Tuesday, September 15, 2009


As if coming up with self-embarrassing stories wasn't hard enough (I mean - don't we try to eradicate those from our conscious minds?), this week our taskmistress has demanded that we share the worst parenting advice we ever got.

Immediately what came to mind was not parenting advice (though I am sure the givers would have enthusiastically said that it would apply in the parenting arena, too), but it was the advice chucked at my head when I was in education classes.(Over and over, I might add!)

The word is that "children want to be good". This was about as far as they went at Southern Oregon State University in giving me anything like "classroom management" training.   Really.  My disclaimer is that I got my teaching certificate before I had children and as I now have a couple of grown-up children, that was a long.....time.....ago.....  So, feel free to take education courses at SOSU (which was actually SOSC, when I was there).  Undoubtedly, when they took on more depth and breadth in the area of classroom management strategies, they were able to upgrade to true university status.  So, I am not actually trying to criticize them in their present configuration.

HOWEVER, looking back - I think I took ONE useful course (from a visiting professor) during that "Professional Year".  Other than that it was absurd. 

For what it is worth, I think I do, rather, know what they were trying to say when they said, "Children want to be good."  What they mean is the children are happier being good.  However, it really is up to the teacher and parent to manage the situation so that the children will have little choice other than to be good.  Because if there are opportunities not to be good - most children will take them. 

I still feel for all those pathetic, wide-eyed education majors stepping into classrooms, thinking that if they were just "interesting enough!" - the kids would be SO GOOD! 

After spending about two months of my first year of teaching, going home and crying every night, it came to me one day that this advice was for the birds.  In fact, I reasoned, these kids would not be good unless I made sure they did.  So we had a little "paradigm shift" and not only did the kids begin to be good - they liked it, too!  However, it did have to be teacher-generated.  Sorry for the bad news.

After that experience you'd think I wouldn't be so starry-eyed anymore.  But I am!!!  (Here's where the TTT aspect of this takes over.)

Not long ago I checked out a link I got off the Connection Parenting site.  Now, I love the concept of connection parenting and have gained great insights from most of her advice/recommendations/links/etc.  HOWEVER, wishful thinking springs eternal.  This article she suggested, insisted that "children want to help".  The idea was that if you feel overwhelmed with the housework, and so forth - you don't need to have a system of assigned chores, or allowances, or charts or any of that old-fashioned stuff!  No!  You simply need to sit down with the children and explain to them all that you are so busy you cannot possibly do all the work yourself.  Explain that you need help!  Look your dear children in the eye.  Ask for their support - their help with the household chores.  You will get it, I was assured.

Yes - I was that stupid.  I tried this.   I gathered them round, and explained the situation, as outlined above.  (This author did write inspiringly, and I am an optimistic sort.)  I finished and I looked up to see a circle of  aghast little faces around the dining room table.  I knew right off that this approach was not going to hit pay dirt for me.  In fact, they all began to argue rather impassionedly themselves that they didn't care if the grass was cut, or the bathroom dirty!  They didn't mind if there was dust in the living room or the carpet wasn't vacuumed!  And, as for putting the clothes away!  Heck!  It was much easier to just strip down in the laundry room, and take clean clothes out of the baskets anyway!  Why bother putting the clothes away!  What a bother!  I simply wasn't managing things right.  If I would just lighten up on myself, my load would not be so heavy!

Right.  So.  I am here to give my own advice:  Let it be known that - in the ordinary way children may want to be good, however, they require parents and teachers to make them so. Furthermore, if my recent experience is anything to go on - no ordinary child will choose to do chores.  However, they might be extremely good at talking you out of doing them.  


RML- Being More Through Having Less said...

That was extremely funny- esp the bit about stripping off and dressing straight from the laundry basket. I´m sure that would go down a treat here as well!

Rachael said...

Your kids response is hilarious! I bet mine would behave the same way, now that you mention it. Thanks for the warning. I might have fallen for such optimistic schtick myself! lol.

Tina in CT said...

Boy, what you wrote is so "right on".

If you had told me when my daughter was growing up that she'd be a clean freak as an adult, I'd have thought you were off in outer space.

Back when I had someone clean, I would not pay for her room to be done as she was at an age to do it. The vacum and dust cloths were left in her room and she was responsible for doing it over the weekend. She helped with dishes at night but once she started having lots of homework, I stopped that as I had more time. Since we were paying big bucks for her schooling, I'd rather do the dishes and let her do her homework. She had lots of it and had a full schedule.

I am a firm believer that kids should have chores. My granddaughters help with setting the table when they are here and also help clear it. They are good about it. Since they are only 6 and 8, I feel that that is an appropriate chore for them.

Good luck with getting the kids to help out. You need it with working full time, having 4 kids and no husband around.

Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

Oh my! CHildren want to be good? Children want adults to be pleased with them. But you got it dead on, if the chance is there to misbehave they are on it!
I think my mom did the same sort of thing with us about chores. Our response was the same as well. Lower your standards Mom! What are you thinking being so rigid about cleanliness?
That is hilarious! I hope you get more comments because I love these sorts of stories!
My girls have a few chores but there is one area I am proud of. Genea cleans their bedroom and Teena cleans their play area no matter who made what mess. So, all day they rag on each other to pick up their own mess so the other isnt stuck with it later! Keeps me out of it entirely!