I hear this complaint from parents on a regular basis….”Johnny just doesn’t have any time for chores.” Not only is this a testament to just how busy we have allowed our kids to become, it flies in the face of good parenting.
One of the most interesting findings reported recently by the Harvard Grant Study, a 75-year longitudinal study of adult development, is the benefit of chores as a child. More specifically, the study found that a primary key to being healthy as an adult is having regular chores as a kid. And the younger a child is when this begins the better.
Yet, Johnny is still too busy to do chores. So just what is he doing? The Kaiser Family Foundation reported not too long ago that today’s kids average 7 ½ hours of screen time a day…….7 ½ hours a day……wow!
This is happening despite the lack of any longitudinal studies reporting the need for electronic use in the life of the average kid prior to the age of 15. And beyond there being no clear need, it is very difficult to find reliable studies documenting clear benefits, and yes this even includes trying to find the benefit of providing middle schoolers laptops in the school system.
A second significant time absorber of the child world is extracurricular activities. Travel sports is one example. Athletics are a wonderful thing and can have a great place in the life of many children, but when they clutter a child’s world, they are often problematic.
A few years ago I surveyed several families regarding how much they spent on travel sports. The average annual expense of these dozen or so families was more than $10,000 covering more than 20 weekends a year. That is a private school tuition and a whole lot of time.
But the cost of travel sports and the lack of documented benefit of electronic usage by children are not the main problem with these distractions. The biggest issue is that we have lost the truth that a child learning to be a contributing member of a family is essential for their healthy development.
When a child is required to be a contributing member of a family they learn several things…..here are just a few. First, they learn life is really not all about them…..Humility is essential for building healthy relationships.
Second, they learn that everyone should contribute to something larger than themselves……We should all work to benefit others. This begins to teach selflessness, what we should be seeking to build in our children rather than the faulty target of self-esteem.
Third, children begin to learn there is an order or design to life. That before you learn to be a good teammate, you must learn to be a good family member. It really doesn’t matter how great of a goalie you are if you are disrespectful and foul-mouthed to your parents.
The family is the most important and valuable training ground in which children learn to navigate relationships and become healthy young adults. If we as parents begin to correct the order in which our children participate in life by requiring them to be contributing members of the family FIRST, we will begin to see more equipped and better behaved kids.
So…..free up some time for Johnny to do a few chores!
Keith is a Family and Parenting Expert who continues to work with children, families, and individuals in the Roanoke Valley and surrounding areas in hopes of helping to rebuild the American family. For more information contact Total Life Counseling, Inc. at (540) 989-1383. Come visit us at the Go Outside Festival October 14-16.