pointing out that all responsible parents do indeed have a set of orders that they expect their kids to obey mindlessly.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 20, 2006 11:58 AM

Regarding obedience and safety, I think most kids also learn very early to hear the difference in their parents' voices when they say, "Don't touch the stove!" versus, "Don't put your fingers in your water glass." My son will stop dead in his tracks when I bark out a safety-related order, but frequently smiles with the most infuriatingly sweet look of challenge when I tell him not to do things that are really minor annoyances and then does them.

Posted by: Megan | October 20, 2006 12:02 PM

Megan give me a call and teach me how to use that voice. There are wild turkeys in our neighborhood. My daughter wants to pet them, she ran towards one yesterday and I yelled stop it will bite you and she just looked at me and grinned! I had to force her back into the house. The turkey on the other hand saw her coming and was long gone.:)

Posted by: scarry | October 20, 2006 12:07 PM

"Someone is leaving some incredibly inappropriate comments here without signing their name. Can we PLEASE have them removed?"

So don't read or respond to them. It's Friday, settle down...

Posted by: Son of Sniglet | October 20, 2006 12:10 PM

What comments are they? No one was called Hitler today so I think that it is a good day.

Posted by: scarry | October 20, 2006 12:17 PM

Scarry, I think there has to be a proper mix of fear/panic and utter authority. I can't really do it on command, only when I see a potential crisis coming on. Though it also works when the crisis is one that exists only in mind - for example, when he bent down and tried to touch a spider on the driveway and I involuntarily yelled "NO! DON'T TOUCH!" because my total phobia of spiders got the better of me.

Posted by: Megan | October 20, 2006 12:22 PM

Back to the original topic...
When I was young (but still living at home) my Dad had me paying rent. I don't remember how much, but I do remember once selling some albums to have enough one month. When I got my first apartment, my Dad gave me a bank book. He had put all the money aside. So many lessons were learned that day, not the least of which was that sometimes you have to play dirty to get your kids to learn valuable lessons.

Posted by: Pacifist | October 20, 2006 12:22 PM


I agree that we do need kids to be obedient for some issues of safety. I think that limiting your expectations of mindless obedience to real safety issues (with an explanation afterwards of what the danger was, or, if the child is too young to understand, an avoidance of the danger in the future wherever possible). Otherwise, I think simply explaining why you would like your child to do or not do whatever is a great way of teaching your kids your values (even if the value is something simple like thoughtfulness via not yelling around someone with a headache, or not speaking rudely to people).

Honestly, I think there are very few instances where mindless obedience is required-- lots of safety issues are obvious ahead of time, so you can explain to your child that he needs to hold your hand in the parking lot so the cars can see him before you get out of the car, or teach him that the stove is hot, and then even if you need to remind them, you aren't asking for *mindless* obedience.

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 20, 2006 12:23 PM

"...seeing a well-behaved, manneryly, courteous child in a restaurant, grocery store, or movie theater is not the norm."

But when I do see well-behaved, mannerly kids in public, I try to make a point of telling their parent(s) how terrific they are and how much their kids' good behavior is appreciated.

I was once in a movie theater behind a woman (maybe or maybe not a single mother -- there was no other adult with her) with three small children and an infant. The children weren't robots or anything, but they sat quietly, talking while waiting for the movie to start, and then not talking once it did. On the couple occasions when the infant fussed, the mom got up and walked around with her, while the other kids continued to watch the movie, apparently quite absorbed.

This family unit appeared at first to be the classic "oh, no, I hope they're not going to sit here" type of group, but they turned out to be a family I'd want sitting near me anywhere. Wow.

I thanked the mother after the movie and told her I really admired how well-behaved her kids were. She seemed to appreciate hearing that.

Posted by: pittypat | October 20, 2006 12:25 PM

Oops.. towards the beginning of my post, the sentence should read:

I think that limiting your expectations of mindless obedience to real safety issues makes getting obedience more likely (with an explanation afterwards of what the danger was, or, if the child is too young to understand, an avoidance of the danger in the future wherever possible).

The worst thing is to say "no" all day long, but only mean it 10% of the time.

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 20, 2006 12:25 PM

To College Parkian,

Thank you for such a thoughtful response to my questions. I had not considered the effect of homework or sports on chores, but now I will.

In particular I found your methods of balancing and rebalancing chores and housework according to the demands of college essays, algebra tutoring etc. to be fascinating. Thanks for such detail; it really told me a lot.

It's also good to know that starting early with chores and making them fun is best -- I will keep that firmly in mind for when my husband and I have kids (soon, we hope).

Posted by: Mass. Prof. | October 20, 2006 12:30 PM

I absolutely believe in teaching children self-sufficiency. "I'm a mom, not a maid," is one of my stock phrases. My girls are 9 and 11 and regularly do laundry, clean their shared room, unload and re-load the dishwasher, scrub the kitchen, mop the floor and clean their own bathroom. I'd never consider paying them a cent for this privilege.

There are ways for them to learn about money at the appropriate time (my 11-year old just took up mother's helper work and sold some things in the classifieds,) but money for work around the home is not the place, in my view, for my particular kids to learn it. I don't get paid to clean my room or bathroom and neither should they. We're part of a family and it takes everyone's hands to make the whole apparatus stay afloat.

I do pay when they're going to a movie or skating or whatever because I also think that is part of family and social-life and I am the bread-winner of the family. However, once this mother's helper work becomes steady, or they're working part-time or summer/holiday jobs, they'll start to pony up or these treats.

I'm not big on exposing kids to money concepts at very young ages. I do think it takes time and preparation to lead them to responsibility, but I just believe that money-relations can really infect family life, and that there is enough time from age 11-18 to learn about work and expenses and prepare for a proper accounting (not bouncing checks) before heading off to college.

Posted by: Dignity for Single Parents | October 20, 2006 12:33 PM

"I think that limiting your expectations of mindless obedience to real safety issues makes getting obedience more likely (with an explanation afterwards of what the danger was, or, if the child is too young to understand, an avoidance of the danger in the future wherever possible)."

I totally agree. Look, I'm not a proponant of mindless obedience, whatever that is; I was just making a point that yes, in some cases, good parents do expect their kids to obey immediately, completely, and sometimes mindlessly. The fact that these sitautions are frequently limited to safety issues doesn't mean that they don't exist.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 20, 2006 12:36 PM


"I'm a mom, not a maid."

I think your girls should respond with:

"I'm a daughter, not a maid."

Posted by: momof4 | October 20, 2006 12:39 PM

My father would not let us get our driver's license until we learned to change a tire and check the oil. He taught how to change the oil if we wanted to learn. There have been times I have been very grateful!

Posted by: Missicat | October 20, 2006 12:40 PM

Can I add another amendment to the "no mindless obedience" rule? I think that everyone, parents included, has the right to (rarely) say "Can we just not discuss this? Could you just do it for me?" Adults do this for each other as a courtesy, and it's a good lesson for kids, too. Sometimes folks are too tired, or sick, or distracted, or whatever to 'splain.

Posted by: nocutenamesorry | October 20, 2006 12:41 PM

"But when I do see well-behaved, mannerly kids in public, I try to make a point of telling their parent(s) how terrific they are and how much their kids' good behavior is appreciated."


I agree completely. My husband and I have had our share of outings that were both good and bad, in that regard. I always make it a point to go up to a parent (or even to the child/ren) and tell them how impressed I am with how they behaved.

Sometimes it is really horrifying to see how some parents let their kids act in public. Had I ever acted or carried on that way as a child, I would have never been allowed to go out.

What I've observed, though, is that it's nice to actually see a family out to dinner that talks to one another. Really, I don't understand how some families only communicate by yelling--or condoning unacceptable behavior.

Posted by: literarygirl | October 20, 2006 12:44 PM

I had to laugh when I saw Mr. Estrogen Central's post about one of his kids, like him, being "uninterested in housework." Is anyone REALLY interested in it? Maybe a few zealous souls, but most of us just understand that it has to get done, so we might as well make it as much fun as possible.

My parents taught us how to do everything, starting with small tasks very early. Yet my brother perfected the whole "I'll help later" routine that he still employs to get out of doing drudge work.

My husband grew up with a mom who believed the Southern lady routine--the man watches football while the woman does everything for the house and the kids, even if the woman also works. Ugh. Yet somehow through living on his own, my husband figured out how to do everything. And if he doesn't know, he asks. He does much more cleaning than I do. He doesn't always do things the way I was taught, but I try not to nitpick. Why complain about someone pitching in?

Posted by: restonmom | October 20, 2006 12:50 PM

Teaching one's kids how to survive in the world is essential. My mother made sure that we all knew how to operate the washer and dryer including sorting and use of laundry aids beyond detergent. We also learned how to iron those clothes. We were responsible for cooking dinner on wednesday nights once we reached the age of 12. We often prepared very simple meals like tacos from kits but became familar with very basic cooking techniques. She also taught us how to sew, type, track our bank accounts and pay bills. We became responsible for making our own haircut appointments with her prior permission. These were all things that we walked out of our parent's house and seemlessly incorporated into our adult lives. This allowed us to focus on our careers, families and hobbies. I plan on imparting these skills to my kids when they are old enough to engage in them. We currently require our 3 year old to pick up his stuff and involve him with cooking, cleaning and laundry activities in preparation.

Posted by: mommy works | October 20, 2006 12:51 PM

Different things work at different times for different children. I have one daughter who will counter every explanation given to her. While I believe in being reasonable, I have been known to say, "This is a family, not a democracy. Your opinion can be stated but you do not get a vote. discussion over." Also, "We make decisions based on what we believe is right for the family. You don't have to like it, but you must follow house rules. When you have your own kids, you can do it your way."

I could have written many of the comments here when the kids were young, but experience has shown me that sometimes you just have to lay down the law.

I think it would help if people would include the ages of the kids and whether or not the household has single parent, 2 working parents (fulltime), work from home, one fulltime working and one part-time, etc.

Time constraints make a huge difference in chores done by children vs done by parents. When my daughter was small and dinner was started as soon as we got home from work, she didn't help with anything because our kitchen was too small to have more than one person at a time working.

I have one child who wants to be lazy and waited-on and another who wants to be independent and do everything for herself. Personality plays a huge part.

Posted by: momwithteens | October 20, 2006 12:52 PM

After reading these comments, I have to say I admire you parents - it sounds very hard......

Posted by: Missicat | October 20, 2006 12:56 PM

When I was growing up, my parents never made my three sisters and I do any chores around the house. They always told us that it was better to be outside playing and having fun while we were young, and that there would be plenty of time for cleaning house and cooking when we became adults.

So when I went away to college, I had never done a load of laundry before, never dusted, or paid bills.

When I graduated from college and moved into an apartment with my friends, I had never cooked before, never cleaned a bathroom, and never vacuumed.

Not only was I not very good at these things, but I also never thought to do them. My roommates, good friends though they were, were often infuriated with me.

I soon moved in with my boyfriend who loved me enough not to yell at me when I didn't clean the toilet.

While I had a happy, relaxed, fun child, I think I would not do exactly the same thing for my own children. I won't give them lots of chores and make them do everything for themselves, but I will at least SHOW them how to do these things. That way when they enter the world as adults, they will have some idea of what that entails.

Posted by: PA | October 20, 2006 1:01 PM

a great book on getting kids to help is called kid cooperation. arlington co library has it. don't remember the author.

my son, 6yr old, has a list of chores. for every 100 check marks he gets on his chores list he gets $20. he can spend it pretty much as he pleases. we've been doing this for about 2 1/2 years. since the time we've started we've seen his comprehension of money mature. we've seen him learn that the more work i do the faster i get what i want. he also is quite willing to not spend his $20 when he wants to save for a high end item. he asked how many check marks a $60 item was. we told him 300 check marks. it took him the better part of 6 weeks to earn that many check marks. i was impressed but he resisted the urge to spend until he saved his $60. as he gets older i will expect him to spend his money on items he wants like clothes & stuff.

Posted by: quark | October 20, 2006 1:05 PM


"I'm a mom, not a maid."

I think your girls should respond with:

"I'm a daughter, not a maid.""

Why? She's not treating her daughters like maids, she's teaching them that the house is everyone's responsibility, a team effort. Sounds like a great way to build respect and sense of family.

Posted by: to momof4 | October 20, 2006 1:06 PM

momwithteens, well said!

Posted by: experienced mom | October 20, 2006 1:08 PM

My mom had an effective way of teaching us about choices. We all had chores we had to do on Saturday morning. We could not go outside to play or have friends over until they were done. If we wanted to watch the Sat a.m. cartoons all morning, fine. It just delayed when we were able to go do the really fun things.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 20, 2006 1:08 PM

Good to see so many parents who believe in LOTS of chores! (I can't believe how many of my friends don't make their kids help out) As I believe I've said before, I grew up in a large family, and we all helped out or I'm sure my mother would have gone crazy :) (but I can't fold fitted sheets!) My son has been doing chores since he was about three, and I agree with the posters who've said it helps build confidence in kids. He doesn't do laundry (because I confess I like doing laundry and don't really get tired of it) but he takes out the garbage, sets and clears tables, sweeps, helps with cooking and meal prep, and does dishes (I sometimes wonder if we are the only people in this city with no dishwasher) :) But the chore "routine" is in constant flux, because of scheduling conflicts mentioned by another poster. Few chores are done on school nights, when homework takes priority, and many chores are done on weekends. I haven't had him try the ironing yet, but so many parents have mentioned it that I might give him a shot with that one soon ...
Also wanted to laugh about some of the car care comments - my dad is a mechanic, so my sibs and I are all pretty handy under the hood, but new cars ARE harder to figure out these days! I consider it "teaching" if I convince someone to buy their own parts and let the mechanic do the labor instead of paying the mechanic's price! Doesn't help w/ learning about car engines, but you can save lots of money that way.

Posted by: TakomaMom | October 20, 2006 1:08 PM

Some of the most valuable things were some of the small things taught me by my parents over the years. The value of saving from Father beginning very early, balancing a checkbook from my Mother as I headed off to college, and just as valuable how to iron a shirt by my Grandmother as a young Army officer heading off to the Officer Basic Course.

Posted by: CW | October 20, 2006 1:09 PM

I would like to put in a few words for all the childless people who eventually want kids of their own. If you think that your love, knowledge, and your instinctive parenting skills will prevent you from ever enduring the embarrassment of your child's public behavior, you are in for a shock. Expect to be scoffed at and brow beaten throughout your parenting career. childless women will give you the worst looks.

MomOf4, I have to agree with you that by talking down to your kids with rhetorical statements like, "I'm not your maid" is actually modeling immature behavior. Kind of contradicts itself, don't you think? I like the teamwork approach where I'm the benevolent leader. I find there's much more opportunity for communication, participation and happiness. the attitude of "You do as I say because I'm the adult" leads to much more frustration than its worth.

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 20, 2006 1:23 PM

"If you think that your love, knowledge, and your instinctive parenting skills will prevent you from ever enduring the embarrassment of your child's public behavior, you are in for a shock."

I don't think that love, knowledge, and instinctive skills will do that! That's why I plan on forming a Stalinist cult of personality instead!

Geez, people never plan ahead anymore.

Posted by: Lizzie | October 20, 2006 1:27 PM

"Expect to be scoffed at and brow beaten throughout your parenting career. childless women will give you the worst looks."

Forive me, Fatherof4, but who else is responsible for that child that is acting inappropriately in public? I recognize that for the most part, the child can't be blamed. If they've never been told not to scream in a restaurant, climb on the tables, throw food, etc., then they don't know not to do it.

With that said, though, if any adults were to do any of that, we'd most likely be asked to leave. Just because it is a child acting that way does not mean we should make exceptions for them.

And I say shame on any parent that allows their children to act that way! I certainly will give them a dirty look--because it is their responsibility and duty to instill proper manners and courtesy in their children!

Posted by: literarygirl | October 20, 2006 1:32 PM

Lizzie, sounds like you are well on your way to regional hegemony!

Literarygirl, I think the real question is whether you give dirty looks to the parent who's child is misbehaving, but who is trying their utmost to cope with the situation and stop the misbehavior.

Manners are learned over many repetitions, admonitions, corrections and "incidents," not instantly the first time a parent tells a child not to scream in a restaraunt. That seems to be the thing that non-parents sometimes don't understand.

Posted by: Megan | October 20, 2006 1:38 PM

I wish someone would have instilled the difference between that and who in you literary girl.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 20, 2006 1:39 PM

I think some of the fuss about Childless by Choice's comments were that she said both --- she talked about children being polite but then complained of the 'sass' and 'backtalk' she overhears from kids.

Well, in my experience, the words 'sass' and 'backtalk' come from an authoritarian view of parenting which I long suffered and now reject (after all, didn't I endlessly hear 'when you're grown up, you can make the rules, but for now, you live under my house and you'll do what I say!' often followed another of my favorites, 'stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about.') Now I *am* making the rules and they are respectful and rational ones, my children will never be accused of 'backtalk' for being rational, thoughtful creatures who can argue their points with a sense of justice. I can tell them when a decision is nonnegotiable and they know by my tone (and how rarely I yell) when an instruction must be followed now and discussed later, for safety's sake. Other than that I am always open to their input, and rules are rules not because I am the adult, who's always the boss who selfishly imposes her will, but because fair and polite rules make life better for everyone. I smoldered under a narcissistic parent long enough to know that kids are worthy of respect, and of fairminded tolerance of their flaws as they grow into adult thoughtfulness and responsibility. Often the (loud but minority) child-free venters strike me as wanting to return to a world of children-should-be-seen-and-not-heard, children as meek little creatures who obey every adult whim and subserviently fade into the background. I find that view morally wrong.

As for politeness, I think many child-free posters have a flawed memory of their childhood behavior. I don't doubt their parents expected good behavior, and they worked hard to give it, but I do think their memories are largely from older childhood and many extrapolate them back to all children. They may be remembering 11yo childhood and expecting that level of self-control and thoughtfulness from 6yo's. It's hard for me to remember what expectations were age-appropriate at ages my kids have passed, how can those who have never studied or worked with a particular age group even begin to know what is age-appropriate, unless they listen to parents or parenting guidance?

Kids are born oblivious and self-centered. Parents teach them to become thoughtful of others, polite and not rude. But the teaching takes *years* of modeling and inculcating. And each oblivious rudeness is a teachable moment. It is a perpetual task. And it helps a lot when others are good-natured, and not child-condemning, about it. (In fact, almost always when I correct my child, usually for walking in front of someone/blocking someone/being loud or rambunctious, I pull her to me, apologize to the person they've inconvenienced, settle my child and tell her "That's rude!" and explain how her behavior was bothersome. The other adult almost always replies something like "I understand, I've got one too," which I greatly appreciate. I try to be just as supportive when kids impact me and their parents apologize . . .I know that "we're working on it" for a troublesome kid behavior is a *long* process)

Anyway, if CBC had said she was troubled by *rude* behavior, that's one thing. Kids should be taught to avoid thoughtless, rude behavior to others, though it may take a lot of teaching . . . But an adult who complains about kids' 'backtalk' --- well to me that says a lot more about the adult than the kid, and none of it is good.

Posted by: KB | October 20, 2006 1:43 PM

Father of 4, please do not lump all of us childless women together. I don't have kids but have babysat enough to know that sometimes, there just is not a thing you can do about a tantrum...

Posted by: Missicat | October 20, 2006 1:45 PM

Sometimes kids misbehave because there's something else wrong (overtired, getting sick, etc...) and they don't have the maturity to deal with it another way. We once had a meal from heck at a restaurant because my 4 year old was just falling apart. We actually ended up having one parent take her to the car while the other parent packed up all our food and paid, and we ate at home.

In retrospect, I figured out that we had had too many busy days one after another, but she went from fine to horrid in about 5 minutes.

We have three kids, 5 1/2, 4, and 7 months. I'm a SAHM, dh works. I have to admit I do a lot of reading about discipline, so I have a lot of theoretical knowledge, but my practical experience is fairly limited beyond preschoolers. I have a fairly headstrong 5 year old (she's just like her Dad, LOL!), so lately I'm trying to figure out how to avoid making EVERYTHING a power struggle. My favorite parenting author is Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 20, 2006 1:46 PM


"Manners are learned over many repetitions, admonitions, corrections and "incidents," not instantly the first time a parent tells a child not to scream in a restaraunt."

I do realize this to be a fact. But it does get old and wear thin, when it seems that parents believe that ignoring the child will make them stop. (Or, they're just tuning it out.) Because I've seen it happen, where a child is acting inappropriately, and the parent does nothing about it. I think in some cases, it's a serious bid for attention from the child--even to the point of being reprimanded.

Now, when I was a child and so much as even hinted at a temper tantrum in public, I was escorted outside, and away from that area. My mother certainly wouldn't have allowed me to carry on and ruin everyone else's dinner or what have you.

Posted by: literarygirl | October 20, 2006 1:48 PM

"Manners are learned over many repetitions, admonitions, corrections and "incidents," not instantly the first time a parent tells a child not to scream in a restaraunt. That seems to be the thing that non-parents sometimes don't understand."

Yeah, but what about the parents who aren't bothering to correct their kids? There are a lot of them (no one from this blog, though!), and they often take huge umbrage when asked to do simple things like stop their kid kicking the back of your chair.

Posted by: pittypat | October 20, 2006 1:55 PM

To F04-
I can't remember the number of times I've embarassed my parents in public! I can't blame my parents for not disciplining me enough. I had several timeouts and was expected to do several chores around the house. There were 4 of us and I was possibly just trying to stand out from my other siblings.

I've been told that a good sense of humor and thick skin is vital to surviving parenthood!

Posted by: momtobe | October 20, 2006 1:55 PM

"Because I've seen it happen, where a child is acting inappropriately, and the parent does nothing about it."

Literarygirl, I'm totally with you about that - it drives me nuts too when parents don't address what's going on, it's rude to others and to the child. My point was that sometimes others don't distinguish between a parent who is trying and a parent who is ignoring their child's behavior when they complain about this sort of thing, which makes you feel like you can't win.

And missicat, I do remember you being very understanding in a similar discussion a while back (hopefully it's ok to carry over positive associations from blog to blog...)

Posted by: Megan | October 20, 2006 1:59 PM

The proper way to discipline children in public is the loudly admonish thusly, "No! Dont! Stop!" and repeat. For the benefit of the "adults" wielding glares of death. Weird tho that when I shout "No dont stop!" My kids continue to diplay Tazmanian devil tendencies and shoot spitballs at the discrminating ladies and gentlemen in the room.

Can anybody help? What am I doing wrong? Your glares really hurt me.

Actually we taught our kids how to behave in public early on by going to church. But I wouldnt want to foist beliefs on anybody by suggesting that method...

Posted by: Fo3 | October 20, 2006 2:02 PM

We encouraged our 6 year old to draft a powerpoint on the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivations to help her internalize the concept. Roger and I will introduce her to more advanced concepts later.

Posted by: Liam | October 20, 2006 2:03 PM

Thanks, Megan - I remember when I was younger and used to glare at parents in the grocery store when their babies started screaming...then I began watching my nieces and nephews and taking them shopping. We'll just say karma is a b*****

Posted by: Missicat | October 20, 2006 2:04 PM

i still cant spel. aaaahhhhh Sorry Fo4 I hope your text reader doesnt derail from my prose.

Posted by: Fo3 | October 20, 2006 2:05 PM

My 10-year-old daughter has a lot of responsibility; I, too, grew up with a single mother and had a lot of responsibility at a young age. It's simply the reality of our given situations.

My daughter receives an allowance of $10/week. She takes care of her pets, puts her laundry away, takes out the garbage, helps keep the house clean. I try to make her understand that we both live there, neither one of us are maids, but we both have a vested interest in a clean house.

She's great about saving money (she's got more than $1,000 in the bank, including birthday and Christmas money).

I got her a cell phone last year (electronic leash), and I told her if she loses or breaks the phone, she will pay for a replacement. I told her if she abuses the phone (over-runs minutes), she will pay the differnce. She has never lost the phone and never over-run the minutes. She's better than every teenager I know with a cell phone.

I want to know that when she is 18, I can drop her in any U.S. city and she will be able to make her way. I don't have the desire to keep my child dependent on me. I want to raise an independent, strong adult.

Posted by: single western mom | October 20, 2006 2:06 PM

YetAnotherSAHM, I'm totally with you. I love Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, too (explained so much about my demanding 5-yr-old -- sure we don't have the same daughter?). :-)

literarygirl, I understand and share your frustration -- there's nothing more annoying than kids running wild in an inappropriate situation when their parents either aren't paying attention or are ineffectually saying things like, "now, Johnny, please don't kick that nice lady." It's very important that my kids learn proper manners, and 95% of the time, it works fine (I can't tell you how many waitstaff have been surprised when my daughter politely asks for what she would like to order and says thank you when the food is delivered).

But then there's that 5% of the time when you run into that unexpected event -- she's tired, she's getting sick but doesn't have any sypmtoms yet, she's overstimulated, whatever -- it's always easy to see in retrospect, and you do your best to avoid those situations once you see a pattern (like we never go out Friday nights any more, because she's too tired), but it's not perfect. Even the best kids will act up sometimes -- they're kids, not little adults. And unfortunately, the other adults around when that happens usually have no reason to know whether she's like this 5% of the time or 95% of the time.

I always appreciate the people who cut us some slack until they see whether I am trying to address the situation -- if we're in a (family!) restaurant and I pick her up immediately and leave, that's all I can do, so if someone shoots me a dirty look on our way out, I'm just going to think they're either clueless or a jerk. And I always appreciate the adults who are kind and understanding when we apologize for the disturbance. And the best of all are the adults who praise my daughter when she does act well -- makes her proud as all get-out and even more determined to show that she's a big girl and behave well.

Posted by: Laura | October 20, 2006 2:07 PM

We are a "Continuum Concept" family and our children have been helping out as best they can since they were toddlers. They absolutely do not get paid for doing so. This would undermine their natural inclination to help out and setup a power struggle with regard to getting them to do something not on their chore list. At 2, they could clear their places and put thier dishes in the dishwasher. At 3, they could sort and do laundry. At 4, they could fold and put away laundry. At 5, they could prepare a simple meal all by themselves. By the age of 6 or 7, they were genuinely contributing to the running of the household, and eager to be doing so most of the time.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 20, 2006 2:07 PM

Ok, just for clarification, when I see that parent is tending to the situation of whatever their child may be doing, I'm fine with that.

I do have enough experience with being around kids to know that they're going to act out at some point.

But simply ignoring it is rude and inconsiderate to others around you. That's the point I'm trying to make here. Allowing (or not caring) if the child runs around the restaurant, or climbs the booth is inexcusable.

So yes, I will "glare" at a parent who does nothing about it. Those who take an active, visible approach in disciplining their kids, I have no problem with.

Posted by: literarygirl | October 20, 2006 2:09 PM

Literarygirl, believe I am with you when it appears that the parents just don't care about the ruckus their kids are causing. But, I also have a problem with what some of my childless friends do, which is get upset as soon as a child dares to make the tiniest sound. I believe both sides can give a little.

Posted by: Missicat | October 20, 2006 2:14 PM

Fo3, still smarting from yesterday, huh? It kinda sucks when people decide that "With the limited amount of information I will risk passing judgement", doesnt it?

Posted by: to Fo3 | October 20, 2006 2:17 PM

I'm another childless adult who doesn't like having my restaurant meals disturbed by squalling or squealing kids. If it takes repetition to train a child not to scream, squirm, or shriek in a restaurant, I think meals out for the kid should be limited to McDonalds or kid-friendly restaurants until a child knows the limits. Listening to mom or dad constantly tell their child to "shhhh" is just as annoying. If my sisters and I had been rowdy in any restaurant other than a burger joint when we were kids, we'd have found ourselves sitting in the car and hungry. This is merely another instance of having the manners to think about how a child's behavior impacts other paying diners.

Posted by: c | October 20, 2006 2:17 PM

literarygirl, et al:

I'm a mother and I glare at those who let their offspring behave worse than the inhabitants of the monkey house at National Zoo.

Here's the bottom line: It takes MUCH more effort to actually discipline the child than to capitulate and give the child whatever it's demanding at the moment. Tantrums start at toddler age and that's when parents need to work to teach children what is acceptable behavior and what is not. And it's hard work. But my daughter got to a point where she saw other children throwing tantrums and said, "How embarrassing for that kid."

It was a battle of monumental proportions during ages two through four...but I can take my daughter anywhere--I've taken her to adult dinner parties (she was invited), legislative hearings, and other adult settings, and she is always a little lady. Good manners are always appreciated.

Posted by: single western mom | October 20, 2006 2:20 PM

Good topic today.

As a kid, I had a set list of chores to do everyday. We weren't paid an allowance but we were allowed to stay out later or pick out a video from Blockbuster once a week as our reward.

I started receiving an allowance when I started highschool and I had to pay for my own lunches out of my allowance. There were a few days where I had to brown bag it because I splurged over the weekend and spent my allowance but I feel that I am better off for having learned how to handle a budget before I went to college.

My parents were big on being self sufficient. I wasn't able to get my license until I could prove to my dad that I could change a tire and change my oil. Although I hated some of the chores and obligations I had, it definitely helped me when I moved out by myself and realized that I wanted a nice place and not some sort of flop house.

My boyfriend had a SAHM who has done everything for him. We moved in together in January and I found out in May that he had not done laundry since we moved in. I flipped! Apparently he had never been told how and was just dropping off his clothes at his parents house for his mother to do.

Needless to say, I taught him how to do laundry that night(although I still won't let him handle my clothes for fear of wearing alot of pink the next few months)

Posted by: Meg | October 20, 2006 2:22 PM


Yes, to expect a child to not make a sound is not practical, I agree.

And with that said, it's not as though I patronize "family" restaurants. I understand and expect to hear and see children in thos establishments...obviously.

I'm speaking of upscale, romantic-setting type restaurants is where I have had some of these experiences. I'm certainly not saying that children shouldn't be allowed there, but yes, a degree of respect and behavior is expected. And those who are there to have a nice meal shouldn't be subject to a helping of screaming and stomping to go along with their candlelit dinner...

Posted by: literarygirl | October 20, 2006 2:23 PM

my husband and I had a first-hand experience with toddler behavior gone wrong unexpectedly recently - our normally very-well-behaved-in-public 13-month-old just wasn't herself even though we had taken all of the regular precautions - gone out early, made sure she wasn't starving, etc.

turns out she was cutting those nasty one-year molars and 3 other teeth nearby, all at the same time; once we knew it was a lost cause (after 10 minutes or so) we also did the take-out thing

just an example of how the situation wasn't her or us as bad parents

Posted by: justhavetosay | October 20, 2006 2:24 PM

Um, no. No John, it doesnt suck, that's why I risk the flames and arrows of outrageous fortune here each day. It's all part of the jovial repartee here at the sunny Washington Post. besides always a good test as to what I can say without irking my wife, in-laws, mother etc etc. We all have our crosses to bear. Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by: Fo3 | October 20, 2006 2:27 PM

I've seen behavior by children in a restaurant that was downright dangerous. While the parents gabbed away with some friends, three toddler-age kids wandered all around a restaurant floor, crawling and sitting in the paths the waitresses were carrying food from the kitchen to the tables.

The waitresses managed to avoid any disasters, but even after one of them said something to the parents, they just said "oh, they'll be all right" as if it was the children's health that was the only thing being endangered.

My parents made it plain to all four of us kids that if we acted up in public, our punishment would be very severe when we got into a private area. It wasn't a threat, it was a promise demonstrated multiple times in the past that they meant it, so we behaved!

As for chores, I lived on a working farm. We all had things we were expected to do, each and every single day. Fixing fences, weeding the garden, helping my mom with the meals, working with the animals, etc, were all things we were assigned to do so that the farm operated smoothly. Since we were eating produce and meat from the farm, that was our reward as well. Not until I was old enough to operate a tractor (around 12 I think) did my dad start paying me a wage for my work when I used it.

Posted by: John | October 20, 2006 2:28 PM

My Mom got married and didn't know how to boil an egg because her mother/grandmother never let her help. She was not going to let that happen to her kids. We all did all the chores inside and out, regardless of gender and we did so from an early age. I can mow a lawn that would make Augusta National proud and my brother does all his families cooking and laundry. When I was in first grade and my sister was in third we were taught how to do laundry -- my mom explained that we should use a certain amount of the powdered soap OR a certain amount of the liquid. She went off to the store and you guessed it -- we put in both. It was a very Brady moment, but she didn't get mad and she didn't give up on us -- she knew we'd never make the same mistake again. My siblings and I joke that the reason we had kids was so we too could groom our children to take over all the household tasks. My brother's proudest moment was when his 18 month old could get him a can of soda.

Posted by: Momof2withoneontheway | October 20, 2006 2:30 PM

Just to jump on the topic of kids misbehaving in public.

My mother had three ways of handling the toddler meltdowns:

1) Walk away and loudly say "look at those kids, Where are the parents?". This usually resulted in us running after her and calming down.

2) Say "that looks like fun" and join us on the floor while pretending to throw a fit. We usually forgot what we were doing and just watched her.

3) For tantrums when we were younger, she would speak very very quietly and we would usually stop crying just so we could hear what she was saying.

Posted by: Meg | October 20, 2006 2:30 PM

I agree about taking kids to fancy restaraunts. We took our son out to eat with us when he was an infant, as he was well behaved and easily entertained with finger foods and straws and small toys, but only to casual places. Once he started walking and was no longer satisfied with the entertainments at the table, we stopped. I don't plan to take him again until he's old enough to reliably behave well and sit at the table until the meal is over. It's just too stressful and not worth the money. Plus, with nice places, I'd rather save that for a date with my hubby!

Posted by: Megan | October 20, 2006 2:31 PM

Literarygirl - I am with you on the upscale restaurant comments...some places are adult only.
I am one of eight kids (born in an 11 year span!), so you can believe my parents had us toe the line when we went out! With so many kids, going out was a privilege and we were expected to treat it as such. If you acted up, you didn't get to go the next time. My parents were a bit on the strict side, but I think they had to be.

Posted by: Missicat | October 20, 2006 2:33 PM

I have a question for the gals (guys, don't get mad at me) - how many of you have a brother/husband/boyfriend/father who, when they have run out of dishwasher detergent, thought that the handwashing liquid was a suitable replacement??

Just wondering.... :-)

Posted by: Missicat | October 20, 2006 2:37 PM


LOL! Hubby thought that was a great idea--once...

...until the floor was covered in suds!

Posted by: literarygirl | October 20, 2006 2:39 PM


Not only my brother but my sister did that one too!

You figure that she would have learned from my brothers mistakes =)

Posted by: Meg | October 20, 2006 2:42 PM

Missicat --

My husband so dislikes my method of loading the dishwasher that he takes dishes out and restacks them. (Which I happily let him do!)

Needless to say, he's better informed about dishwasher detergent than I am!

Posted by: pittypat | October 20, 2006 2:45 PM

Missicat, none of the men in my family, but me - what can I say? I also microwaved a stainless steel bowl. I was not the most, um, practical-minded child...thanks for giving us a good laugh!

Posted by: Megan | October 20, 2006 2:47 PM


My brother did that when we were young. He was trying to "help" and start the dishwasher, but the cabinet with the dishwashing detergent had a kiddie lock on it, so he used the dish soap. Thankfully my mom caught it before the suds spead all over the floor! :-)

Posted by: Corey | October 20, 2006 2:53 PM

My partner taught our 6 year old daughter about different surfactant properties so that she would never make that dishwasher mistake. We'll teach her more complicated chemistry as she gets older.

Posted by: Liam | October 20, 2006 2:54 PM

Momof4, yours seems like a particularly hostile response, or one itching for a fight.

I'm not asking my children to do anything more than their part. If you read my post clearly you'd see that I am not going to wait on them hand and foot but nor am I going to exploit child labor while I fat-up on bon bons. We all do our part because we're part of a family, that's the essence of what I said. I'm not there to work 48 hours a week running my business and then come home to pick up their bedrooms and bathroom. When we make dinner, we can all take turns with the kitchen, cooking, and clean up. Everyone is capable of doing their own laundry.

So you really think that's how they should respond? You're advocating children talking sassy to their parents and to expect me to do their clean up? If you believe otherwise you should lose the glib and explain yourself more clearly...

Posted by: Dignity for Single Parents | October 20, 2006 2:55 PM

Fo3, I have to agree with you, church is an excellent training ground for teaching your kids to keep quiet, behave, and respect others. some of us fathers will even snicker when the 2 year old gets loose and does a few laps around the alter, usually followed by the negligent, guilty as charged, mommy, sometimes daddy. Ah, yes, humility training at its best! And as for me, instant forgiveness will be awarded.

Advice on what to do when a kid is kicking your chair from behind or otherwise exhibiting irratating behavior: Politely ask the child to stop. Granted, it might not always work, but it saves you from having to put on your sour face to give the parent a clue as what your expectations are. Besides, I'm blind, glares don't work for me.

You can also chalk me up for a person who hates having their dinner ruined by a squalling brat. My ears are very sensitive.

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 20, 2006 2:58 PM

The offending comments are gone from what I can tell, Scarry. Today's kit is great reading and I have a pretty thick skin (to wit, today is the first time I have ever posted anything), but anonymously accusing a poster of infidelity in repeated blog postings is pretty sickening.

Posted by: jen | October 20, 2006 3:03 PM

I hate to admit it, but when I was a kid (I think I was about 4 or 5 years old), I could make myself throw up when I did not get my way. For a while there, my parents were terrified, especially in public, and would appease me to keep me from throwing up in public -- I could do it in a heartbeat. I remember I once threw up in a toy store and another time in a pool, before they were able to remove me from the situation and correct me. I'm not sure why I stopped. I am so thankful my son does not act that way.

Posted by: Emily | October 20, 2006 3:04 PM

Fo4 --

I tried that once. The mother got angry at me, told ME to settle down, and said, "They're just kids!"

I was really polite to the child, and I didn't give the mother a glare. That's what I got for MY courtesy.

Posted by: pittypat | October 20, 2006 3:06 PM

Emily, that's amazing. I've never been able to even make myself cry on demand.

Father of 4, I've been told that one of the mega-churches in our area has a giant screen up front behind the preacher, and if a child in the nursery or sunday school is misbehaving, they flash it on the screen to alert the parents, and, of course, everyone else in the place. "John and Jane Smith, please come retrieve your child from the nursery" I find this idea extremely amusing.

Posted by: Megan | October 20, 2006 3:09 PM

Childless by choice said that about herself and was quite happy about it, so she shouldn't post things if she doesn't want people to bring it up.

Posted by: to jen | October 20, 2006 3:10 PM

No one was unjustly accusing Childless by Choice of infidelity. The regulars who read this blog have seen that she has in the past openly admitted to having a married lover with children, and that this wonderful lover of hers cheated on his wife during her pregnancies. Childless said this proudly, so she gets exactly what she deserves. She is an immoral boil on the butt of humanity.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 20, 2006 3:11 PM

Sometimes kids in church are the best part of the service...Especially when they make funny comments to their parents in that EXACT moment when everyone else falls quiet.....*snicker*

Posted by: Missicat | October 20, 2006 3:12 PM


I have a daughter who does the same thing. It happens after I put her in her own bed. She wants to sleep with us. She kick though, so it is getting old. Anyone have any advice on how to get the kid out of the bed!

Posted by: scarry | October 20, 2006 3:14 PM

I have no advice for you Scarry. My son is still in my bed. Sigh.

Posted by: Emily | October 20, 2006 3:17 PM

Missicat wrote:

>With so many kids, going out was a privilege and >we were expected to treat it as such. If you >acted up, you didn't get to go the next time.

Lifestyles have changed a lot and I don't think many families now view eating out as a rare privilege, it's just built into daily life. We eat out about 3 times a week regularly (one is a 9 years+ family ritual, a weekend lunch at our favorite deli).

Of course we're not eating at cloth-napkins kind of places, just family restaurants with reasonably fast service --- a few to several notches above fast food. Maybe I'm low-brow, but I see most restaurants as family restaurants - certainly most of the chain restaurants you might see along the interstate, for national comparison - and candlelit options as rare, travel/expense account kind of options. We are regulars in most of our restaurants, there's plenty of ambient conversation noise, and often kids' specials. But options are certainly more than the burger places c would relegate families to --- we have regular Asian, Mexican, Mediterranean, Greek, pizza and deli options which our kids like (and which like our kids!) We did have some phases when the kids (now 9 and 6) were impatient and we reduced our eating out, sometimes to just the once a week deli lunch. But the regret and privileges lost were not the kids', they were ours! (Though we did sometimes leave work to go out to lunch together, just us parents, midweek as a consolation . . .)

The main criterion including/excluding restaurants to us now (assuming good food, that the kids would like) is slow service.

Posted by: KB | October 20, 2006 3:17 PM

I don't have time to read all of the comments posted, so I apologize if my contribution has already appeared today.

An article I read many years ago had a suggestion for teaching children how to save money. It's a suggestion that I intend to use with my son. The suggestion is as follows:

The allowance should be given in sets of two; like two quarters, two dollars, etc. The child has to put half of the allowance into the piggy bank, but gets to do whatever (s)he wants with the other half. The child and the parents agree on an amount that the piggy bank has to reach before that money can be spent on an item of the child's choosing (with some parental guidance). The article reported that it isn't too long before the child grasps the concept of saving.

My son just turned a year old, so it'll be a while before I can try this out on him. But, I think it's a great idea. Just my two cents...

Posted by: MAY | October 20, 2006 3:18 PM

Sorry to take up blog space on the comments, all. I actually do read this blog regularly but somehow managed to miss Childless by Choice's, er, comments on that issue.

Posted by: jen | October 20, 2006 3:20 PM

I have been to restuarants with my family (including the small kids) that mainly put the family with small children in a separate room. We felt a lot more comfortable about having the babies and toddlers with us in that situation. Definitely no glares, just sharing stories/ideas, etc. with other parents and family members.

Posted by: Missicat | October 20, 2006 3:21 PM

kicking the chair....brings back a BAD memory.

Please turn around and ask.

My son was a toddler on a long plane flight and was standing on his his tray table as support to get some hight so he could see the TV screen. Guy in front violently recline his seat, hit child in head and knocked him over. Need I add screaming? Nice role model of adult behavior - and trust me DS wasnt acting up, pushing the chair infront around etc... but he was acting three. Questions, tray up tray down, coloring, drop crayons, go under chair to retrieve etc... The plane wasnt full, he could have easily asked the flight attendant to be moved.

Sometimes "adults" forget they ever were children.

IMHO this jerk should have been arrested for assault.

Posted by: Fo3 | October 20, 2006 3:23 PM

May, I like your advice.
My husband and I do an alternative to that. We have three piggy banks. One is savings. It never gets touched. One is emergency. It was used to pay for a another book when my son lost one of his library books. Another time, we used it to buy another soccer ball when he lost his. The other is stuff that he wants. He can spend this pretty much any way he wants with certain limits.

Posted by: Emily | October 20, 2006 3:24 PM

Isn't that assult fo3? What did you do?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 20, 2006 3:26 PM

Scarry, I sympathize. We moved our son out in stages. We had his bed right next to ours and would have him nap in it and go to sleep in it to start, and then slowly started extending the amount of time he spent in it, and then moved it to his room. I think we started by getting him pretty much asleep either rocking or nursing, and then putting him in his bed, so he wasn't alert enough to resist. I'd lie down with him till he was asleep. Then he would just wake up in his bed, and he seemed to just gradually begin to associate his bed with sleep. But, the timing of this coincided (by chance, not by any though on our part!) with his developing independent streak, so I think he liked the idea of having his own bed at that point.

Posted by: Megan | October 20, 2006 3:27 PM

A lot of the ethnic restaurants and pizza parlors are fast food restaurants in that they cater to people who are in a hurry and have a menu composed of items that are quickly made. So kids are usually not a problem there.

However, if you walk into a restaurant and the overwhelming majority of diners are adults in business clothes or dressed for a romantic evening, they probably don't want to hear squalling kids. Those who have kids have probably paid a babysitter in order to enjoy a quiet evening of their own with other adults.

I know many kids are capable of behaving in "adult" restaurants. The children who shared our table on a cruise were perfectly behaved (ages 5 and 8) but the child at the next table was awful as were his parents. The father reached across the table and hit this child in the mouth!!! My sister who works for CPS gave him a lecture after diner when she found him in the hallway.

Posted by: c | October 20, 2006 3:31 PM

'Apparently he had never been told how and was just dropping off his clothes at his parents house for his mother to do'

that is so funny!

Posted by: experienced mom | October 20, 2006 3:39 PM

Missycat, I did the Lemon Joy in the dishwasher too. Then I had to mopped the kitchen floor, which needed to be done anyway.

Babies at church are so refreshing I remember when I was a teenager and would scout ahead to find the pue behind the baby.

Pittypat, I cannot justify an angry response to polite requests. I for one, appreciate help from strangers and try not to feel like it's an inadequacy on my part. I know that there are blind people that snap at others who try to help them out, and it hurts me because I know those people who have been snapped at are unlikely to help me out when I'm struggling to navigate through a train station or across a busy intersection. I encourage you not to give up on being polite based on that incident.

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 20, 2006 3:40 PM

Assault at 30,000 feet

We had a newborn and DS with us, so we retreated to the back of the plane to console. Never guess who got all the dirty looks from other passengers? Wasnt the violent man - nobody knew he had done anything. My wife asked that I "not make a scene please." We were on British Airways - the "children are to be seen and not heard" airline. We flew Virgin after that one - friendly staff - happier passengers.

In hindsight I do wish I had mad a scene.

In an earlier flight my wife was flying alone with baby and toddler and broken glass from biz class spilled back into the bulkhead area in coach. The flight attendants refused to pick it up. Nice job American Airlines. When I heard that story I emailed and phoned complaints no response - I avoid that carrier at all costs.

Posted by: Fo3 | October 20, 2006 3:40 PM

I'm confused. If it is so much trouble to move a child out of the parents" bed, why start the habit at all? Aren't a number of little ones accidentally suffocated every year when sleeping with their parents?

Posted by: George | October 20, 2006 3:41 PM

I actually think my parents were very lazy. I love them dearly but by the time I was in elementary school, I realized that there is a difference between self sufficiency and just being lazy. My mother is one of the worst house keepers ever and my father was not much better. We had do laundry, cook dinner, shop for groceries, vacum, boys mowed lawns and took out trash, cleaned the whole house and get our selves to school. We made our own lunches by second grade and our own breakfasts as well. Except for working for money and gardening (which is a big hobby for my mother), I really can't recall her doing anything else after third grade. I don't think my father EVER did anything. So now, I am trying to find what is a good line. My daughter is still very young (2 3/4) and I have her help cook. Honestly she is not really doing anything all that helpful but I think she is learning. She pours, mixes and stirs. She also loves to sweep. I plan on getting her a child size broom and as soon as she is old enough that can be a legitmate chore. She will eventually make beds and clean her own room. But I plan to pay her for her chores and with hold her allowance if she does not complete her chores. I think me and my brothers are all a little resentful of our parents lack of parenting or helping keep the house they were living in as well, clean. But I do want to say they were very good and loving people. Just lazy. They still are. They try to get the grandkids to fetch them things. The older kids have caught on and just ignore them. But they went to town on Halloween costumes, elaborate crafts, decorating our bedrooms and talking and listening to us. So you get some good some bad. I just try to emulate the good and not do the bad.

Posted by: foamgnome | October 20, 2006 3:43 PM

"My son was a toddler on a long plane flight and was standing on his his tray table as support to get some hight so he could see the TV screen."

That doesn't exactly sound safe to me. Where were you when he was doing this?

Posted by: that guy | October 20, 2006 3:44 PM

Does anyone have any suggestions as to what to do when you politely ask a child to stop kicking your seat and you get a nasty response from the parent (like the example pittypat cited)? It's happened to me a few times (me (to kid): "Hi--you might not realize it, but you're kicking my seat, and it's starting to bother me. Please stop." Kid's mom: "S/he's just a kid! Lighten up!" or my favorite "How DARE you talk to my child?!"

Any good responses to this?

Posted by: jpd | October 20, 2006 3:44 PM


Getting a plane this evening and I always manage to sit behind that person. It's even better if you have your computer open on your tray table - it scares the crap out of ME and I'm 31! Seriously, do peopel not realize that the space back there is like 4 inches!

Posted by: Betty | October 20, 2006 3:46 PM

I witnessed an American Airlines attendant who was so nasty to a mom travelling alone with two well behaved children. The mom asked for the full soda can, so her young one wouldn't spill, the attendant refused, despite her polite pleading, so she said no soda then, the kid was fine with that, the attendant proceeded to give the kid an open cup with soda and ice, it spilled, and the attendant refused to help clean it up. I think some of the other, unrelated passengers were ready to throttle the arrogant attendant, but we can't do that, can we? That nice mom had more help than she needed the rest of the flight. It was the attendant who collected all the glares.

Posted by: experienced mom | October 20, 2006 3:46 PM

I started it because I was nursing and liked the bonding experience of having the baby in the bed. I do like the family bed concept, at least in the early years. And no, I don't believe that this is unsafe, unless the parents are unusually heavy sleepers or intoxicated. It is becoming a little inconvenient now, but the pluses were so good in the early years that even now, with the advantage of hindsight, I would do it again.

Posted by: Emily | October 20, 2006 3:48 PM

George my kid is three so I don't worry about suffucation.

Posted by: scarry | October 20, 2006 3:50 PM

Clarification: DS was standing on his seat from time to time, using the tray table as support. He wasnt on the tray table. We were in adjacent seats. The seatbelt sign was off, you cant have a 3y.o. strapped into a seat for hours. Try it sometime. He was and is a good traveller. If he had been acting up we wouldve removed him to the back of the plane. Had to do that with DD this year on her first flight anywhere. 3yo was Thrilled to fly - until we took off. She was seated next to DS who was being a good big brother - but when rubber came up - she shouted, rather loudly and quite clearly I might add, "NOOOO! I want to go back down!" DS had his hands full for a few minutes there. Still makes me laugh.

Posted by: Fo3 | October 20, 2006 3:57 PM

Liam- You crack me up!
You sound like my aunt and uncle...although they aren't making a joke. They actually try to raise their kids like that.

and to experienced mom- thanks for the comment! I was just blown away when I realized that he had never learned to do laundry.

As for the kids kicking the seat: I have a standard response "whoops, I don't think you realize but you are kicking my seat"

I havent received any back talk (from the kids or the parents) when I use that line but then again, maybe I have only run across polite people.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 20, 2006 3:58 PM

We taught our 6 year old daughter to pilot the plane herself, which removes all incentive to kick others' seats.

Posted by: Liam | October 20, 2006 4:00 PM

George, many experts agree that co-sleeping is safe so long as parents take the same precautions with the bed as they would with a crib: hard mattress, tight-fitting sheets; no heavy blankets or comforters; no gaps between the mattress and headboard/wall. Also, parents who are very obese, unusually heavy sleepers, or intoxicated should not sleep with their children. There is disagreement about this though, which is perpetuated because the statistics are very unreliable for a lot of reasons. Often studies don't distinguish between an infant that is smothered when the parent has inadvertantly fallen asleep with him or her in an arm chair or sofa and one that is sleeping in a properly prepared adult bed; they also don't account for parents that are intoxicated, etc. It's often difficult to determine whether an infant died of SIDS or was smothered, and sometimes the deaths get double counted. Things like that. But I felt that it was a safe arrangement with the proper precautions.

If done safely, it can be wonderful - since we were nursing, I got a lot more sleep because I could just latch my son on and go back to sleep. I sometimes didn't even really wake up when he wanted to nurse, it just became automatic. And it is very snuggly. It's not for everyone, but it can be great. Till the kid gets big enough to become a bedhog ;)

Posted by: Megan | October 20, 2006 4:00 PM

People has such an issue with nudity. Sometimes, when my son was younger, if we were in a hurry and needed to go out quickly, I would let my son jump in the shower with me. My husband did the same. It was never more than a quick shower. Creepy is in the eye of the beholder.

Posted by: Emily | October 20, 2006 4:06 PM

"My son was a toddler on a long plane flight and was standing on his his tray table as support to get some hight so he could see the TV screen."

This sounds like a completely insane thing to have a kid doing. A) It's dangerous. B) It's absolutely going to annoy the person in the seat in front.

Why would you have your kid doing this???

Posted by: pittypat | October 20, 2006 4:06 PM

Scarry, all 4 slept in our bed. I liked it. Not only that, I never had to fight the bedtime battle. they move out on their own at 4 years old. I've heard the "cold turkey" is effective, but I tried it once and found out I don't have the will power.

Suggestion response for "He's only a kid":
Well, then can you please try to prevent him from kicking my seat.

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 20, 2006 4:07 PM

kicking the seat - I preferred if the kickee spoke to me rather than directly to the child, but if they did speak directly to the child in a nice manner, I was polite. I will admit to resenting my sister correcting my children in front of me, especially when it is something that we find acceptable and she doesn't and we are in my home.

Posted by: momofteens | October 20, 2006 4:11 PM

I'm sorry, I would never resort to doing or justifying what this man did, but if a kid was doing that on the tray table behind me on a flight, I would be extremely irritated too. It would cause the seat to constantly bounce up at down. Just because your child did it innocently, doesn't make it any less annoying. That said, the man who caused your child to fall should be ashamed.

Posted by: TS | October 20, 2006 4:13 PM

>>Suggestion response for "He's only a kid":
Well, then can you please try to prevent him from kicking my seat.<<

F04, the problem with the "he's only a kid" response is that it implies that there is nothing that can be done about the seat kicking. Granted, I've only gotten that response once, but the tone of it was like I had asked the kid to grow six feet--to which "He's only a kid" would be an acceptable response.

I've only asked seat kickers to stop twice, and each time gotten rude responses from the parents. I just change seats now, but that's often not possible.

Posted by: jpd | October 20, 2006 4:16 PM

How did you get your kids to move out (of the bed) at 4? My son is 6 and wants nothing to do with moving out. He considers my nice king sized bed his own. (And I understand why, since he slept in it since he was born).

Posted by: Emily | October 20, 2006 4:16 PM

Re: tiny babies sleeping with their parents.

Sounds very risky to me. I remain confused and unpersuaded.

Posted by: George | October 20, 2006 4:18 PM

I was on a long across-the-Atlantic flight that unfortunately happened to be carrying a mother (at least 250 pounds of her) and totally uncontrollable 2-year-old. The kid spent most of the time screaming at the top of his lungs running amuck up and down the aisles and terrorizing most of the passengers. When the stewardess asked the mother to strap him in because we were preparing to land the mother replied "I'm trying but he won't let me." I only hope I'm not around when that kid grows up.

Posted by: BB | October 20, 2006 4:24 PM

'Sounds very risky to me. I remain confused and unpersuaded'

if you don't like it, don't try it, but don't critize either. The family bed is standard all over the world.

Posted by: experienced mom | October 20, 2006 4:24 PM

FO3 - I just cannot believe someone did that to you. Whether or not your child was bothering him, he supposedly is the ADULT and should have acted accordingly. What happened to manners????

Posted by: Missicat | October 20, 2006 4:25 PM

I don't care what fo3's kid was doing an adult never has the right to endanger a child! He could have really got hurt and then what would they have done with him in the air? You are a much calmer man then my husband, said man would have been on the floor and security would have been waiting on my husband at the gate.

Posted by: scarry | October 20, 2006 4:27 PM

The Family bed - my parents did this with my little sister. She didn't leave their room until she was 11 years old. I understand the benefits etc. but that was just plain embarrassing to me as a family member. Please start early to get them out. My mother would've been fine having her there until she got married. It may be standard all over the world, but in some countries, 11 is old enough to get married. :)

Posted by: TS | October 20, 2006 4:27 PM

but in some countries, 11 is old enough to get married. :)

gross, thank god I live here

Posted by: Anonymous | October 20, 2006 4:30 PM

experienced mom, that made me smile - my in-laws initially were critical of our choice until my husband pointed out that they and all their siblings had slept in their parents bed - it was common in this country too until fairly recently.

George, there's a lot of information out there, if it's something your interested in learning more about. And remember, regardless of what you think about co-sleeping, that cribs are not 100% safe either; babies die from crib-related accidents as well. There is disagreement as to whether one is safer than the other, but neither is 100%.

Posted by: Megan | October 20, 2006 4:34 PM

"The family bed is standard all over the world."

Perhaps so. But isn't it ironic that many of us had immigrant ancestors who HAD to sleep multiples-in-a-bed because they were so poor? Once they had income enough for it, kids got their own beds -- or at least shared with a sibling.

Posted by: pittypat | October 20, 2006 4:35 PM

"I was on a long across-the-Atlantic flight that unfortunately happened to be carrying a mother (at least 250 pounds of her)"

"the stewardess"

I'm wondering if you are either a male chauvinist pig or living in a time warp.

Why the nastiness about the woman's weight? And the word "stewardess" is practically from the Bronze Age.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 20, 2006 4:38 PM

I had heard alot of people are doing the family bed thing...whatever works for you! Though it is funny to imagine all of my siblings in one bed...that would have been a sight.

Posted by: Missicat | October 20, 2006 4:39 PM

"When the stewardess asked the mother to strap him in because we were preparing to land the mother replied "I'm trying but he won't let me.'"

Good Lord, how horrifying. What's next, "I'm trying to keep him from playing in traffic, but he just won't let me"? "I'm trying to keep him from swallowing the Drano, but he just won't let me"? Be a parent already.

Sorry, probably overly sensitive. My husband's friends lost their baby in the Iowa crash 10+ (20?) years ago, because they didn't have a separate seat for him and the instructions to put the babies on the floor turned them into projectiles (from what he says -- haven't confirmed independently -- about half of the folks with seats on that flight survived, but none of the "lap" babies did). So it hurts to see people not take basic airplane safety seriously when they DO have a seat and so CAN do something to minimize the risks.

Sorry, total downer.

Posted by: Laura | October 20, 2006 4:39 PM

"The Family bed"--

Sounds a little sick to me.

Once a kid is past nursing, staying in mommy and daddy's bed just puts off the point at which the kid has to begin learning about personal space and boundaries.

The very fact that so many of you are asking for advice about how to get kids OUT of the bed suggests that it isn't such a great idea after all.

And it really is creepy.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 20, 2006 4:42 PM

It's only creepy if you think that sleeping is a sexual activity. You must be areally uptight, cold person to be so creeped out by a child sleeping with his/her parents. Get a grip. People did it for centuries before we became wealthy enough to have separate bedrooms for kids.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 20, 2006 4:52 PM

""The Family bed"--

Sounds a little sick to me."

I'd say this is more reflective of your state of mind than anything else. We also had a family bed and loved it. And it's very very rare for a sober adult to roll over on a baby. Think about it, have you ever rolled over on your cat, your spouse, or off the bed for that matter?

Posted by: JR | October 20, 2006 4:53 PM

"Why the nastiness about the woman's weight? And the word "stewardess" is practically from the Bronze Age."

Didn't know they had planes in 1200 BC? Well, guess you learn something new everyday. Off to happy hr!

Posted by: baby | October 20, 2006 4:53 PM

I was implying the mother was big enough to control the kid physically, if not parentally. Obviously a lot -- A LOT -- of touchy, defensive people on the blog today.

FWIW re family beds, which is pretty disgusting IMHO -- in the Washington Post several months ago there was an article about an affluent couple 'who wanted for nothing' (direct from the article) who had a huge bathroom and a shower stall with 5 showerheads. The entire family -- parents and 2 kids -- could shower together. I thought THAT was totally kinky. Bloggers never commented on the fact parents were showering with their kids, only wanted to know who would want 5 showerheads in the first place. Isn't bathing and showering with your children a little perverse, considering the headlines about kids being molested by priests and Congressmen? Doesn't that stuff start at home?

Posted by: BB | October 20, 2006 4:53 PM

""The Family bed"--

Sounds a little sick to me."

I'd say this is more reflective of your state of mind than anything else. We also had a family bed and loved it. And it's very very rare for a sober adult to roll over on a baby. Think about it, have you ever rolled over on your cat, your spouse, or off the bed for that matter?

Posted by: JR | October 20, 2006 4:55 PM

Sounds very risky to me. I remain confused and unpersuaded.

I am not trying to persuade you. Frankly, it does not matter to me what you think about it. You asked why people did it. I explained why I did it. If you don't like it, don't do it. Doesn't matter to me.

Posted by: Emily | October 20, 2006 4:55 PM

amazing that all you talk about teaching them to budget and save but none teach about credit and debt. They will be exposed to it some day and they should not think it is all bad (as early generations had) beacuse it is not but none of you are even hinting at teaching them how to use those financial tools appropriately instead you focus on artificial budgets (no market-based lessons there).

Posted by: aa | October 20, 2006 5:43 PM

Harumph. Another slooow Friday afternoon. You'd think I should be working or something.

Posted by: Megan | October 20, 2006 6:00 PM

Late to the conversation, but somewhat relieved to know I'm not the only one with issues with my almost 6 year old asking "Why" or the more defiant, not yet mentioned "I'm not going to and you can't make me" where before she was all about helping ...
I wasn't expecting this until pre-teen years, does this stop and then re-start?

Posted by: LGB | October 20, 2006 6:01 PM

Late to the conversation, but somewhat relieved to know I'm not the only one with issues with my almost 6 year old asking "Why" or the more defiant, not yet mentioned "I'm not going to and you can't make me" where before she was all about helping ...
I wasn't expecting this until pre-teen years, does this stop and then re-start?

Posted by: LGB | October 20, 2006 6:01 PM

Oh thank god you're here LGB! :) Of course, I can't answer your question as my son is only two, but I would guess that it does. It seems like my son's need to assert himself has varied a lot even over the last two years...

Hey, didn't you say you had a car wreck recently? Are you feeling better? Or am I thinking of someone else?

Posted by: Megan | October 20, 2006 6:05 PM

Megan, yes, it was me in the accident - and all is well (except for dealing with the collision repair company - thank goodness my faculties are back in order, or I'd let them get away with alot more.)

I think some of my daughters issues stem from not having quality time with me - she sees her 15 month old brother playing around and doesn't understand why he gets to, when she has to do homework, pick her jacket/shoes up off the floor. (Yup, mean old mommy is on the loose again.)
Because of how late we get home, by the time we're done with dinner, homework, baths, its time for bed. Somehow she doesn't see Aftercare as "real" playtime.
And how do you explain to a 6 year old your rationale behind not signing her up for Girl Scouts? (its so late by the time we get home, I don't like Girl Scouts, though I know many others love it, you already do gymnastics, I'm antisocial and don't want to lose my peace on the weekends - I'm sure someone else will read that I'm lazy)

Posted by: LGB | October 20, 2006 6:25 PM

Here's a suggestion on what not to do. I had to do a lot of chores growing up... but NOTHING was ever right. I folded this wrong. That dish has a spot. I half-a$$ed wiping the counter.

The result? I hate chores and actively avoid them. I flip out if my husband points out anything I "did wrong". He's the one who does the majority of the chores and constantly nags me to do my share. Yes, I'm working on it. And yes, I'm in therapy.

Have your kids do chores, but appreciate their efforts. Don't criticize, insult, or mock. Encourage them. If they don't do it "right", consider: did they not do what was intended, or did they just not do it your way? If the former, offer constructive criticism. If the latter, let it go. Please.

We're getting our toddler to help out, and right now it's fun for him. I hope it will remain, if not fun, at least important to him.

Posted by: mommy of 1 | October 20, 2006 6:27 PM

LGB, glad you are feeling better!

That sounds hard for your six year old. And I completely understand about the Girl Scouts! I seem to remember a good friend of mine giving basically that explanation to her daughter, who was close to that age, and actually she seemed to understand some of it. I think though, that she was prepared to let her daughter choose between Brownies and the other activity she was already doing, so she basically said, we can't handle two activities, if you really want to switch you can, but I think you should stick with what you're doing. I was surprised that it worked. But again, I'm not really sure how old the daughter was at that stage so she might have been older.

I'm giving up my charade and knocking off for evening, have a good weekend!

Posted by: Megan | October 20, 2006 6:35 PM

LGB - just gave me a chuckle. My mother said I could not join Brownies, so I signed my daughter up as soon as she was eligible. By year three, I became the co-leader. It was a bit of work on top of 40-hr out of home job plus everything else. The upside was that the other co-leader and myself had some control over the activities that the troop participated in. By year 5 I was the co-leader of 2 troops because second dear daughter was old enough to be a Brownie.

Posted by: mj | October 20, 2006 7:40 PM

George: "Aren't a number of little ones accidentally suffocated every year when sleeping with their parents?"

LOL. Short answer: no. Long answer: the AAP just recommended cosleeping!!!! They studied it and determined that it substantially lowers the risk of SIDS.

And fyi, the ONLY parents who suffocate their babies are drunk, or high, or both. Mothers are naturally aware of where their babies are and when their perceptive ability is not altererd by drugs or alcohol, everything works just fine... just like it has been for millions of years. ;)

Posted by: Anonymous | October 20, 2006 9:14 PM

mommy of 1 - I had the same issues. I found Flylady helped a lot - - in rewriting those scripts.

I appreciated a lot of the answers today. We don't have a lot of issues yet although we encourage our 14 month old to be with us and "help" with things and will keep doing that. But in thinking about this I've kind of thought that the difference, for me, between what I went through growing up (which was at times extreme) and having everyone in the family pitch is is often that everyone is pitching in. I hope to do dishes together with my son so we can talk (or not) during them, and so on and so forth.

I also think modelling is really important so my husband and I are both working on picking up after ourselves and showing our son that.

Posted by: Shandra | October 20, 2006 9:27 PM

Emily, your posting name formerly known as Rockville, gives me a totally different image of your person. As the name "Rockville" implies, I thought of you as a stone-solid technie, now your new name, emily,, I think of you as a tender-hearted mommy, and I am flattered that you asked me for specific advice, so I'll try my best to explain the family bed as I have experienced it.

First of all, I don't like sleeping in a "made" bed. I prefer bumps and lumps and different textures on my skin depending on the weather, heat and humidity. this explains why I like lots of sheets, blankets, stuffed animals, especially teggy bears, pillows, pet cats, a loving spouse, and during the cooler months, a soft warm baby to hug while I sleep. I consider it my reward for the challanging life that I live.

The thing about a baby is that, according to plans beyond my control, is that they grow bigger and bigger as they get older, and the area in the bed begins to run out. this sparks a competition for space, the most desirable, of course, is at the bosom of my wife.

As I have both the strength and weight advantage, this means that the toddler will eventually get placed and forced to sleep at the foot of the gbed. if they become a disturbance, I slowly push them with my foot over the edge of the bed.


Sometimes the kid will just sleep on the floor at the foot of the bed, but if they try to get back on top, they know their place. Eventually, they find it more comfortable to sleep in their own bed. This leaves me right next to my wife once again... both of us missing a nice soft, warm, cuddly baby between us, which we remember as having comforted us through several years of affectionate, inspirational parenting...

emily, if you have a king-size bed, room isn't the issue, so my experience with the family bed may not apply in your case. As of the birth of my 3rd kid, I pretty much let my kids determine when they are tired enough to go to bed on their own. This means at when I say lights out , TV off, computers down, they have nothing else to do except brush their teeth, take a shower or bath, and read. Reading really makes a kid sleepy, so I have no problem if any of my kids stay up late.

Hope this post sounds more informational than creepy.

good luck emily. I wish you the best!

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 20, 2006 10:20 PM

"Manners are learned over many repetitions, admonitions, corrections and "incidents," not instantly the first time a parent tells a child not to scream in a restaraunt."

How many reps? Dinner at our house is nice, pleasant family time, but trying to teach my kids table manners is taking a long time. I must say 6 times during a meal to each of them to take their arms off the table. They won't lift their hand to their mouth--they move their mouth to meet their hand! The oldest is getting it, but the younger --9--is a slow learner. Drives me crazy.

Scarry, you NEED that time in bed with your husband, plus you need to get a good night's sleep. Get a sleeping bag and put it on the floor-hopefully you have wood so it won't be too comfy. Let him sleep there. You could also try the redecorating thing--have him pick out a comforter. Either way, this is really, really important. Sleeping alone in a bed is really one of the few skills a kid that age can have. Talk to him well before bed that tonight he will be sleeping in his own bed. If he naps, let him sleep there. Make it comfy, put out something that smells good, do whatever he likes to make his room a great place to be. Read a story, rub his back, sing a song. If he comes into your room, walk him back to his. Prepare to do this a million times the first time, a few less the second. A three year old is a warm and sweet baby all snuggled up to you, but as somewhat pointed out, we aren't raising children, we are raising adults! Snuggle your husband!) Parttimer

Posted by: to scarry | October 20, 2006 11:48 PM

As far as chores and allowances go, here is my story. My mom did it all, and I had to reinvent the wheel as a grown-up (and I can fold those sheets Martha-style, but I learned it from her!), but my kids will not. Both of them (ages 9+12) can cook and clean. Our house is too large for me to maintain by myself (no snarky comments please). We are a team, and we all have stuff to do that has to be done. If mom and dad don't go to work, we will be hungry and homeless. The kids have chores, just like the parents do. The oldest makes her own lunch every day, but I make the youngest ones lunch. The oldest was put out by that at first, but when questioned who made her lunch when she was 9, she saw the light. The have about 15-20 minutes of chores each day. They are smart enough to know that 15 minutes a day is better than 2-3 hours on a weekend. The usual stuff--empty the dishwasher and set the table (they switch off every day--doing them together is more trouble that it is worth), make your bed every day, put your dirty clothes in the hamper ( I once found my oldest with a horde of dirty clothes in her closet. She learned how to do her own laundry that day!), clean your own bathroom, put away your clothes, and once a week they vacuum. They also take out the recycling and garbage. They are good kids. I guess I am doing the whole allowance thing wrong though, cause I give them each 20 bucks the first of the month, then they are my SLAVES;). Just kidding. My oldest was having a party this weekend and I told her the things that needed to be done. She did some of them before hand, but really resisted the biggest thing. I tried to help her by setting the timer for 15 minutes a day, and sometimes it worked, but sometimes she and her sister just fooled around ( it was a group project). Today I told her that if she didn't get it done, I would do it. The thing is, what SHE thinks is important to keep is perhaps not what I think is important, and if I have to clean it, then she may end up missing things. We have done this before, and it made her sad (loves to keep and frame every flippin lintball). She finished it herself. Nobody likes to CLEAN clean--the heavy duty stuff, but we all like inviting friends to a peaceful, welcoming home. The youngest one loves to cook and if somehow their dream comes true and they are left alone in the house for an extended period of time (like 3 months), they will not starve, be dressed in rags (oldest can sew), nor live in filth! Looks like all that HGTV paid off! Also, they both can knit. I still have to teach them how to iron, however. I am keeping the spray starch for me!

Just one more thing--what is with all the puritan attitudes about nudity? My kids and I went to the YMCA daily for a long time. That is where they learned how to take a shower. We don't shower together anymore, but that is more of a room/time issue. My daughter would love for me to shower with her--then I could wash her mane of hair! I say if you don't want to take care of it, then cut it. We have often had the kids in bed with us, but after a few years, it gets too crowded. We used to play musical beds all of the time. My husband and I would each end up somewhere besides our bed, while our kids would both be snoring in ours! When he goes out of town I let them sleep with me, and they often sleep together. A family I knew growing up had a boy and 4 girls. Whenever my sister and I slept over, there would be 6 girls in two beds, and we never thought twice of it! Also, we were always so tired from playing that we it didn't take long for us to pass out. We looked like a pile of puppies. Anyway, if my kids can create an orderly and peaceful environment, then I feel I will have been successful.

Posted by: parttimer | October 21, 2006 12:12 AM

oh, my MIL is the best. she brags constantly about how she "raised her boys to be self-sufficient." she actually did a good job of it, too-- my spouse is neater than i am and does fully half of the domestic tasks. but then once we were married, she seemed shocked when i didn't suddenly become the servant to her son that she is to my FIL.... it's nice to be able to remind her that she "raised her boys to be self-sufficent" and they didn't lose that skill by saying "i do."

Posted by: baloney | October 21, 2006 3:03 AM

To: to scarry

I haven't tried this with my own kid yet so this is theoretical, sort of. A friend of mine has a fancy dinner at home about once a month - good china, linen napkins, etc., doesn't matter what the food is as long as there are rolls involved to practice on. For those meals she puts out candles and has music and makes a fuss, and gets the kids to dress up (however they would like to, no pressure) and then uses those meals to practice company manners. She says the fun of it and the specialness eliminate a lot of the nagging, and she and her husband are finding it kind of romantic. She works on manners the rest of the week too of course but those are the high intensity times.

For us, our baby's still 14 months but we do try to take him out - at odd times, not primetime Fri evening - to restaurants of varying degrees, so he grows up with it. We are each fully prepared to walk out and throw cash on the table if anything goes Horribly Awry though.

Posted by: Shandra | October 21, 2006 7:10 PM

Thanks for all the tips on getting the kid out of the bed. SHe is in her own room now, so we will see how it goes!

Posted by: scarry | October 22, 2006 9:10 PM

I can totally relate to the complaints about lazy husbands. My boyfriend had a SAHM who did absolutely everything for him. The first time we had dinner at her house I started to clear the table only to have him say "Mom will do that." After a dirty look and my pointing out that his mother had done all the cooking, he began helping, apparently for the first time if the reaction of his family is any indication.

When he moved into his own place, I had to take him shopping for cleaning supplies and explain that, 'No, you can't use the same thing for the mirror, the counters, and the toilet.' Thank god my own parents taught me how to cook, clean, and do my own basic repairs. (The BF also needed to be taught the difference between a Phillips and flathead screwdriver)

Posted by: izzy | October 23, 2006 8:55 AM

This topic particularly interests me, as I am a teenager with an unusual amount of independence: I've been at boarding school since I turned 14 three years ago.

I am able to function with this lack of parental input because from a young age my parents let me think for myself. You'd be amazed at how much independent thought translates into independent actions. I was allowed to read anything I wanted, including books whose values my parents opposed (i.e. The Fountainhead) before I started middle school, and was given unbiased answers to all of my questions. When I first began to comprehend the conflict in Israel, and asked about it, my Dad presented several sides to the issue, and though he told me what his opinion was, he let me come to my own conclusions.

(Somehow, my political and social beliefs ended up right in line with theirs, anyhow.)

I also was allowed to make mistakes that my parents knew would have consequences, such as choosing a horrible purple color for my bedroom walls. Until I left home, I had to suffer through a million nights in that hideous room. This taught me to think ahead about how my tastes might change over time.

This mental autonomy from my parents shaped the way I thought about my actions. Knowing that nobody else would think for me, and that I had to come to my own conclusions, also led me to realize that nobody else could act for me, and that I had to deal with the consequences of my decisions. If you want the same for your kids, that would be my suggestion.

(And if you want to teach your 7th- or 8th-grader some independence real quick, and make up for lost time, help them apply to Andover. I guarantee that they'll be monitoring their bank accounts, doing laundry, and managing their own time within weeks.)

Posted by: Victoria | October 23, 2006 8:58 AM

I didn't have to do enough as a kid and it does make it difficult to catch up. At 5 and 7 my kids helped with laundry and I warned them that at 14 they do their own. Especially important because my 14 year old has stopped changing her clothes 3 times a day because she knows she will have to wash and fold it all. When she runs out of time (she is in honors classes and 2 sports) and begs me to help her, she is appreciative when I do rather than expecting it. Even when they were 10+ years, if I asked them to change over a laundry load and they didn't remember, they got banned from family laundry for a month for ignoring my order. It got them in line pretty quickly.

I also taught them how to cook at a young age and if something comes up like I am on a business trip or sick, they can take care of themselves. My son (12) and daughter love to bake and cook meals. Big problem is cleaning up after themselves but we are working on it. Soon I will have to start teaching them vehicle maintenance.

Posted by: Linda | October 23, 2006 10:35 AM

I read this column and responses enthusiastically on Friday afternoon and was absolutely inspired! I tried the "let's see what can get cleaned up in three songs" method and it worked like a charm. My 7 year old did more in those 3 songs than she'd done in 2 hours last weekend. My 4 year old was given a very specific task which he nearly completed during the songs, which again is more than he did last weekend in 2 hours. And to see them clapping along to the ESPN Jock Rocks CD was priceless!

My husband and I also agreed that the kids needed to step up in helping out so we tried to make it all a game and not only did I get some good little helpers for laundry, dinner prep (beyond setting the table) and leaf bag stuffing, I had no whining about it! Targeted tasks with real goals is now going to be my mantra!

Thank you so much for all of the suggestions and for opening up this topic. Loved it, used it and feel like a better balanced parent for it!

Posted by: Alexandria Mom | October 23, 2006 10:44 AM

How to stop children from running up & down the aisle of airplanes: trip them. Works every time.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 23, 2006 11:04 AM

I, too, taught both of my boys (now ages almost 18 and 20) to do their own laundry at age 10. They've also been doing dishes (rinsing, loading and unloading the dishwasher) and setting the table since about that age as well.

I figured that if I could babysit my three younger siblings, clean house, do laundry and cook meals beginning at age 10, doing their own laundry, cleaning their rooms, helping with dishes and table setting duties were the least they could do to contribute and learn responsibility.

At 10, my kids were strong of mind and body and had way more energy than I had (they football, basketball, soccer and baseball). As an added plus, when they were a little older, girls thought it was cool that they did their own laundry.

It reminds me of that wonderful movie from the 80s (I think), Stand and Deliver (with Edward James Olmos). Our kids' limitations are determined by how high/low we set the bar. If we do not challenge them to be independent and to do for themselves, they will not. It's that simple.

Posted by: Dana C. | October 23, 2006 12:26 PM

I was the oldest of seven so my parents had to teach us to do things on our own pretty early. My mom claims that we were picking up our toys at 18 months.....I didn't think it was possible but I have two girls ages 29 and 17 months and they pick up their toys. Yes you will have to give constant encouragement and clap for them after every toy initially.....but after a while it becomes easier. With eating out, take them to mcdonald's and start there with manners and sitting still. Have some paper and crayons ready for them as well. Practice sitting around a table and eating at home. Even if you buy a cheap plastic table and chair and let them have dinner, they will learn how to sit and eat without being disruptive. Same goes for church. But you have to start out young. I started young and my girls are now too. I have taken them to some formal dining places with a minimum of problems. Also, have a plan b in case they don't like the food or just are antsy.Take them outside, bring a quiet game, etc. It takes practice and repetition, but it is well worth it. After a while, it becomes rote to them. My oldest shows my youngest how to put away legos and other toys.....that's how you really know they've learned it!!!!!!!Children want to please and they also want to be a part of things. Cleaning up and going out to dinner fulfills both of these desires.'s a lot easier on me and my hubby! LOL!

Posted by: shayla phillips-mcpherson | October 23, 2006 3:52 PM

About the family bed - We have a 17 mo son in bed and 4 yr old on a toddler bed between our bed and the wall. And the older was in bed until the younger was born. It saved my sanity to be able to get sleep by nursing them both in bed. I plan to send them both into a shared room when the baby will have to be gradual I'm sure, but I would never do it differently. To those who think it's creepy...the innocence and purity of sleeping with your own children is not at all creepy. Always knowing that they're breathing or if they start coughing and getting sick really brings peace of mind. The only reason to think its creepy is because you've been culturally conditioned to associate the bed with sex. Also, not only did people do it for centuries in Europe, most of the non-industrialized world still does it to this day.

Posted by: HB | October 24, 2006 5:27 PM

Even tho I was at home until the youngest of my 4 kids was 8, I still needed help! Plus I hated how my dad and 4 brothers got out of all the housework. Unfair!
So by the time my kids (all 2 yrs apart - 1 girl, 3 boys) were 10, they could do all their laundry (to MY standards), cook, clean and do yardwork. Daily, before dinner, they rotated: feeding cats, setting the table, dust-busting the steps and loading/unloading the dishwasher. On Saturdays they did their rooms and decided amongst themselves who would: dust, vacuum, mop the kitchen floor and clean the powder room.
One was born extremely neat, the others vary. But they all know HOW!
RE money/allowances: Marguerite Kelly in The Mother's Almanac said something like everyone in a family should have chores and everyone should have disposable income, but they shouldn't be related.
SO, each child got ten cents for each year of age (increased to 15 cents, then 20, until teenagers, then more) on Fri night , so not connected to Sat cleaning! Plus they could always earn extra money by doing other jobs on a posted list: windows, 5 cents per pane, ironing linens. 5 cents per piece.
The final arrangment is one that was fabulously successful, until they were out of college and on their own, and one I recommend to everyone:
If a child wanted to buy an item over a certain price (say $5), I would pay half. That way they could save up for an expensive bike or piece of clothing, etc. but not be discouraged by the large sum needed ($150 is manageable, $300 is prohibitive). It started with 98 cent paperback mysteries and went all the way up to a $5,000 car in high school. The plan worked flawlessly in all situations, but of course, you can adjust the percentage depending on your own financial circumstances.
Basically, they handed over their cash and any windfalls (babysitting, birthdays) to me and I posted the amount in a ledger with a running total so they could see how much they were accumulating.
By the way, their biggest windfall came because we stayed in town every August - our entire neighborhood hired them all to tend pets, mail, plants, lawns, etc. They earned money all month long!

Posted by: lady laughs | October 26, 2006 11:48 AM

I grew up expected to help, with an allowance that was not tied to chores, and never got paid for chores, and that's pretty much what I did with my sons. As a single parent of 3 sons (to my surprise, after 19 years of marriage), there was no room in my house for people who didn't do their share.

It's my firm belief that the job of a parent is to raise people who are decent human beings, can hold down a self-supporting job, can become self-sufficient, able to take care of themselves, and have enough self-respect to be able to form rewarding relationships. All else is gravy (though I wouldn't mind a Nobel prize or two).

I remember saying - get your clothes in the hamper or they don't get washed, and remember a son complaining he didn't have any clean underwear. I asked whether he'd put them in the hamper, he admitted he didn't, and I offered the choice of wearing dirty underwear or no underwear - either way, you are going to school. Never happened again. This same son decided in his teens that he wanted to wear 100% cotton shirts - son, meet iron; iron, meet son .. here's how you iron a shirt. I remember being asked to buy name-brand jeans and saying, no, I can't afford it, but I'll give you what I would pay for the no-brand jeans and you can add to it from your allowance or paper route to get the jeans you want.

At one point I had a ruptured lumbar disk and (in the mid-80s) was ordered to a month of flat on my back. My sons did everything - shopped, cooked, cleaned up, laundry, got themselves up and off to school, worried about me, and, most blessedly, kept their quarrels out of my hearing until I was on the road to recovery. I will always cherish that time because it showed me that my hard work was paying off, and showed me I was raising decent human beings.

One son, in college, rented an apartment with 3 other boys. They didn't know how to shop or cook and he did, so he did the shopping & cooking and they did all the cleaning.

And I demanded what I considered appropriate, respectful behavior, toward me, each other, and the rest of the world. My sons learned that they could express themselves respectfully. And, because when raising children, do as I say and not as I do doesn't work, I tried to treat them respectfully, including admitting when I was wrong and apologizing.

When they were kids, I was proudly a "mean mother". As adults, each of them has thanked me for being a mean mother and for demanding appropriate behavior.

I was struck by capital mom's question about manipulation. I think if it were me, I'd have said "the rule is, take your shoes off when you come into the house", with no popsicle - and, if he didn't, call him back from wherever he was heading to take off his shoes. Kids learn good habits fairly easily if you are consistent (they also learn bad habits easily, so watch what you model). But there are times in every parent's life when a bit of bribery or manipulation is very helpful, and I've done both. The cards I try not to play are the blame/shame card, or the "you owe me because I gave birth to you" card. I will cheerfully admit, however, to sometimes using the "because I said so" or "because I'm the parent" cards.

Posted by: Virginia | October 27, 2006 12:45 PM

my parents dont belive that chores should be something done for pay. my mom says that "she doesnt do chores for money. no one pays me for chores! you are in a family community and you are responsible to clean and do other things because we are a family community". i want to chores for an allowance but she says no. what should i say to make her say otherwise?

Posted by: gabriel lopez | December 5, 2006 6:28 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company