Children and Chores

Swapna Narayanan 

If on January 1, 2020, you had told me that within a span of a few days, our lives would change drastically, specifically to one without house help around, I would have surely raised my eyebrows and probably, in my mind, slotted you as a fool.

Well, unfortunately, in a span of a few days since we heralded in 2020, our lives have taken a turn. A complete turn that took us all by shock, disbelief and dismay. Virus? People dying? In the 21st century? No vaccine? Community spread? Italy? New York?

What? No!

Well, it is a month since the lockdown and a period with a lot of No’s that seem to be turning into Yes’s.

We are all managing well, eating food, handling our office work without any maids, cooks, stepping into office, dinner outings, or food deliveries. We are all getting the chores done, are able to log on to our work schedules on time, are cooking fresh meals for the family, managing the online class schedules of our children, working out, catching our favourite series and movies, and trying to spend that ‘quality time’ which has been forcibly imposed on to us.

But the question is how taxed are we as parents? Are we doing all this on our own?  Have we delegated chores to children in our house?

If you are one of those parents who believe that children who help at home, actually become independent and self reliant individuals later in life, then you must have already allocated some daily chores at home. However, if you have not allocated any, yet you do want to make your children strongly independent, then this article may give you some tips to truly empower your children for their future.

Corona virus can be your ally there. Do not miss this golden chance.

Why?

If we truly love our children, we must teach them to:

  1. Maintain hygiene – both personal and their surroundings.
  2. Never go hungry – ensure they know how to cook the comfort food of your family – dal chaawal, roti subzi, pongal or rasam rice.
  3. Manage their time well – time management is a very critical skill for students and what better place to start than home.
  4. Respect all the people who help around – daily maid, the cook, the driver, the garbage collectors, the Uber drivers, the school van drivers etc.

Unless you want your son or daughter to go to the university in another city or country, and have them wondering how to wash their own inner wear, or how much water to keep while cooking rice. Or worse, instead of googling this question, having them to call you when you are just about to go in for that long awaited lunch party with your friends, or about to enter a movie theatre to catch on the latest release.

Grab it friends. This is a good chance.

During this lock down, ensure each child has at least two fixed chores, which they have to repeat every day without us reminding them to do it. It is their duty. It can be tasks like sweeping the house, sorting clothes for laundry and running the washing machine, putting the washed vessels back into the shelves, clearing the table after meals etc. All children, above 13, can easily do these tasks.

And also add two variable chores, that depends on the need of the day and if both of you are working, probably your work schedules. So some days it can be watering the plants, or helping you prepare for that special dish you are making, or even making simple breakfast like boiled eggs, salad and bread. Be sure to always couple a slightly complicated task with a simple one. Cutting cucumbers and keeping rice can be a decent combination for a 14 year old, while making dal and wiping the kitchen slab would do well for an 18 year old.

It is imperative that we add both the type of chores – fixed and variable. Theory of relativity works well here. I have seen, and so would you have, or will now, that in a few days of this new life, they start loathing the variable tasks, and develop a strong sense of connect with the fixed tasks. It gives them a sense of ownership, so that they can get done with it faster and move on with the rest of their time!

No problem, honey – is what you would probably scream with joy. But do this in your head. For sure, it is a relief that they are taking ownership for at least two tasks, and you can remove it from your To Do list!

Now it is time I tell you about some Do’s and Don’ts that even we, as parents, need to follow. While the children get their task list, we also need to tread this path carefully to keep them engaged, connected and more importantly make them feel the urge to genuinely help us and reduce our work load.

Chores and children are always a major contention in Indian households. So we are relatively alone in this crusade. We may be lucky to find an ally or two in the form of our spouse or at times even the grandparents, but then no guarantee there. Grandparents, husbands, wives and other people around would have their own view points on why we should not get chores done from the children. But do remember, only we, as parents, are the ones who can (and should) truly empower them to lead a clean, healthy and responsible life ahead.

So here are some Dos and Don’ts for us:

Do

  • Assign the chores well ahead in time. Children, especially teenagers, like spontaneity in only chatting/meeting/texting their friends, logging on to Instagram or FB, or going out for dinner. Rest all needs to be planned and told to them well in advance.
  • Give them some flexibility. If they have siblings, be flexible if they want to exchange the chores amongst them, as long as the work load is largely equal. We need to keep an eye on that to avoid bullying by one child. If you have a single child then encourage them to exchange from your task list. ‘Mom – I will mow the lawn today, will you please do the laundry?’ should work well for us.
  • Be strict where it is needed. Do not wear the doting parent’s hat while discussing the progress of their chores. Be rigid and inflexible, but do provide enough justification if they ask (which they will). Eventually, sound reasoning always wins, and intelligent children do get the point.

Do not

  • Nag them repeatedly. Just give one reminder and leave it. And in case the task gets missed, allow it to pile up, and let them do it the next day. A tad tough, but do this we must. Remember, we love them, and are making them accountable for their own commitment.
  • Allow our temper to come in the way. Teenagers are slow in all things home, mommy and daddy. Everywhere else they are super fast, but when it comes to us, they will be slow, irritating and extremely bugging. Yet – learn to ignore and not raise our voice. My 19 year old son has actually told me this – ‘because you say it repeatedly and get angry, I do not feel like doing it. If you leave it to me, I will ensure it is done.’ Beat that?

As they say, throw a challenge to a parent, he or she will surely find a way to not only handle it, but also emerge as a winner in there. So here’s to the spirit of nurturing in us as parents.

Nurture and teach your children to live a happy, healthy and hygienic life ahead.

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