Friday, September 7, 2012

How harsh a parent are you?

The spouse and I were amused reading New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor's recent article about the Obama girls, Malia and Sasha. Specifically, we were amused by Michelle (and Barack) Obama's rules for the girls, which included (and I quote):
  • Technology is for weekends. Malia may use her cellphone only then, and she and her sister cannot watch television or use a computer for anything but homework during the week. 
  • Malia and Sasha had to take up two sports: one they chose and one selected by their mother. “I want them to understand what it feels like to do something you don’t like and to improve,” the first lady has said. 
  • Malia must learn to do laundry before she leaves for college. 
  • The girls have to eat their vegetables, and if they say that they are not hungry, they cannot ask for cookies or chips later.
While some children (and their parents) might find these rules on the harsh side, the spouse and I did not. Indeed, while we allow our daughter to use technology and watch TV during the week, she only does so after doing her homework. And she had to start doing her own laundry when she turned 13. We also put her on a clothing budget when she became a teenager, which has taught her to look for coupons and watch for sales, and I have taught her how to comparison shop. And we told her she can only cook (or bake), an activity she loves and has gotten quite good at, if she cleans up after herself.

Are we being too harsh, or strict? We don't think so. (Hey, compared to Prince Charles -- and Queen Elizabeth II -- who just sent Prince Harry to Afghanistan for four months as punishment for misbehaving*, we are softies.)

But what do you think of the Obamas "rules" for their girls? And what rules do you have for your children? I'd love to know, via the Comments.

*No, the Queen didn't really send Harry to Afghanistan as punishment. At least I don't think so.


Lizzy said...

J - totally agree with your method of parenting. Kids should learn the value of a dollar and how much it costs for the latest fashion. Once they use their own money, they think twice about buying a non-sale item.

My 10 year old knows how to do her laundry (and fold and put it away)...I was appalled in college at the large number of students who had never done their laundry before!

As for technology, I think the Obamas are a little harsh - technology is a part of daily life now - but time limitations are essential.

Anonymous said...

I think making your child do a sport/activity is wrong. I agree it's a good thing to have them stretch themselves by trying something new (that they choose).

I also think the technology rule is too rigid. My daughter often tells me about vocab words she learned from watching cartoons. Of course, she only watches T.V. after homework is complete.

J. said...

@Lizzy, good for you getting your 10-year-old to do laundry! Also, I agree with you re technology, though I believe the Obamas let the girls use the computer for school-related work (and I bet Malia uses her cell phone during the week).

@Anonymous, I politely disagree re sports/athletic activity (which could be dance or swimming or fencing or martial arts, not just a team sport). Maybe if kids had gym at school every day I would think otherwise, but I think it's important for kids to get exercise on a regular basis -- and lifting a remote control does not count. That said, I think it's important for the child to pick his/her activity as there is a better chance he/she will then do it and enjoy it.

Also, re rules, I think kids should have to clean their rooms (bedroom and playroom or workspace), if not every day at least once a week.

Anonymous said...

It is impossible to raise kids without rules.
I follow pretty much the same rules as the Obamas. Computers are only for homework during the week (or math games). No TV until Friday night and the weekend, at least during term time. As for sports, etc. I have made them try musical instruments and new sports for a set period, but not forced them to keep on past the trial period if they don't like it. They each have a pocket money allowance which is aparently less than half the national average. They have to use their own money for any iPad apps, music, sweets, toys that they want, other than Christmas & Birthays. Good school work does earn some extra treats through the year. That's how I roll.