Children, Chores and Confidence

I was actually going to write about developing immunity in children, but decided to write about developing responsibility, thanks to a conversation at a parents’ meeting the other day. I love these gatherings because there’s so much to learn and share – and give our guilt glands a rest. Even if we know that there is no such thing as a perfect parent, we can’t help trying. We don’t want anyone to point a finger at our children or find fault, even if we know there’s no such thing as a perfect child!

Children, Chores & Confidence

So the next best thing is to do our best – and one of the ways is making them responsible. The good news is, most children naturally want to be independent as toddlers as their natural curiosity motivates them to try things on their own. When they feel respected and competent, they become emotionally strong. As parents, it is not unnatural for us to coddle our kids, but we also have a duty to make them independent.

Chores can be fun

Allocate age-appropriate duties and add to them as they grow. Just like the school syllabus. The good news is – stuff that seem like housework to us can be fun for kids. So when my son was three years old, he would happily put away the dishes after I washed them. That he transferred them to the floor in the next ten minutes is a different story, but one we were able to take to a happy ending.

As he grew up my son showed an enthusiasm for various things and I found that when he was told sweetly, and given a list, things worked. Around the time he was five, he could clear up after play, wash his plate, fold his clothes, bring things from the fridge, collect and put clothes in the hamper, wear a pair of socks on his hands and dust, water the plants and segregate vegetables and put them in fridge bags.

By the time he was 8, he could help with other things around the house. Life went on happily.

Growing pains

But as he grew older, and as school homework, projects, programs and music classes grew, life became more hectic and his chores took a backseat. I used to get mad at him and complain that I had to do everything. It was also a tough time for me at home, with my Mom’s health turning critical.  Then during a short vacation around the time he was 12, I decided there was no point getting mad and decided to do something constructive.

So I made a list of all that went into running our house and told him to pick the chores he could do, just to see what he would do. I also wanted him to set times, so that I didn’t have to remind him. Oh yes, I fell back on my list fetish. And guess what? I was pleasantly surprised at all that he took responsibility for. If there’s one thing I am grateful for, it is my husband’s support. Together, we’ve gently encouraged our son to ease back into doing things. So now, at 15, here are just some of the things he does:

  • Makes the beds
  • Gets breakfast for himself
  • Starts the washing machine thrice a week (I hang out the clothes to dry, unless it is a holiday)
  • Washes his socks and undies after school
  • Helps plan meals for the week and shop for ingredients
  • Cleans bathrooms once a week
  • Ensures sheets and curtains are changed once a week
  • Takes care that his bookshelves (there are many) and clothes cupboard are in order
  • Takes care of his schoolwork and projects
  • Helps with shopping and even if I forget the list at home, remembers what is on it
  • Helps with keeping the house clean

I’ve started him off on keeping track of what we spend each month so he gets a sense of budgeting. And he has a year-planner – it is his job to make a note of bill due dates. Overall, he’s in sync with what is happening around the house and is eager to know more.

What I learned along the way:

  • It is important to be specific with instructions
  • Introduce each chore one by one
  • Be patient
  • Be tolerant
  • Know it is okay not to be perfect – sometimes the intention matters just as much
  • Make sure things are done regularly. One off doesn’t count
  • Praise, praise, praise
  • For extra-ordinary initiative, reward.

Recently, when Sury and I fell sick with food-poisoning, he looked after us lovingly and knew what to give us.

We often underestimate what our kids can do. We just have to use the right language, be kind in action and reaction. Sometimes it is okay to stage a situation so they can take action and feel confident. It can be a slow process, and there will be challenging phases. But it is all worth it. It is a collaborative effort and with practice, all is well.

How do you tackle this in your family?

Wishing y’all a Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year!

Vidya Sury is a happy work-at-home Mom who relishes the joy of parenting and growing up with her son. She is a freelance writer, business blogger and social media enthusiast and loves DIY, Coffee, Music, Photography, Family, Friends and Life.  She believes that Happiness is a DIY Project. She blogs at www.vidyasury.com and tweets as @vidyasury.

  • Fab

    Superb, Vidya!! I was actually planning to write a post on chores too, but you have written it way better than I would have!!! Your son is a wonderful young man, and the credit obviously goes to you! You are right, we often underestimate our kids and seem to forget that completing a ‘grown up’ task gives them a huge boost as well. Great work!!

    • Hi Fab! 😀 Thanks for your lovely comment! This is a rather sensitive topic. The thing is – consistency and making a habit of these chores takes a lot of work, both on the childrens’ side and the parent’s. There was a phase when my son was unbelievably enthusiastic…and then he went through a waning phase and we worried like crazy. I have realized that we must put ourselves in their shoes often, in the process of encouraging them. It gets easier that way. I was glad when he simply eased into doing his stuff again.

      You’re right about them “feeling” grown up when they do a grown up task. The joy is when they do it without being told 🙂 The biggest joy, though, is when they get better at it than the adults!

      I was drooling over your last post. Sigh.!

  • very well written Vidya, and true, being a parent teaches you one thing more than anything else- to be patient!

    • Thank you, Poonam! And it is so very rewarding, isn’t it?

      Your post about Kidihou was lovely and it sounds like a great place for kids.

      Cheers!

  • Vidya, you are so wise! And you put things into words beautifully. I very much agree that kids should have their own chores to do. My sons are grown, but they both had responsibility around the house when growing up. And, I am convinced, that because of that, they are more responsible adults. Both of them are quite the good cooks, too!
    Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful post, my friend!

  • Roshni

    Very well put and I liked how you wrote specific lists for suggestions for chores! I’m happy that my sons can and do many of those chores already. As I type, my sons made my husband and me coffee!! 🙂

    • Isn’t that lovely, Roshni! Way to feel blessed! 🙂 Enjoy!

  • Wow Vidya,
    I found your tip on Sverve and came across your blog. I love how you connected the choirs when you were small to how it created the positive outlook you have as an adult. I will definitely check back.

    • Welcome to Parentous, Mindi! Thanks for your lovely comment! When we enjoy doing something, it becomes fun! Looking forward to connecting with you!