Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cathy on girls and chores

A month ago I asked you some questions about chores. Since then, I've posted some thoughts from Cathy and Valori about boys and chores. Today I'd like to share some helpful reflections from Cathy about girls and chores.

I love the way Cathy gets at the real issue - teaching girls the why, not just the what, of chores, and growing girls into the attitude of godly womanhood. Here's what she says:

Our daughter Audrey is 2. The level at which her "training" is different so far from her brother's is not the tasks in themselves, but the language we use to talk about them.

When she takes initiative to help my standard phrase is simply "good helping Audrey!" (with gusto and jubilation). I am keen for her to develop her view of herself as a helper, Genesis 1-2 style.

When Winton does the same thing (same initiative, similar tasks), I will praise his leadership in taking initiative to serve others (and talk about that as a very manly thing, like Jesus and Daddy ...).

We want Audrey to learn to do a lot of the same tasks Winton does, not so she can compete, but help.

In "Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood", John Piper's opening chapter* illustrates how his mother necessarily did many of the jobs that his father would because his father was away a lot. The difference was the way she "loved" her husband's leadership and work when he was home.

It wasn't a difference between skills and strength, but disposition.

I guess the training has a lot to do with seeing the connection between chores and relationships.

I guess other things we would want to teach are the value and dignity of doing chores and how they are connected to serving Jesus.

* John Piper A Vision of Biblical Complementarity

In a later comment, Cathy says

I think they will both learn to do the same things, but will perhaps get more experience in some tasks than others (ie. the degree of competence might vary, although I expect there will be some skill in most tasks).

As they grow, I imagine there will be some differentiation in responsibilities, but still a wide range of skills developed.

You can follow the string on chores here. Please add any thoughts of your own to the comments!

image is from richies at flickr


Anonymous said...

This was very helpful for me. Our kids are learning very similar chores (but like Cathy said, perhaps with different skill levels depending on whether they are girls or boys) but I think the idea of disposition and linking them with relationships is great. Girls helping, boys leading...

Pam said...

This bothers me.

Not complementarianism (sp?). I have no problem with that. But using different words to praise similar actions smacks of dishonesty to me. Complementary roles are not just made from fancy footwork with words; tricky semantics.

If a girl is showing initiative and that is a good thing, why not praise her? If a boy is helping and that is a good thing, why not praise him for that?

Certainly they will grow to have different roles. But what wife doesn't need initiative? What husband doesn't need to think about serving and helping in some capacity?

I suspect that watching Mum and Dad will have a much more beneficial/influential role than, excuse me for bluntness, what seems to be artificially creating a way of looking at things that isn't based on reality.

I think talking about the future is a great idea. Sell the idea of being a helper/leader. But make sure the pictures aren't prescriptive or less than the whole story.

I really do believe that a wife helping her husband is a beautiful thing.**
How that is lived out is so different in every marriage.

I realise I had a strong reaction to what was written and probably should've waited to reply. If I did that I probably would just forget. So forgive the clumsiness of the wording.

** (If you want a great picture of that then watch the episode of Seven Great Wonders of the Industrial World where the Brooklyn Bridge is completed by a woman determined to assist her husband in fulfilling his dream after he can no longer do it himself. Very inspiring! I'd love to know more about the woman but have not been able to find out many facts. Wasn't in a christian context but I was so humbled by the way she laid down her life for her husband.)

Jean said...

Yes, Jo, I found that helpful too.

Hi Pam! Don't worry - what's a blog for if not to throw around ideas?

I think Cathy's saying "serve" for boys and "help" for girls (check out her piece a couple of weeks ago on boys). So yes, boys definitely "serve", as you say.

We praise our boys for "helping" all the time, I must admit! It's appropriate language towards parents and siblings (and yes, probably wives) isn't it? And yes, why not praise a girl for taking initiative?

But I do like the way Cathy is using language from the Bible (Gen 1-3, Eph 5, 1 Peter 3) to teach her children the biblical pattern for male and female roles. I don't think this is artificial or not reflecting reality - it's reflecting the reality of how God made men and women. It doesn't need to be exclusive or legalistic. It's just a general biblical pattern reflected in how we speak to our children.

I understand it could invite some strong reactions, so yours is understandable!

Let's keep talking the issues through and see what we can come up with.

Cathy McKay said...

Thanks Jo and Pam for your thoughts. I find even in person these issues take a lot of dialogue to make sure we understand what each other is actually saying, so this format leaves room for a lot of strife!

Pam, I agree that complementarianism is so much more than a superficial change in words. The words are certainly not exclusively used in this way in our family. My praise for Audrey could be easily about her "taking initiative to help".

I think example without words will not be powerful enough to combat the deluge of indoctrination from feminist secular (and sometimes church) culture. The words are essential in explaining not just the "what", but "why". I don't want to leave the explaining to our culture.

Behind all this is the belief that complementarianism is not just about a job description, but who we are as people. We are either a man or a woman. The words I use in instructing my children are designed to shape their sense of their own personhood as a man or a woman.

Praising certain traits is helping them toward "mature" biblical manhood or womanhood. I care about Audrey and Winton being mature in their masculinity and femininity even if they never marry.

I agree that both men and women, married or not, need to take initiative in different ways in order to be mature and godly men and women.

The very reason I don't believe in too much variation in the types of chores boys and girls do is for the very reason you say "What husband doesn't need to think about serving and helping in some capacity?". That is a point that I think Valori made as well. In order to take responsibility for serving others, they need to know how to do stuff.

I realise also, the English language has made the idea of "helping" a demeaning one. We are trying to generate a family culture where helping is defined by the Bible, esteemed and praise worthy.

Mine is a long and fragmented response...thanks for provoking me to ongoing thought Pam!

Caroline said...

I think I understand, and can appreciate what Cathy is trying to do, but I can't really see much difference between "helping" and "serving", either Biblically or in the English dictionary.

Both seem to relate, from an English language point of view, to rendering assistance. If anything, "help" seems to be used Biblically as much to describe what God does for His people, and "serve" carries with it the idea of being a servant/slave (thus a person without authority).

Ephesians 5, and 1 Peter 3 speak of wives submitting to their husbands, not of wives helping them. So I'm not sure that using help and serve in this way is using language from the Bible. In view of the way that help is used, both in English and Biblically (which, as I alluded to above, can mean help from someone of equal or higher rank), maybe "serve" would be a better word to carry the idea of submission with it.

My own feeling is that men and women, boys and girls should all be helping and serving each other, because loving in deed and in truth requires it. I also feel that our complementary roles as husbands and wives is best shown by example, but that many of us (particularly myself) probably do need to look at how we talk about these things to our children. I'm just not sure that making a distinction between these two words is the Biblical way.

Jean said...

Hi Caroline! Thanks for the careful observations.

The language of "helper" comes from Genesis 1, not from Eph 5 or 1 Peter 3. I think it's the Bible's foundational way of talking about the nature of womanhood, on the basis of this passage.

You're right about "serve" - that it can be used of servants and slaves - but it's turned its head in the way the Bible talks about leaders serving, isn't it? I think the fact that it's generally used of slaves is the point - how shocking it is, then, that a leader serves! Jesus, of course, being the ultimate example of a leader who serves rather than lords it over others. So I think it's a wonderful way of speaking about leadership to our boys!

Of course, women also serve and men also help. To use different words is just a simple way of distinguishing roles in the way we speak with our kids - not that you can never praise a girl for "serving" or a boy for "helping", but just a way of bringing the difference between male and female roles into our everyday conversation. As the PC people are well aware, the way we speak every day is powerful. It's particularly important in a society where the pervasive message our children are hearing is feminist each and every day.

Also, perhaps there is some difference in the terms?? Someone in authority can definately "help", but to have your role defined as "helper" is to say that your focus is on someone else as you make plans and form an identity. To say you are a leader who "serves" is not to say that those under authority can't serve too, but it's probably deliberately chosen in the Bible because it turns leadership completely on its head, so that it is for the good of the other.

But these are just ramblings!!

How would you suggest distinguishing male and female roles in the way you talk to your kids?