As my daughter was mopping the floor recently, she made a reference to Annie (as in the redheaded orphan) and Cinderella. Those are the characters her musical theatre summer camp reflected back to her about young girls who do chores.
This struck me as a privileged irony: when a significant amount of money is spent for children to attend a musical theatre summer camp so they can dress up like orphans and sing “It’s a Hard Knock Life.”
Sometimes, that privileged irony comes back to bite us in our tushies.
There’s nothing wrong with being privileged enough to have a housekeeper. There are times when we get busy, face health challenges, or just want to help people make an honest living by paying them to clean.
But that doesn’t mean we should take away the honor of teaching our children how to clean for themselves and be self-reliant.
I understand that time for chores eats into time that can be rationalized as being more valuable for school work, activities, or even friends and family. However, learning self-reliance may be one of the most important tools that we can teach our children—for with that, they can learn anything.
Chores do not have to be a major undertaking, but rather a daily gesture as part of life maintenance 101. Each day, your child can pick a different chore: sweep the floor, empty the dishwasher, or help to prepare or clean up after a meal.
When I was a child, this was considered just part of being a family. Today, however, with everyone being so busy and overscheduled many people do not consider chores essential to their child’s personal development.
But if we do not expect our children to clean their own messes, who exactly are we expecting will do so?
Mess: a dirty, untidy or disordered condition. As in a literal mess, a financial mess, or an overall hot mess.
So here’s what I did when my daughter made her remarks. I reminded her that Cinderella wasn’t the only Disney Princess who did chores.
Princess Tiana did chores by choice, because she knew the value of a good work ethic and saving money.
It’s not our job to think for our children. But it is our job to always remind them that there’s more than one way to think.
If a child associates cleaning with Cinderella or Annie, they most likely are not going to want to clean.
If, however, we can help reframe the reality that cleaning gives them the opportunity to practice personal accountability, self-reliance, and time management—not to mention helping their parents—well, they’re still not going to want to clean–but at least they will see the reward in doing so.
When we can connect those valuable life skills with their own long or short-term goals, we tap into intrinsic motivation, arguably one of the most reliable forms of sustained learning.
When your children can take care of themselves, they can show others how to do the same and assist those who can’t do so on their own. This is just one small step in building and supporting community as a whole and offering a clean perspective, pun intended.