Growing up, my siblings and I were trained to do household chores. Every summer, our parents would send the helper to her home province for a vacation and that would signal what we dramatically call our “summer slavery”. My Mom would wake us up at six in the morning (summer morning!) to prepare the garbage for pick-up by the collector. Why can’t they pick them up in the evening?! Nobody was allowed to leave the house without fixing his/her own bed. My favorite chore was doing the groceries and going to the wet market on Saturday mornings with my Mom. This is where I developed my bargaining negotiation skills which I later on put to much greater use at work… and at the flea markets and bazaars :).
I was seven when my late Dad taught me how to cook rice, sans the automatic rice cooker. He also passed on his cleaning techniques (bordering on OC-ness) to me. But he must have known I could do more than just regular household chores. Once while he was fixing the bathroom pipes, he sent me to the nearby hardware store by the corner for what felt like an epic mission: 1) have one of the pipes cut into two specified lengths, 2) ask them to put a pipe screw and 3) buy an elbow coupling to connect the two pipes. I was beaming with pride when Dad said I did a great job. I was nine! Hanging out in hardware stores and home depots still give me a different kind of high up to now.
Now that I am a mother myself, I have seen the value of teaching kids to be responsible even at an early age. For the Little Boy’s first four years, he has had a nanny at his beck and call. Since we moved here in Jakarta two years ago, we had been nanny-less. Though our family is lucky to have access to household help twice a week, we’re basically on our own when it comes to the day-to-day chores. Dear Hubby thankfully agrees with me to get the Little Boy involved in household tasks.
I have started him with some little chores: putting away his toys after playing, returning his books on the shelves, fixing the throw pillows in the living room (they all end up on the floor after he plays), tossing his soiled clothes in the hamper. As soon as his grips became stable, we had him bring his dinner plate to the kitchen after meals. He started helping out clearing the dinner table at age five and now that he’s six, he once in a while helps in mopping the kitchen floor.
Some may even argue with me that this could be child labor. I don’t think so. While we shower him with so much love and affection and we strongly encourage outdoor and indoor play, we just don’t want him to grow up thinking that there will always be someone to pick up after him clearing all his mess all the time. By involving our children in tasks, we parents teach them very important values that could stay with them throughout their lives: a sense of responsibility, competence, self-reliance, and self-worth. The Little Boy could use these skills to help him become a well-adjusted adult and not be a pain in someone’s neck later on. Just give our kids age-appropriate chores and remind them to whistle while they work.
Here’s a video of the Little Boy happily performing his task.