When you decide to televise your entire family life, you open yourself up to a lot of public scrutiny about how you raise your kids. No one knows this better than Michelle Duggar, reality star and mother to 19 children. While Duggar has received her fair share of criticism, she likely did not expect the backlash she faced after posting a photo of her grandchildren on Facebook last week.
“Train them young! These little ones love to ‘help,’ ” Duggar wrote, captioning a photo of toddlers Meredith (Josh’s daughter) and Spurgeon (Jessa’s son), using Swiffer Wet Jet mops on a tile floor.
Almost immediately, comments began flooding in from people objecting to her use of the word “train,” to the notion of having such young children doing housework, to the implication that she doesn’t to do any work herself, and even to the fact that she isn’t using nontoxic cleaning agents.
“You train a dog, not a child,” Debbie Fein wrote. “Does Michelle do anything in that house? The girls (never the boys) do the cleaning, laundry, shopping, etc. and Jana raises the children. Very sad.”
“I totally agree with you,” Beth Ostroski replied to Fein’s comment. “It’s so sad the way Duggar fans defend the way they live. Girls in that household are nothing but maids-in-waiting to be given away to the first male who shows any interest and then to pop out as many babies as humanly possible.”
Looking more closely at the photo, Margie Kohl observed, “As a Dental professional the picture is cute but why the bottle always hanging out of his mouth. More disturbing are the propane tanks in the house.” (Others helpfully pointed out that the tanks were outside the door, so there’s that.)
But of the 361 comments (and counting!) to this photo, most were in defense of Duggar.
“For crying out loud, they make toy vacuum cleaners and broom sets and tools,” Susan Vargo wrote. “Little kids love to help Mommy and use the real tools. Lighten up. There no one with a whip making them scrub the floors.Ey Yi Yi so critical!!!! There’s nothing wrong with kids learning to keep their environment clean.”
Duggar may have deserved the criticism she got for not turning son Josh over to the authorities for molesting her daughters, but for once she might be right. Many experts say household chores are good for children.
A study at the University of Minnesota found that children who were taught to participate in household work by age 3 or 4 are more likely to become successful adults and have good relationships with family and friends. Another study found that children report higher levels of happiness when they feel they have contributed to the family.
Of course, there’s also the anecdotal evidence that small children love mimicking grownups, which is how they learn. (My 4-year-old has yet to pick up the Swiffer himself, but he sure gets a kick out of pressing the spray button.) Even though they’re not much actual help, the lesson is best taught early, when they think it’s a game.
As Catherine Hall, one commenter on the Duggar post put it, “It’s a heck of a lot easier to teach a child when they are small than allow them to grow up lazy and entitled and try to get them to do anything as teenagers or young adults.”
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