Bringing Back Child Labour

When the Bear sees a full laundry basket, she eagerly asks us if we can play ‘match the socks.’ MJ and I snicker a little and then ‘allow’ her to match up all the socks in the laundry.

Banana has become addicted to emptying the dishwasher. She grabs the cutlery and passes it, piece by piece, to anyone around who will put it away in the drawer. She’s recently progressed to dinner plates and bowls. She loves the ‘game’ so much that the mere sound of opening of the dishwasher door initiates a Pavlovian reaction and Banana comes running into the kitchen.

I admit that I stole the title for this blog post from Tom Hodgkinson who wrote about this subject in The Idle Parent. He argues that parents who do everything for their children only make their children more dependent. Children should be involved in caring for themselves and the house. They are capable of putting on their own jackets, doing up their seatbelt, getting their own drinks for mealtimes, making their beds, etc. But teaching children to do things for themselves takes time and patience. This is when slowing down is a vital part of teaching children self-reliance.

Consider this, if you are in a rush to get out the door, do you let your four-year-old pour their own glass of juice? Likely not. They will probably make a mess that will take time to clean up. But if you are relaxed and have time to hang around the house, then it seems reasonable to let a four-year-old ‘practice’ pouring their own glass of juice. Learning self-reliance takes time. And sometimes parents – who consider themselves far more efficient than their kids – find it faster to just do things for their children.

MJ and I have to work at having the patience and time to let this basic learning happen. We know we need to give Banana and the Bear the opportunity to discover and practice new skills. And they are so proud to be doing things by themselves.

MJ and I figure that we’ve only got about another six months to go and the Bear and Banana will be able to empty the dishwasher by themselves. Good for them and good for us too!

Want to read more on this subject? Check out this post at Free Range Kids. This reader suggests that when we do everything for the kids we are actually stealing from them.

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6 Responses to “Bringing Back Child Labour”


  1. 1 Mia April 9, 2014 at 7:28 am

    Hey ѵery nice blog!

  2. 2 Vital Cleanse July 29, 2013 at 5:36 am

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  3. 3 roma March 23, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Wow – another Roma. Anyway, I agree. Charlotte is loving to help with things including with folding the laundry. Most times she undoes the Velcro on her nappies, which creates a little bit of extra work for mum or dad but that’s ok.. she’s loving to help and like the other comment mentioned, would never want to deter her from helping… However, she has now started putting away the toweling nappies (which we use as cloths) and then she claps when she returns to me for the next piece of laundry – to show she has done a good thing. The first time she did it, I let her take one at a time, thinking. as she disappeared down the corridor – where will I find them? But lo and behold, she had taken them to the ‘change room’ and put them exactly where they belong and I was very impressed.. clever little munchkin 🙂

  4. 5 romalow March 23, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    I love that I am actually supposed to let Isabel help around the house. She also likes to unload the cutlery out of the dishwasher–one or two pieces at a time–and puts them in the drawer, which I then sort later. Steve and I clap whenever she does it. She loves the attention, and I would never deter her from wanting to help. Can’t wait for the day she can do it on her own. 😉


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