Given the fact that future is uncertain and we might not always be by our children s side, what is our biggest job as parents?
Our most fundamental responsibility is not only ensuring that they are loved protected, safe and secure but also that they are able to deal with any challenge life throws at them. A sure shot way to nurture this sense of responsibility and accountability in them is to start early and start small in giving them work around the house.
Many parents find this kind of delegation of work to their children quite unfair. A mother in one of my parenting seminars mentioned “ I slog hard at office to afford maids and servants to do all the household work, I don’t want my daughter to make her bed or fold her clothes. With the busy school and tuition schedule in tow, my daughter gets to rest a little that in iself is a bonus”
While at that moment I did find it rash, this mother echoed the thought that many parents have. So many times parents wonder if they should really ask their children to work around the house or share basic household responsibilities; After all, isn’t it a parents job to manage the household? And don’t children need a chance to ‘just be kids?’
If we want our children to succeed in the world outside it is important that we induce in them a sense of accountability and responsibility right from the beginning. When a child starts doing little things at home it learns to value the time and efforts put in by the other members of their family. Whether the child is making its bed or sweeping the floor, helping out around the house gives it a sense of accomplishment and a helps the child feel like it is a part of the family team.
The author of the book – Raising Can-Do Kids: Giving Children the Tools to thrive in a Fast-Changing World – Richard Rende a Child Development Researcher clearly outlines the benefits of assigning work to children or getting them to do the chores on a daily basis. Studies have reported benefits in terms of better bonding with family and a raised self-esteem which in turn results in an enhanced engagement in school and academic performance, reduced behavioral problems and protection from early drug use. Influential longitudinal studies, tracking from childhood through adulthood, positioned chores as a surprisingly influential factor that offered strong prediction of positive mental health in adulthood and professional success.
Parents equate love to providing all possible comfort for their children without being responsible for anything around. All this scientific evidence definitely boosts parents to get out of their comfort zone and start delegating work to their children exactly like they would do in their work settings.
YOU ARE A ROLE MODEL – Your own attitude about work at home would shape a child’s approach on the topic. As a parent you send the message that this work is tedious, boring and to be avoided at all costs or that it is important to run the household and can be done with commitment and fun.
START EARLY- Toddlers naturally want to help and participate in the work around. My 22 month old daughter is encouraged to keep her toys back in the proper place after she plays. While she does mess around doing this activity, and thereby increasing my work load in the short run, I can see that she is picking this as a habit. Every time she keeps her toys back or keeps her tub and tumbler in order in the bathroom she is met with generous praise.
WORK ON IT TOGETHER – While children taking some accountability is non-negotiable, you can always sit together and discuss about assigning chores. Children are more cooperative when they have a say. Also, brainstorm ideas for overcoming any obstacle and look at the consequences of not completing their tasks. Family times like these can build morale, enhance bonding and facilitate problem solving.
START WITH THEMSELVES – Children can start by doing their own work –
Keep their clothes, bed sheets, shoes etc. in proper place.
Keep their own plates to wash.
As children grow up they can be given accountability of cleaning their room, cupboard etc and then also extend this responsibility to complete other work in the house. As work becomes more complex, teach them in how to do each task systematically.
While children may be reluctant at times and find it boring to do such household chores, the case in point is not necessarily to make your children happy by being comfortable in their lazy zone ; rather it is to teach them life skills and a sense of responsibility that will last a lifetime.
Dr Shruti Jaiswal is assosiated with the core team of Parwarish since the last 7 years.