By Charlotte Hilton Andersen, REDBOOK
Sometimes when my kids are being recalcitrant about cleaning their rooms, I threaten to send them to a farm so they can learn what real chores are like. But thanks to a new federal law my idle threat just got a whole lot more, well, idle. 4-H moms everywhere, beware: The law, still in the final stages of being approved, aims to ban kids from doing certain chores, particularly farm-related work. While I can see the wisdom in not letting your toddler on the thresher, the new law would ban kids from doing anything with "farm product raw materials" which includes outlawing basic 4-H certifications.
With all the health problems children have in our indoor society why are we enacting legislation to keep them from doing chores that not only are essential to their family but also get them outside and teach them gardening, husbandry, and other dying arts? Even though I was mostly a city kid growing up, I did 4-H and I loved it! (To this day if I ever get lost in the woods I know I can eat lamb's ear. If I could remember what it looks like.)
I've always told my kids that doing their chores was part of the family contract they signed when they were born into this family - didn't you get your copy at the hospital? - and despite all their whining, I think deep down (really really deep down) they're grateful that I'm teaching them how to work. My 8- and 10-year-olds do all their own laundry, my 5-year-old knows how to scrub a toilet (helpful since he's the most likely culprit for peeing all over it) and my 2-year-old knows how to pick up her toys and books. I learned from my own parents how to cook and clean-after a lot of whining of course-and I intend to pass down self-sufficiency to my own kids. I clearly remember one of my first college roommates looking blankly at me when I asked her to "make juice" by adding water to frozen concentrate. "Where's the bottle to pour it into," she asked. She'd never seen canned juice before. That will not be my children.
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Chores are great life skills that, yes, in the wrong hands can also be extreme. So how do we decide what chores are okay for children to do? And do we really need to be outlawing 4-H? How do you handle chores with your kids?
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