When I was 10 years old my mom said to me, "If you want clean clothes, you're washing them yourself." And then she taught me how. At the time, I thought she was the devil. But when I got to college, I realized she was a genius. All around me there were 18-year-olds with white shirts stained pink, staring helplessly at washing machines.
Laundry wasn't the only life skill my mother handed down to me. Long before I left home I also knew how to cook, balance a checkbook and clean a toilet. But perhaps the most important thing she instilled in me was the drive to figure out how to do something if I didn't know how.
I believe too many parents are guilty of doing everything for their children. The result is too many self-indulgent adults who can't do anything for themselves, or ones with such a heightened sense of entitlement that they simply won't.
Parents who do everything for their children do so for a variety of reasons—because it's faster to do it themselves or because they want their kids to just focus on being kids or because they don't want to be "mean."
But I think the real definition of "mean" is setting your child up for failure by failing to teach him self-reliability. Doing a few chores to earn a toy, money or whatever isn't going to kill him. It's going to teach him that if he wants something, he has to work for it. Sure, he probably won't vote you Parent of the Year when he's mowing the lawn or doing the dinner dishes. But those little responsibilities now are preparing him for the biggest responsibility of all—life. And for that, the world will thank you.
Photo by Flickr member woodleywonderworks, used under a Creative Commons License.