“I’m driving the tractor, daddy!!”
Probably one of the most oft-reiterated themes that you’ll find in various Scientology texts with respect to parenting is the subject of exchange, and the importance of the child being able to contribute back to the family. One such reference I came across recently was the following:
“Parental-child relationships are sour, really, only for one good reason. And that is because the child cannot contribute equally to the parent contributions. This demonstrates the child to be much less powerful than the parents; it makes him–puts him in a bad way.”
It’s something that I think requires constant thought by the parents. Not the flow of “when will that good-for-nothing kid start helping out around here?” That obviously leads nowhere. But instead, as a parent, constantly thinking of the best ways to allow your child to contribute to the household – in ways that will make them feel that they are contributing.
When your kids are babies, the main way they can contribute is to make you laugh – to make awesome baby sounds and do cool baby things and make you happy. But as they start to be able to understand their environment, it takes more and more cunning as a parent to figure out things they can accomplish around the house that allow them to contribute too.
I had my mom up visiting from Florida the past two weeks, and it was great having her here – as she thinks the same way. At every turn, she had my daughter up on the kitchen counter helping to make dinner, or cutting out biscuits to put into the oven. Whether or not she actually was any help in this is completely beside the point. The point was, when I got home from work, there was my daughter, beaming, saying “HEY DADDY LOOK AT THE DINNER WE MADE YOU!!!!” Obviously, she felt pretty good about helping.
My son, just being a bit past one, only has one major chore around the house right now – and that’s shutting any doors that need to be shut. He’ll get upset if you bypass him, but if you’re sitting in the middle of the floor and get a concerned look on your face and say, “Hey – can you shut the door for me?” – he’ll get all happy and yell “SHUT!!!” and run over & shut the door.
Likewise, it’s also the easiest way to upset either of my kids – tell them they can’t vac out the house, they can’t clean up their spills, they can’t pick up their blocks, etc, etc. It’s about the fastest way to create a hellion out of my cute kids. And as kids grow up, that’s the fastest way to convince them that they are good-for-nothings that don’t work.
I’m sure as time goes on and my kids get older, it will take less and less “cunning” to allow them to remain helpful around the house. But I’ll bet that if I keep allowing them to contribute however they can, it won’t require cunning to make them help at all.