Lessons from Housekeeping: On Teaching Our Children How To Treat Us

parent hug


In her novel Housekeeping Marilynne Robinson describes three daughters and their abandonment of their mother once they become adults. Although the mother was loving and “constant as daylight,” she “had never taught them to be kind to her” (19). As a mother, this line immediately struck me and I noted it as a keen insight into mother-child relationships and how to raise my daughter.

When we open ourselves up to loving our children fully, we often focus solely on how we treat them rather than how they treat us. Because we do so much for them, from feeding and clothing to teaching and encouraging, we sometimes forget that a relationship, any relationship, requires mutual respect and kindness to be sustainable. As much as we teach our children to be kind to others, we must also expect them to be kind toward us. We all know that a child can be capable of great love and thoughtless cruelty toward us; through encouraging the love and correcting the cruelty, we create relationships that will go beyond their childhood years.

Unlike the mother in Robinson’s novel, I encourage you (and remind myself) to teach and expect kindness from your children today. Whether this in their words, the completion of their chores, or some other action, teach them to do it and remind them to do it; you deserve it, and so will they someday when they have their own little ones.


Many thanks to parent.org for the image.

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