Siblings & Familial Responsibility

26 Jun

My kids are early risers.  When I say early, it is a rule in our house that you cannot come out of your rooms until your clock says 6:00.  You read that right, it’s not a typo: SIX o’clock.  Most parents I know who have a similar rule use 7:00 as their time of choice; to that I say “I WISH!”  Anyway.

Connor is 8 and Sam is almost 4.  Connor is adept and able at making breakfast essentials: bowls of cereal, toast/bread with peanut butter & jam, bagels with cream cheese, frozen waffles with syrup.  He can pour the milk easily, as well as cups of juice.  It’s a wonderful blessing I tell you, given how early they wake.  Because while it’s true that MOMD is too an early riser, even he likes to stay in bed until 7:30-8:00 on the weekends.  You may have noted that I have not counted myself among the “early risers”; that’s because I’m not.  I’m a Keenan through and through and would spend the entire day in bed if I could.  😀

But to the subject of this post: we have talked with Connor about his responsibility to care for his brother.  Likewise, we have talked to Sam about his responsibility to care for his brother too.  We’ve explained that one of the things we expect from them is that if they are asked to help with something, that they help.  This is part of what it means to be in our family: we help each other.  Many times for Connor, this means helping Sam to get his breakfast organized.  Usually, Connor is quite happy to do this.

There was an incident about 2-3 weeks ago though, where I came downstairs later than usual, on a school morning, and Sam had not yet had breakfast.  He got up after MOMD had left for work, and Connor “didn’t feel like” pouring Sam’s cereal.  I said in response to this explanation, “Well that’s funny because I’ve decided that I don’t feel like making your lunch today either.”  Connor’s eyes bugged right outta his head.  I’m telling you, it was the best reaction – I wish I had had my camera!  After I had calmed down a bit, and had organized Sam’s breakfast as well as packed Connor’s lunch, I explained to him that I count on his help, especially in the mornings, and particularly now in these last few painful weeks of pregnancy.  I told him that it is very stressful when I come down in the morning and have just a few minutes to get everything ready for him, and the added work of Sam is enough to throw everything off kilter.

He nodded that he understood.  The reasoning was sound, so how could he not?  And besides: there’s no way that kid wants to make his lunch every day.

So fast-forward to Saturday morning.  Somewhere around 7, Sam comes into our room and asks us to get up and make his breakfast.  We tell him that Connor will be happy to help, and to go ask him.  Sam says that he’s all ready asked Connor, and he is not helping.  We assure him that if he asks again, Connor will help.  Sam leaves the room, makes his way downstairs, and all is quite.  Until about 20 seconds later when we can clearly hear his stomping around and shouting, “MAKE MY BREAKFAST!  I WANT YOU TO MAKE MY BREAKFAST!”

As I’m sure need not be said, we were not sleeping in after this behaviour.

MOMD went downstairs and talked to Sam about his rudeness and that we were not happy with his yelling.  When I came downstairs, he had also talked to Connor about his refusal to help.  Connor’s position was that he was only obligated to assist on school-days, because Mom has enough to do and making Sam’s breakfast is too much.  Sooo… at least he was listening before?  I guess?

I told Connor that, as part of this family, we are required to help each other when we’re asked to.  “If you are tired of helping him all the time, you can teach him and encourage him to pour his own cereal.  That’s helping.  Telling him ‘no’ is not helping.  And I’m sure that you are not happy with the outcome of your decision, since you’ve had to talk to 2 people about this all ready today.”  He nodded his head in agreement.  We talked about the things that each of us do to help the family: Dad does the laundry, Mom does the cooking, Connor helps Sam, Sam clears his dishes, and so on.  We talked about how we don’t always want to do these things, but that we do them anyway because people we care about are counting on us.  I think he got the message…

But the talk got me wondering: Do I expect too much from my kids?  What do you have your children do to help with the business of “Family”?  Are there chore lists?  Do you leave them be, trusting that things will come together when they’re older?  Do you tie expectations to age?

Share with me, please, because navigating these waters of parenting is tough work when doing it alone; together though, we can lighten each other’s load.  So then: to the comments!


Posted by on June 26, 2012 in Family, Raising Kids


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5 responses to “Siblings & Familial Responsibility

  1. Skwishee

    June 26, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    As of yet, our kids do almost nothing. It’s a struggle to even get them to tidy up after themselves, let alone pour some cereal. I just read that article you posted on FB ( ) and I have to say that I feel like a bit of an idiot. My kids are capable of more than I allow them to do, and I think it’s about time that I let go of the reigns a little (before it’s too late!).

    I don’t think that you expect too much of your kids; you are doing a great job teaching them that we each have responsibilities in a family, and these are the ones they have in yours. One of my projects this summer is going to be getting the girls used to the idea of regular chores, and being responsible for their own stuff. Wish me luck.

    • realfoodcooking

      June 26, 2012 at 6:49 pm

      GOOD LUCK!! I readily admit that one of my guiding principles is parenting is my over-riding desire to do as little as I can. So, when my kids make a mess, they are responsible to clean it up. This includes the playroom, their bedrooms, the craft table, the backyard… where ever they’ve made a mess. It helps that this is reinforced at the EYC programs we attend as well. The tidy-up is a part of their social contract, I guess.

      I’m glad that my post (and the link!) are encouraging you to take a step back and let your kids shine. I do not think the first thing to start with though is letting them cut the lawn with a machete. 🙂

  2. Kathleen

    June 27, 2012 at 1:15 am

    I read your blog post and the article about American kids being spoiled. I certainly don’t think that your kids have too many responsibilities, I think it’s wonderful that you allow them to do things for themselves and encourage them to help you, and each other, out. My kids don’t have any particular chores, though Emily, who is almost 8, will help tidy up the playroom/porch/her room if asked, or will scout for dishes when I start washing them after supper. Evan, who is almost 3, doesn’t do much beyond picking up toys. Mostly I do everything myself because it’s easier. Which is terrible, I know.
    Emily is also less independent than a lot of kids when it comes to dressing herself because she wears a back brace for scoliosis which is pretty tricky to put on by herself. Rather, I should say she *was* less independent, because the last few weeks of school she started getting up before 6, making herself breakfast, getting completely dressed, brace and all, hair done, shoes on, backpack packed by 6:30 and *then* waking me. We don’t go to the bus stop until 7:45 so it gave us stress free time to hang out, we could read another chapter of Harry Potter or she could play. Miraculous since I didn’t prompt her to do any of this. She even laid a cup towel on the counter in case she spilled some milk. And this weekend when my sister and her family were here, Emily got up with her cousins aged 3 and 5 and helped them get dressed and fed them breakfast while all the grown-ups were sound asleep! I was so proud of her and she was so proud of herself, which encourages me to let her do more and reminds me how much she’s capable of doing.
    It’s hard to remember that we don’t just have to take of our kids, we have to let them learn to take care of themselves and each other.

  3. Rachel @ Grasping for Objectivity

    June 30, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    I think you’re doing a fabulous job – and and I think that helping each other is essential to learning how to be a fully-functioning adult!! Good job!


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