We're in the middle of reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy, one of our favorite books in the series. It fit in perfectly with what I wanted to say. "Think about Almanzo [the main character in the book]. He had a very specific role in his family. What was it?"
"Chores," my daughter replied.
"Yes, but be more specific. Who was he doing chores for? Wasn't he doing chores to help his father?"
She agreed this was correct.
"What about Almanzo's sisters? What was there role in the family?" I asked.
"They work in the kitchen and stuff and help their mother," she said.
"Exactly. Their role in the family was to help their mother with her work. Now, what is your role in our family?"
She shrugged. And why wouldn't she? Nobody had ever explained to her what her role in our family is. So I clarified; her role is to be a helper - primarily for me, but also to help and serve others in the household. That's part of her job as a daughter in the Seleshanko household.
My daughter's face lit up. She'd never considered that she had an important role in our household - a role that really matters. She just knew she had to do chores she didn't much like. She couldn't see the purpose behind those chose and why her involvement in them helped the whole family. Suddenly, she felt pride that she could help everyone in the family by doing very obtainable things.
I think this is something most modern day children are lacking. In Almanzo's day, children knew if they didn't perform their role for the family, it could have serious consequences. If they didn't help plant the fields, there might be no food to eat the following year. Today, children are rarely told that their role in the household is important.
But as my daughter really stepped things up and not only began doing her chores more quickly and willingly, but offered to do more to help me around the house, I realized that children need to know not so much that they are Important with a capital I - an overstatement that has lead to a self-centered generation - but that what they do is important.
How dare I deprive her of this vital knowledge? Well, no longer.