Re: Child Labor (fwd)
From: Cohousing-L listmgr (
Date: Mon, 2 Dec 1996 09:40:10 -0600
Michael P. Persons   mpp [at]    
is the author of the message below but due to a problem it was posted 
by the Fred the list manager: owner-cohousing-L [at]
********************  FORWARDED MESSAGE FOLLOWS ***********************


Just wanted to put my two cents in here.  First, an introduction: Mike
Persons, associate member, Commmonweal cohousing in Grafton, MA.
(Associate means I'm interested enough to pay a small membership fee
and work on committees but not committed enough yet to put up the big

I have a daughter who is two.  From seeing how she interacts with her
parents, it's my impression that kids want to do what their parents
do.  That includes "work" as well as "play", but I don't know if she
really knows (or cares) what the difference is.  "Work" doesn't have
the negative connotations for her that it seems to in our society
today.  As she gets older we will expect her to continue to do work in
our household, just as we do.  As the old saying goes, attitudes are
caught, not taught.  As long as we do our tasks cheerfully without
bitching and moaning about "work", I expect she'll do the same.  I
plan to raise my daughter in cohousing with the belief that we all do
chores in our family, and the cohousing community is an extension of
that family, at least where chores are concerned.

> Things have been dull on this list lately, what with the holidays,
> etc. In the interest of generating a little debate, I submit the
> following questions:
> At what age do other communities expect children to participate in
> work tasks in the community? How is this enforced? What types of
> tasks are given to children?

I would say as early as possible they should be given something 
useful to do.  They'll enjoy working along with the big people
(if the big people enjoy it).  I suspect that trying to get them
to start participating as teens is a little too late if they've
never been expected to before.

> At Muir Commons in Davis, California, we have never been able to
> have a constructive discussion on this issue (combining, as it does,
> the twin hot buttons of children and participation). Different
> parents have said "children are not slaves (although that particular
> parent expects his children to do chores at home)", 

Does this person have a legitimate gripe?  Are children being used to
do a lot of work?  There's a difference between everyone pitching in
to get something done and someone sent out to labor in the salt mines.

> "my children will help with the work that is expected of our
> household as we see fit", 

Sounds defensive.  Are there not clear rules about job
responsibilities?  Do these parents think their kids are being asked
to do too much?

>"it is all I can do to do my own community work; I don't have
> the time or energy to supervise my children doing community work".

Why would they have to personally supervise their child?  Would they
not trust anyone else in the group to do it?

> On the other hand is the camp which feels that the children would
> probably feel more ownership and take better care of the community
> if they helped clean it up. There are other parents who are more
> than willing to get their children involved, if the community could
> just get it together to come up with some guidelines.

>From other postings I gather that a lot of kids nowadays are raised
without a sense of responsibility.  I have seen my share of frantic
parents rushing around to dance, karate, soccer, girl/boy scouts,
etc., trying desperately to keep their children entertained.  Maybe
they shouldn't try so hard (IMHO).

> As a result of this impasse we have resentment and defensiveness,
> and several people who have passed from teenhood to adulthood as
> community members without taking on community responsibilities. We
> are just your average American dysfunctional cohousing community.

Good fences make good neighbors and clear-cut rules make everyone more
comfortable.  Rob Sandelin said:

> At Sharingwood there are no participation expectations for anyone,
> people partipate as they see the need, both community and personal.
> This means some folks do more than others, but, in theory anyway,
> it's because they want to, not because they have to. 

I suspect this is the exception rather than the rule.  They must have
a very close and trusting group of people to make it work without
formal rules.  I would want something written down.

Let us know what you come up with.  I'm sure lots of us will have the
same problems.

Michael P. Persons       I didn't say it.  I didn't
mpp [at]           mean it.  It's all true.

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