22 October 2008

Kidults and other frightening creatures

I recently skimmed Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion against Low Expectations. DHT is, of course, written by “Rebelution” co-founders Alex & Brett Harris (twin younger brothers to Joshua Harris of I Kissed Dating Goodbye fame).*

And I just read some of the comments on Rebekah’s last post. Monique observed, “in our culture today adults seem to be more infantile than ever.” The Harris brothers employ a great term for such maturity-impaired persons: “kidults.”

If, as the Harris brothers engagingly assert (and I’m guessing most of us have already thought this), we’re expecting way, way too little from teenagers, then surely we’re setting the bar too low at earlier ages as well. “Kidults” don’t just happen; they’re the end product of years of parental indulgence and/or negligence. And part of that indulgence, sad to say, is the myth that the older children in a large family are somehow “robbed” of their childhood because they are learning to be responsible members of their family and community rather than spending aimless hours and wads of guilty cash at the mall.

What we need is a book like the Harris brothers’ for all stages of child development. For babies: Do Sensible Things: An Infant Rebellion against People Who Make Babbling Fools of Themselves When Talking to Babies. For the toddler set: Doo Doo Things: The Twos Rebel against the Idea That Soiling Oneself Is a Necessary Evil. For our four-year-olds: Do Things: A Preschool Rebellion against Lying on the Couch and Complaining of Boredom Despite the Fact That One’s Mother Has Provided a Wide Variety of Engaging and Educational Activities. Suggestions for other titles in the series?

So by all means, let’s break out the chore charts, and no apologies. I’m still new to the idea that my children can be productive rather than destructive members of the family…So tell me, what are the two- and four-year-olds out there up to? (I’ll give the 7-month-old a pass for the moment.) We had an Adventure in Carrot Peeling this afternoon, which I would consider to be a modest success, with the quantity of vegetables consumed mid-process tipping the balance favorably away from focus on the mess.

Back to the Harris brothers’ book: I’d definitely put it in the Book, Recommended category, particularly for parents of tweens and teens to read/discuss with their kids; a good one for the church library. If any of y’all out there have actual teenagers (a season of life that’s rather beyond my imagination at this stage in the game :) ) and have read DHT or have gone to one of the Rebelution conferences, I’d be very interested in your take on it. (Yes, I’m aware that they are Not Lutheran. Broaden your horizons, people ;) )

*Strange LCMS-small-world connection: The Harris twins, who were homeschooled, are apparently now attending Patrick Henry College and are in some group mentored by Veith.


Karin said...

Yes, it is true that my dear children know more about hard work than MOST adults. They can thank their dear daddy for that. He possesses a strong work ethic and desires to pass this ability on to his children. There have been people who have asked 'what is up with the work thing?' but frankly, even if sometimes we may work too hard or too much, they will definately will be able to handle what life hands them in the line of work. They have strangely not even whined too much about it unless they are in the presense of an unsuspecting teacher who they are trying to get sympathy from. eyes rolling, embarassed mother.

Our Martin, at two 'helped' his dad build the rock wall at the entrance to our driveway. It looked like fun. ;o) He has always been capable of an amazing ammount of work and is now an old man of 10. He shovels gravel, throws firewood, and hoes gardens like an old pro.

Ok, so for once I can speak about 'that work thing' regarding my children and I don't feel too much like a freak. Kids working hard can make people feel that the poor dears are somehow losing out something of their childhood etc. but I do feel my kids are pretty well adjusted and able to function in the rest of the world. I know other families from large families who also are also amazingly the first to lend a hand and also the first to care for others small children when they see the need. This is such a blessing to those around them and the older generation does take notice and mention it.

Pam said...

Does anyone care to expand this discussion to include the fact that adolescence is an invented phase?

Used to be children just grew up.

Now we have to make sure they "have their childhood," which seems to really have taken on the connotation of being spoiled rotten and not having anything expected of them... I'm talking everyone wins at sports, outcome-based education, etc.

Then they get to have their "adolescence" which is just an extension of the spoiled rotten and no expectations. Can't expect them to work, they are too busy having "fun." They can't buy their own clothes, cars, college education, Mom and Dad are supposed to foot the bill. And somehow they are supposed to learn financial responsibility?! HA.

Can't teach abstinence, gotta pass out the prophylactives, 'cause dontcha know, they're gonna do it anyway. And somehow they're going to pick up on self-control?! NO WAY.

Is it any wonder that we have people waiting longer and longer to be married, to have children (assuming the two go together anymore, and I don't mean in backwards order), and then the two still have to have their "own lives" aka, "self-fulfillment."

And what of the children, who are just another notch on the belt of materialism? They get in the way of self-fulfillment, so they are sent to day care. How many times don't I hear parents say how they can't wait till they're out of the house at 18. So sad.

No wonder we are raising up kidults. I submit they are the sad result of selfish parents who don't really love their children in the first place. Stay tuned for an explanation of THAT, if called for...

Sorry about the rant, you really hit a hot button. ;)

Gauntlets said...

I respect your title for two-year-olds, and I want a copy ASAP. ;)

Thankfully, my kids like to help. The man child gets really sad when I go ahead and wash the potatoes or vacuum up the carpet, and the littlest one squawks thunder when I stack her books on the shelf without her. Some days, I'd rather get it all done without them . . .

I do have some trouble getting the seven-year-old to do anything, as enamored as she is with daydreaming. Idle threats usually do the trick. ;)

When they whine about being bored I get an old toothbrush and make them scrub the caulking in the bathtub. One would be tempted to think of this as punishment, but they like it.

Rebekah said...

You've inspired me. My dishes are getting washed right now, and probably the floor too. Can a 5 year old fry bacon?

Dakotapam said...

I've not read the book, but I've read of it...and "Do Hard Things" has become a bit of a motto in our house. It is the response to the tweenage whining. I've even had a chance to tell the neighbor kids to buck up and do hard things...its a good thing.

Monique said...

Reb. Mary

I most certainly am also new to the idea that young children can be productive members of a family. During my last pregnancy I was on semi-restricted bed rest. This forced me to teach the kids how to help more. My kids now have become pretty good at “clean up time”. My 3 and 4 yr. old go around the house dumping all the toys in the wagon. I recommend having lots of bins that are labeled, “Blocks” “Cars and Trains” “Farm Toys” etc. Then put each child in charge of their bin. One of our greatest investments was a hand held vacuum. My 3 and 4 yr. old are pros at using it and you would be surprised how presentable you can have your living room looking with one of those things.

I’ve also learned to be more reasonable about what is considered “clean”. With five small children underfoot, my house will simply never look like those who have none.

Also, in all truthfulness, like Pam mentioned in one of the comments, kids really do have off days and they are not really consistent. Sometimes my kids will clean up with little fussing and other times it would have been much easier to do it myself. I guess one thing I have learned is NOT to do it myself.

Another area my kids have shown a HUGE improvement in is the dreaded weekly grocery store visit. My kids used to drive me absolutely nuts in the grocery store until I put them to work. I remember one particular incident their behavior was so horrendous, I knew I had to drastically change something. At the next visit in the van before entering the store, I put my meanest, sternest face on and gave them a briefing. I recollect the dialogue went something like, “You misbehave, you embarrass me again, when we get home I’m gonna nail your butt to the wall!” Point is: they knew I was serious. Then I gave them each “jobs”. My six year old pushes the cart, while I push the second cart with the 3 month old strapped to me in the BabyBjorn. The 18 month old sits in the seat in the front of the cart and my 3 and 4 yr. old are my “fetchers”. They retrieve things for me and also help put all the items on the conveyer belt to check out. Once we are home everyone helps unload the groceries into the house.

I am by no means trying to give the illusion that we have it all together and grocery shopping is a great experience. I view grocery shopping as a complex military operation and I usually have a headache when we finish. However, I can honestly say that my children are definitely more helpful, they are less lazy and our mission is accomplished.

Pam said...

Oh, Monique, BTDT on the grocery shopping. I am so glad to know it is NORMAL to have a headache after all that supervising.

My dear ones are soooo helpful, they preempt me by running for anything we ever buy there and asking, "So we need any of this? Are we out of these?" which is still in combination with the "May we buy this's "that are still there.

I guess I can't expect them to stick to the list, when they know only too well that *I* don't. Grrrr, there's that self-control thing again.

Reb. Mary said...

Karin: Keep 'em working :)

Pam: The Harris twins have lots of good stuff to say about the unfortunate "invention" of adolescence!

Gauntlets: Your unique genius always amazes me, and your housekeeping frightens me (in the good, inspirational way: I haven't forgotten your toilet pumice stones yet. Haven't used one yet either.) The novelty of toothbrushes as cleaning devices does intrigue the younger set--I set the two-year-old to working on stains in clothing with one the other day. My kids often like helping too; sometimes I have to weigh the four-year-old's sadness at not being asked to help with my insanity if he does help :)

Rebekah: Gotta love the two-for-one dish-and-floor-washing. Let me know how the bacon turns out :)

Dakotapam: You should look around for a copy of the book; sounds like your family would enjoy it--you've already got the concepts down :)

Monique: I'm being forced to learn to >>be more reasonable about what is considered “clean”.<< It's a good thing :) Bedrest with little ones? You've surely got stories to tell! But the military mindset is priceless...Large families probably run more smoothly when Mom has a Drill Sergeant Mode that can be called upon at will...

Gauntlets said...

On pumice stones: They only come out after a particularly trying day. I have a lot of anger; something must suffer. ;)

I haven't considered making them take care of their own stains . . . and today is laundry day . . .