On Snowstorms and Shoveling: The Lost Art of Purposeful Parenting

Yesterday we got our first big snowfall of the year here in New York. To clarify, it was more than just a snowfall, it was a blizzard of epic proportions. When I awoke this morning, there was over 18 inches of the powdery white stuff blanketing everything. Thankfully we did not lose power and our family and friends are all safe. After it finally stopped snowing, my wife and I got the kids suited up in their snow gear and began the dreaded task of snow removal. Everyone in my family, young and old, worked together to clear what Mother Nature had so generously dropped from the sky overnight. If my kids want to play in the snow, they must help to clear the snow.

This practice has been passed down to me by my parents who, from an early age, instilled in my sister and me a work ethic that sadly seems to have been forgotten by many parents in America today. Helping our parents around the house was mandatory in my day. There was no other option. If you wanted to play, you had to pay. This principle of parenting has remained in effect in our home as my wife and I raise our elementary school-aged children.

Unfortunately, many parents today don’t seem to believe in the importance of this credo. My children were the only kids with shovels in their hands on my block this morning. I saw lots of dads and a few moms out there snowplowing and shoveling, but the sidewalks were sadly devoid of kids. I assume most were indoors on various electronic devices texting, listening to music, watching TV or playing video games as their parents dealt with the snow. And I don’t blame the children for that — I hold their parents accountable for this lazy attitude of entitlement. Why are so many of my friends and neighbors raising kids that feel no obligation to do their part in the work around the house?

Is it because parents are too lazy to fight the battles that my parents fought as they poked and prodded my sister and I out of the house to shovel snow those cold winter mornings of the 1970s? Is it just easier to do it themselves (or to pay someone to do it for them)?

Or is it that parents have forgotten how important it is to instill a sense of obligation to work within our children? A notion that everyone in the family must contribute in some way…to do their fair share….no matter how small their contribution is! A friend of mine used to say that it was easier to do it herself than to wake her son, Johnny, to help her with the shoveling. She explained that he had been up late watching TV the night before. Poor Johnny! This attitude ENRAGES me!! My friend doesn’t realize what a disservice she is doing to her child…to her family…to our COUNTRY!!

Raising children that are active participants in the daily chores of a family is one of the most important contributions we can make to our society. It is imperative that we do this continually! When I take my kids to the supermarket with me, each child has a role. One of my twins is an awesome grocery bagger and she now completes this task without having to be asked. My son is a great scout — running ahead to start our cold cut order at the deli kiosk. And when we pull up to the house each kid is responsible for carrying at least two bags into the house — no ifs, ands or buts about it! My neighbor down the block told me she does all of her food shopping alone because her kids are so poorly behaved. She would rather they stay at home with dad so she can get this chore done quicker and without stress. Doesn’t she realize that she created this problem? If my sister and I misbehaved in the supermarket there was hell to pay! We were scared of our mom’s wrath. Food shopping with my mom was part of the learning process. The refrigerator didn’t get filled magically.

I used to roll my eyes when my grandparents used to mention “the good old days”. I now know exactly what they were talking about and it makes me sad to realize that many parents today seem to have lost their way.

Thankfully, there is still time to get back to the basics :)