The Right Coast

Editor: Thomas A. Smith
University of San Diego
School of Law

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Saturday, June 30, 2012

American Kids: The Most Indulged Young People Ever - The Juggle - WSJ

Kolbert describes an anthropologist’s encounter with 6-year-old Yanira, part of a remote Peruvian tribe. On a leaf-gathering expedition with another family, Yanira constantly makes herself useful—she sweeps the sleeping mats twice a day; she fishes for crustaceans, cooks them up and serves them to the others. “Calm and self-possessed, Yanira ‘asked for nothing,’ ” Kolbert writes of the anthropologist’s impressions.

The same anthropologist was part of a family study in Los Angeles as well, with very different results.  In those families, “no child routinely performed household chores without being instructed to. Often, the kids had to be begged to attempt the simplest tasks; often, they still refused. …In [one] representative encounter, an eight-year-old girl sat down at the dining table. Finding that no silverware had been laid out for her, she demanded, ‘How am I supposed to eat?’ Although the girl clearly knew where the silverware was kept, her father got up to get it for her.”


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I trust yours lay the table, wash up the dishes, polish the shoes and run errands? I don't suppose you need children to lay the fires, in your climate.

Posted by: dearieme | Jun 30, 2012 1:53:48 PM

We take turns laying the table, washing dishes and running errands and they do indeed do all of those things, not without being asked but with not too much complaining. It would be difficult to keep things going if they did not. On the much valued days when it is cold enough to have a fire they will indeed respond to the request, go get some wood and make a fire. So I guess we're doing pretty well on reflection. Overall, they are a pretty good bunch, as far as being helpful is concerned. My standard joke used to be, it's amazing what you can do with a taser, but since that guy in Florida was arrested for tasering his kids, I can't even say that anymore.

Posted by: Tom Smith | Jul 1, 2012 10:05:34 AM

I was thinking back to my childhood, where I also had the duty of dealing with mice and spiders if Dad wasn't at home, of bringing washing in from the line (once I was tall enough), of washing the car, of transferring wet washing (do you remember the absurd twin-tub washing machines?), of spanking rugs, and of chasing stray dogs out of the garden. I wasn't asked to chase stray cattle out of the garden: a herd of excited cattle are just too dangerous, I suppose. (It happened a couple of times: cattle being driven to the slaughter house would make a bolt for it and end up on our lawns.) I did get to take the shovel to the evidence of their visit, though.

Posted by: dearieme | Jul 1, 2012 10:32:33 AM