Thoughts on Raising Children

It continues to surprise me how many parents do not teach their children to participate in responsibilities around the house. We set a model for how our children will behave. As they mature, we also educate them about roles we play in our families. 

Women complain frequently about the lack of shared responsibilities from their partners. Some men did not grow up in homes that taught them to participate fully. 

Men cite concerns about bearing too much responsibility for finances, car repairs and taking out the trash. And some women did not have an upbringing that taught them to participate with these things. Does it sound sexist? I guess so. 

I have seen children (and that means of any gender) capably handle many household duties that teach valuable life skills. These include doing the laundry. Kids can learn to put dirty clothes in baskets, put them in the washing machine, add soap and start the machine. They  just need to be taught. Once they learn how, they transfer clothing to a dryer, remove it, fold it and put it away. In families that do laundry for the whole family, kids wash, dry and separate the clothing for each member of the family to fold and put away themselves. 

Let children be involved with food preparation. They can help plan meals. Take them to the grocery store to buy food so they become familiar with options and how stores are arranged. Teach them how to put groceries away and prepare meals on a regular basis. It takes time to learn how to measure, cut, use a stove or microwave, but the time spent training kids saves parents time later. Show them how to set the table, remove dishes after a meal and wash dishes or fill the dishwasher. They can learn to empty a dishwasher or put racked dishes away as well. 

Let children sweep, vacuum, put things away in the bathroom, and clean them, too. Have them take garbage out and place the bins at the curb, walk the dog or clean a litter box and feed pets. They can dust, water plants, put away toys and games, or straighten a room. 

Teach kids about expenses and how we pay them, maintaining a car and about car parts. A good way to teach about the car is having them help you wash it. 

Children can even learn to build things using tools. Clearly age and maturity would serve as guides to what equipment they use. 

Families that meet once a week and designate responsibilities do well. Start when the children are young if you can, but it is never too late, just more challenging. 

We live together, we share the roles. Help our children become independent, capable and desirable partners as adults. 

Dr. Natalie Gelman is an Alameda-based therapist. Submit questions to drnataliegelman@gmail.com or through her website, www.drnataliegelman.com.

Editor’s note: In our experience children, at least at certain ages, really want to learn ways to be useful, survive and thrive.