The other day as we pulled into the drive, I explained that I wanted help getting all the items from the car into the house. There were two coolers in the wayback full of 62 pounds of frozen chicken that I needed to take to the basement where the freezers are; there was a plastic grocery bag with the CSA vegetables in it; there was a gallon of milk from our friends' cow; there were jackets and hats and a couple of books deposited in the car by the children. It was time for me to cook dinner and Jason would not be home to help with the bedtime routine. I think I can say I not only wanted help, I NEEDED it.
Phaedra announced, "I am tired of you treating us like your slaves!"
I asked her if I am her slave when I prepare the food she eats and wash every single dish and article of fabric she touches. With a hefty sigh, she helped carry stuff into the house. And I wondered what other parents do. I especially wondered what parents who believe children should not be forced to do things would do in this situation.
I liked my response. I did not get mad, and the situation did not devolve into me actually threatening some lame punishment. I reinforced my very strong belief in our interdependence. The other two children were part of the situation, so also heard the message. We all have to pull together if this mother is going to keep it together. I actually cannot do it all alone, and my children are old enough to participate in the work of this house.
I also believe they benefit from helping out, from knowing their work is valuable and appreciated. On the carrying occasion, no one was all that happy, but once we were in the house, they all were ready to help with dinner, chatting and laughing. This leads me to believe they were not harmed by my manipulation and insistence.