Coexistence with children: In defense of ‘Because I said so’

Q: Regarding chores, another expert recommends giving a child a certain amount of chips (like poker chips) every month, and if he doesn’t do a chore or doesn’t do it well, you take a chip away. The tokens can be used to buy clothes and other things that the child wants but does not necessarily need. The child can also make missing tokens by doing extra chores. My wife and I are looking for a way to get our children, ages 6 and 9, to do some light work around the house. What do you think of this system?

A: I am not in favor of paying children to take on responsibilities in the home. A child of able age (age 3 and up) must take on his or her fair share of household responsibilities. The chores in question should be done because the child is a member of the family, period. Linking chores to reimbursement creates the impression in the child’s mind that he is not obligated to do his chores if he does not want, at least for the time being, the reimbursement that comes his way.

Parents today are often uncomfortable exercising what I call “because I say so” authority in the home. That hesitation/aversion dates back to early 1970s parenting experts like psychologist Thomas Gordon, author of one of the best-selling parenting books of that decade. Gordon argued that parents who adhere to a traditional parenting model will inflict apocalyptic psychological damage on their children.

Gordon’s claims, none of which were supported by research or historical evidence, were accepted by the entire professional mental health community. With the help of the mainstream media, Gordon and his disciples completely changed the American approach to parenting. Fifty years after this experiment in social engineering, it should be obvious that the paradigm shift in question has been nothing but bad for children, families, schools, and culture.

The authority “Because I said so” is nothing short of legitimate, as affirmed by the fact that since the paradigm shift in question, from “Because I said so” to “Will you do it, okay?” — all indicators of positive mental health in children have decreased, and significantly. The kids who are doing the best (emotionally, socially, and educationally) are those whose parents aren’t following the new rules, which boil down to “keep your kids happy at all costs.”

My wife and I woke up to common sense, which had been cajoled into submission during my grad school experience, when our children were 10 and 6 years old. An expression of our revived common sense found two children who had been on “welfare” with almost all of the housework, and for no reason other than that we told them, in no uncertain terms, that they were going to do it.

Did you like the new regime? Absolutely not! They complained bitterly. But they did their homework, and today they will tell you that their domestic responsibilities were indispensable to their successful adulthood.

By the way, when one of our children asked, “Why do I have to do this?” we replied: “So you have many more reasons to leave the house when the time is right”. And they did!

KRT MUG SLUGGED: ROSEMOND KRT PHOTOGRAPH BY DON WILLIAMSON/CHARLOTTE OBSERVER (March 22) John Rosemond writes for the Charlotte Observer. (MVW) 2005

Visit family psychologist John Rosemond’s website at www.johnrosemond.com; readers can email him at question@rosemond.com; Due to mail volume, not all questions will be answered.

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