I just can’t seem to get my teenaged son and daughter to help me with anything around the house. They do excellently in academics so, in their growing years, I didn’t let them do anything that would take them away from their studies. Now, forget cooking and such heavy chores, they simply refuse to even learn how to go and pay phone and electricity bills—I even end up paying their cellphone bills. I work part-time, while their father works in another city and visits us only on weekends. Nowadays, I feel like I am everyone’s maid. Help me get my family members to pull their weight.
Well, I’m sorry to say this, but you seem to have let your children get away with being inconsiderate and lazy, not to mention callous. But this is something that comes from our focusing too much on academic excellence.
Work it: Make chores a part of family life. (Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint)
Many of us “educated types” make the cardinal mistake of putting academic and intellectual pursuits high up there, above everything else. In pursuit of excellence in this area, we empower our kids to climb higher and higher even if, in the process, we end up allowing them to trample on us (and later, inevitably, on other people). And then we complain that our children are boorish and selfish. Well, we made them that way by telling them that studying, achieving, competing is what it’s all about—no matter who you neglect and hurt on the way, even your mother, as in this case (and there are others in your situation too).
Believe me, you may have misguidedly put up with it all this time but, in a way, you’re doing them a huge disservice. In the near future, they’ll find it tough getting along with other people who won’t be so kind or as “doormatish” as you seem to have been.
Some measures are needed on a war footing:
u Stop doing things such as paying their phone bills for them. Let them face the consequences if their phone juice runs out.
u Enlist the aid of your husband in getting a new housework ethic in place. I’m not suggesting a boot-camp atmosphere, but you’ll need to be firm and immovable on chores apportioned to them.
u Recognize that by whining but letting them off you are only harming them further. Inform them that you are tired and that you expect and need their support too—show more respect for yourself and your kids will respect you more.
No matter how brilliant your child or what your academic aspirations for her or him, you have to expect good behaviour, considerateness, helpfulness—and that is non-negotiable in a family. And this has to begin early. Expect your child to do her or his part—put on their clothes, pick up toys, and so forth. Tailor those expectations in line with the child’s stage of development. Make chores a part of family life, and include a sense of cooperation. The toiling parent on whose shoulders the child rises is a lopsided concept which robs the child of the opportunity to develop a well-rounded, emotionally and spiritually enriched personality.
(Send your questions to Gouri at email@example.com)