Chores are a Healthy Part of Childhood

Preparing your Children for Hard Times

It wasn’t many years ago that youth were raised differently then they are today in the average home. Children were raised to be a functional part of the home, the didn’t have endless supplies of toys, and ate little to no processed foods. Since 1950 the percentage of people living in urban areas has increased from 30% to 82%. That means that 82% of the youth of America are likely no longer learning essential life skills to survive without supplied services and without a grocery store providing the food they consume. In less than two generations the way youth are raised has completely changed. In non-urban environments there is so much to be done that children learn to be a functional and independent part of the home as soon as they are physical able. Fun is interacting with your family, you learn about animals by caring for them and children play with others through games of wit and physical dexterity. Personally I blame the urbanization of our youth for the majority of the problems our society is facing. Youth are being raised in a world where they have lost a connection with the natural world.

There are two dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace. ~Aldo Leopold

For those youth who are raised outside of urban areas, they become responsible and helpful members of the household long before they reach there teens. Parents help them understand the rewards of their work and encourage their ideas and input. Most importantly they learn respect not only for the family hierarchy but for the world around them. Youth raised in non-urban environments learn to function under duress and discomfort. They learn that if you fail to take care of the animals or tend to the garden it will affect the food that goes on your table. Growing up in Vermont I yearned for the excitement of the big city, in fact just after college I found myself living in New York City. What I have learned as I have gotten older is that growing up in rural Vermont prepared me for the real world and provided me with real down-to-earth skills. Skills that people who have grown up in the city can’t even begin to comprehend.

Compare this to the child who is raised in an urban environment. Most are provided with everything they need. Children learn from a young age that life is about receiving not contributing. Parent’s often work in specialized field, ones that the children cannot help with. We bestow on our children everything they need, leaving them with to much free time. This free time draws them to the exciting world outside of the home, with a need for the latest flashy toys, becoming addicted to the digital babysitter of TV and electronic games. The value of the family and the enjoyment of the home quickly become a boring place when all the digital screens are turned off. Work is something that urban children simply are not learning the value of. All of this leads to the destruction of core family values. Children become lazy, discontent and withdrawn.

I am far from a perfect parent, but my daughter learns life skills, helps around the house, and doesn’t cry when she doesn’t get everything she wants. At eight years old she understands she is expected to contribute not only to our home but to the community she lives in. It’s not overly uncommon for my wife and I hear about how well behaved our daughter is; or how people can’t believe how accepting she is of being told she can’t have something. This is not because of the society, its because she has been raised with boundaries. Long and the short if your kid is a little brat it’s not because of the TV, there teacher, or society; the blame all sits in one place.

The world we live in is changing and our urban areas have become devoid of nature. As you increase the population in a given area you also increase the levels of stress between people and on the infrastructure itself. In most of our urban areas the infrastructures where not designed to handle the level of demand that is being placed onto them as a result of the spike in use. The infrastructure is going to fail, it’s not a question of if, but a question of when. You can already see it happening in urban areas when major storms come through. In rural areas of the country the loss of power for a couple days is nothing more than an inconvenience, in urban areas it results in absolutely chaos.

When hard times arrive it will shatter the illusions of life for those youth who have grown up not knowing how to survive in a world where everything is not simply handed to them. Those who have grown up in the world of entitlement with out having to work or even understand where things come from; will quickly learn what real want and real hunger is. Today’s youth are growing up with out true life skills; and it’s not societies fault. It’s the fault of the parents. Your child and the person they develop into is a reflection of you as a parent. When I hear of some of the awful things that youth are doing today; I don’t see society as the problem, I see only the failure of the parents who raised them. It’s been said that Cookie Monster should be removed from TV because he sets a bad example and leads to childhood obesity! I say people need to stop using a cookie loving puppet as an excusing for being a crappy parent. Cookie Monster has been on TV since 1969; obesity rates in children saw a massive increase between 1999 – 2010. Cookie Monster was on TV for 30 years before the spike. Cookie Monster is not the cause of childhood obesity. Just like guns are not the cause of mass shootings.

Better Kids for the Planet

Key Elements for Preparing your Child for Hard Times

First, don’t spoil your kids. It is too easy to give in when the toys, treats, movies, electronics, and trips to restaurants are so cheap (or seem like it). Of course they demand more once they realize this is “an option.” Smart parents keep these rewards for special occasions or expect the kids to earn them on their own. This teaches a good work/reward ethic. Later you can teach them what is valuable and what is cheap and short-lived. When kids understand these values they are much more likely to be judicious and delay gratification when it is their own hard earned funds. Not sure if your kid is spoiled? Check out Jessie Clemence‘s post “How To Tell if Your Kid Is Spoiled” if your not sure.

Second, teach kids to work. Expect them to be helpers not freeloaders. If you are working and they aren’t, ask yourself, “What can they do to help?” You’d be surprised at what they can do. Teaching them means more work for you at the beginning but it pays off as they learn. Motivate with appropriate rewards at the end so they learn to finish quickly. “Finish this weeding so we can go have a nice lunch.” “You can have free time until dinner after you get this done.” We don’t pay our daughter for helping around the house,  she only gets money when the task results in income coming in or if it is something beyond normal expectations. Reward them according to their work, nothing more. Kids know when they have done a good job and when they haven’t. They should be proud of their work when it is done right. When you child becomes a functioning member of society there are no participation trophies, or thanks for a job done poorly. Some say that forcing kids to work and do chores is wrong, but the reality is regardless of age there is something every kid can do to help around the house.

Third, teach them toughness. Life in the future won’t provide an option for copping out because you don’t feel like it. Kids on a farm naturally learned some toughness with all the work in difficult conditions, but we don’t all have that training ground. Fortunately physical exercise training can be a good substitute. Children, in particular, need the mental toughening and physical benefits of exercise. Nobody “feels like it” at first but gradually people can learn to tolerate the hard breathing and appreciate the benefits of sticking with it as their body and mind grow stronger. You do them no service by letting them off easy. I realize that some kids have no natural inclination for strenuous physical exertion, but those are the ones who need this the most and it will require real pressure from the parent because the kid is battling his own innate weakness.

Understanding innateness is very important to proper parenting. Children are not simply a product of their environment. Every child comes to earth with his or her own innate personality that differs from even his brothers or sisters. You can tell which weaknesses are innate because of the high levels of resistance a child has to repeated attempts to get them to change. Emphasize to them that mental self-control—to control errant desires—is just as essential as developing physical self control.

Fourth, teach your kids. “Preaching to kids” is considered a negative today, with the insinuation that it is always hypocritical, but children need to know why you are “being hard on them.” Don’t lambast or monologue. Explain what you are trying to do and why. Sit down with them and teach them where their innate weaknesses and strengths are and how improve on them.

Each of these aspects deserves further discussion in the future, but don’t delay your efforts to work with your kids now. Although parents will have to be “drill sergeants” at times to reinforce wholesome, tough activities, that should not define your relationship. Much more time should be spent doing uplifting things and reinforcing good habits and attitudes. Remember the real goal in all this preparedness is to preserve the things most precious to us and find true joy in them.

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