Pricing the Priceless Child
Vivian Zelizer argues that modern individuals believe
children must be protected from the world of work, even from a just
share of household chores, yet must be immersed in the destructive worlds of
consumption and contemporary formal education. Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs is cool. Cuckoo
for laundry is cuckoo. Zelizer argues children who contribute to
the family—not in token ways and not in exploitive tasks—develop better
self-worth, understanding the needs of others better. They develop feelings of belonging.
They feel needed. Zelizer cites a study suggesting part time jobs help children
feel competent and improve personalities.
Zelizer writes that queen bee parenting treats children almost as if
they were invalids. Wives and husbands fight over
housework, seldom expecting children to help. Situations with self-denying
adults and irresponsible children harm adults and children alike.
While we protect children from the “offensive” adult world of contributing,
children bathe in the adult worlds of drugs and violence, escapism and voyeurism.
Zelizer claims that America is not child-focused. That idea is a “saccharine myth.” The valuing of children ends at the doorstep for many individuals. When the sentimental value of children rose, practical economic considerations were ruled “morally” offensive. Worth skimming. Book review article by J.T. Fournier, last updated July 21, 2009.