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Chores

Chores are one way parents can teach children about responsibility.

If today’s TV commercials are an indication of the way parents are raising their children, the younger generation is in trouble.

One of those commercials for Northwestern Mutual shows a dad mowing the lawn with a push-mower. Suddenly, his teenaged daughter comes outside and asks him to take her to a friend’s house. When his expression shows exhaustion, she makes a face, snarls disgustedly and stomps back into the house. The next thing you see is the father on a bulldozer, making a swimming pool for his sassy, spoiled daughter.

That girl reminded me of the months when I was caring for a relative’s children until a nanny could be found. One weekend, it snowed about an inch and I asked the oldest child, a husky boy of 12, to sweep the front steps. He said, “What are you going to pay me?”

I just stared at him. We’d raised three children on our farms and, as soon as they were old enough, they’d regularly helped us with chores in the barn and the house. Never once had they asked what we’d pay them.

So I said to the boy, “How about you get to eat the supper I cook tonight?”

He looked absolutely shocked. How dare anyone ask him to do anything he didn’t want to do unless he was paid? He did sweep steps, but the exchange was one of many indications of how he’d been spoiled.

Thankfully, most kids aren’t like that, but there are enough of them to give their generation a black eye. The thing is, it’s not their fault.

They’ve been allowed to believe their every wish should be fulfilled. And every time they do something to help, they think they deserve to get paid. Parents aren’t teaching these children to be respectful, compassionate, responsible or independent.

A quick internet search on “spoiled children” reaps too many articles to mention, but the ones I’ve read come to the same conclusions: They’re spoiled because their parents let them rule the roost, didn’t set limits, didn’t expect them to do regular chores, didn’t discipline them, didn’t give meaningful consequences for bad behaviors and often substitute “things” for loving attention and structure.

Although there may not be meaningful consequences for those children’s poor behaviors at home or school, there’ll be plenty when they become adults and leave home. They won’t be pampered by college instructors or their bosses if they’re disruptive or fail to do what’s expected.

They’ll have financial problems if they haven’t learned to handle money, and their relationships will suffer if they haven’t learned to give as well as to take.

Their self-esteem and confidence will be lacking, too. When a parent does everything for their children that they could do for themselves, it tells those children they’re not good, strong, or smart enough to do it on their own. It encourages weakness and dependence.

Children who are not allowed to make mistakes and learn from them will have a hard time facing the many challenges that come with life.

No parent wants those things for their children. But today, many parents work long hours, sometimes at two or more jobs. They feel guilty if they have to spend the few, precious moments at home disciplining their kids or feeling like bad guys.

When I was growing up, wages were higher for the working class. Most families could afford to have one parent stay home with the children all day, and those parents — usually mothers — didn’t let the kids get away with sassiness or misbehavior. There was swift discipline as well as many hours of loving attention. Today, few families can afford to live on one parent’s income.

But, as many prove, it’s still possible to raise children who will become healthy, confident, independent adults. One of the best resources I found is “Child Entitlement Abuse,” by Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D, in the Sept. 15, 2009, issue of Psychology Today. It’s one of five parts that contain excellent child-rearing suggestions such as:

“If you set appropriate limits, establish age-appropriate consequences for misbehavior, assign chores and make sure they’re done in a timely manner, you’ll be raising children whom you can expect to become independent, fully functioning, and trustworthy adults — adults willing and capable of taking care of themselves and others.”

Pat Nash has lived in the Baraboo area, off and on, for more than 35 years. Contact her at

patnash5149@gmail.com.