Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Power of Suggestion

Joy playing in the pile that David-5 and Lizzy-3 helped rake

I distinctly remember the day when my friend from next door was over for dinner.  When we were done eating, my mom got up to do the dishes and my friend opened her big mouth and said, "You guys don't have to wash dishes?!  We do!"  I could have killed her.  The very next day my sister and I started washing dishes--by hand.  We took turns washing dishes until the day we moved out.  No dishwasher in our house until all us kids had moved out.  My parents apparently decided that since they no longer had free child labor, they weren't going to do the dishes themselves every night, so they bought a dishwasher.  Hmmm....

So you will now understand why I get so much glee out of what I'm about to tell you.

Three summers ago we got new neighbors.  They have a teenage daughter and two boys who are older than David--they are now going into sixth and eighth grades.  Two winters ago, when said boys were ten and twelve, I was out shoveling the driveway with David who was seven at the time.  The dad was also shoveling.  We got to talking and I asked him why he doesn't make his boys do the shoveling.  He said he'd never thought about it; he just does it.  The very next snow fall, his boys were out there shoveling and have been shoveling ever since.

The following fall it happened again.  I was outside raking the yard with all the kids.  The dad was raking his yard...alone.  I asked him why he was raking when he had two boys who could be doing it for him.  Darned if he didn't go into his house, drag his boys out, and thrust a rake in their unwilling hands.  Once David was done with our yard, he even went over to help the neighbors because he loves raking that much.

David helping rake the neighbor's yard

Fast forward to this summer.  Hubby decided David is old enough and strong enough to mow the lawn.  David is responsible for keeping the back and side yard mowed every week.  This time I didn't even have to say anything to the neighbor.  Up to now it has always been the dad who does the mowing.  Today I looked out the window and saw the younger boy mowing the lawn.  I admit to laughing.  I may have snorted.  A few cackles of glee might have possibly escaped my mouth as well.

I don't want you to think that I am this evil woman who gets inordinate joy out of seeing the boys having to do work that they didn't have to do before.  I admit, while that is a part of it, I am also thrilled that the dad is taking the steps to give his sons responsibility.  Any responsibility.  I have shared here before my stance on children and work.  How I am raising children to be self-reliant, independent adults and that chores plays a big part in that.

When I had that discussion over snow shovels, the dad was outside shoveling while his sons were hiding in the basement playing video games on a snow day.  The dad was clearly annoyed with the amount of time that his boys spent playing video games and their lack of willingness to help out, but seemed almost handicapped to do anything about it.  It was as if he needed permission to step in and demand better from his sons.  To see it happen again with lawn care makes me even happier.  Like my work here is done.

Maybe I need to send David over there for dinner some night and say the horrible words that were said to me.  "You guys don't have to do dishes?!  We do!"

Oh the mighty power of suggestion is alive and well at my house.

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