We Are A Team

This was before our elder was born, I had to visit US for about 3 weeks and my boss had called me to check if I would be ok to stay with him and his family instead of a hotel.  Initially I was reluctant, but when he told me that the only hotel available near our office did not have dining facility and I will have to drive 7 miles for every meal, it quickly ended the conversation.

We Are A Team - Making Children More Responsible - And Independent

Staying with Bill and family was a very unique experience for me. They had two daughters Pam and Becky. It was my first experience of staying with Americans at such close quarters. Though I have been working for US companies for most of my career, living with real Americans in their home was a totally different experience.

Bill and family lived in a huge house in a suburb. I was given the guest room on ground floor, while the family lived in two rooms upstairs. There was a small vegetable patch in the backyard next to a huge pool. The most interesting thing was, to see the family interact and work as a team. (Nothing Hollywood kinds here).

Every member of the family had a responsibility and contributed to work in the family. Even the 3-year-old Pam was entrusted with setting the table mats on the table before dinner time.  Becky watered the plants and helped her father in cleaning and covering the pool in evening to conserve solar heat in water. Though these kids enjoyed their kidsee moments I found them more matured and independent than kids in India of same age. Even the parents expected kids to take care of themselves compared to mom running after kid for everything.

Since, the domestic help in US is very expensive, everybody contributes to house hold chores.  When I compare the same with my own childhood in India, I find that everything is taken for granted and our poor mothers slog from morning till evening. I am not proud of this, but the fact is we siblings were a rotten lot and never allowed our mother to sit idle even for a moment.

I do not want to generalise anything, but I find that most of the Indian families pamper their kids much more than required. Mind you, the small tasks that these little girls, Pam and Becky, did were not laborious or show stoppers, but they had a sense of pride and a bonding for the family. Their mom considered it important, along with studies, for the kids to be responsible for their own stuff like preparing school bag, keeping their shoes in shoe rack, etc.

Our elder daughter regularly helps her mother in small things on weekends, but we are still far away from giving her more responsibilities. The younger one is now learning to keep her toys back in their place after playing with them. Sometimes guests feel that we are forcing our kids to do things that a maid should do and we should just focus on their studies as they will learn these things on their own later in life. But we are very clear that it is never too early to become independent.

Let me ask this to my fellow parent-friends, How many of you arrange your kids’ shoes and toys who are 4 years and above? Or your kid knows that this is his/her responsibility (replace the this with any age appropriate task).

Sasha and Prasad Np are proud parents of 2 girls whom they fondly call Princess and Pinkette. He wears many hats after taking a break from being corner office critter for a long time. He is now an entrepreneur, blogger, photographer, traveler and a potential investor in start-ups with unique concepts especially if they are in travel related business. He blogs at Desi Traveler, and can be reached at Facebook and Twitter.

  • Fab

    Completely agree with everything you’ve said here – urban Indian kids are a pampered lot!! My 4 year old puts away his toys at the end of the day, returns his utensils to the kitchen after his meal, puts his soiled clothes in the laundry, and his shoes on the shoe rack. I’ve been trying to get him to help with setting the table too, but no success there!! Also, he tends to be a slacker with grand parents around :-). It definitely didn’t happen overnight, and is still not a 100%!!

  • Hi Fab… Kudos to you, and you are 100% , both good and bad habits are built over a period…thanks

  • I totally agree with what youve pointed out. As a kid I was never allowed to enter the kitchen and we never told to do our chores… I on the other was very clear I would involve my daughter in age-appropriate chores. She’s 2, she helps me in setting up the table, cleans up after her play time, helps her daddy in gardening. People have told me, we’re being too harsh, but I never force her to do anything… now its become a part of her routine. She sees Mom & dad working around the house and she is always ready to help. 🙂

  • Hi Falak… I think you have a good approach by making it all seem like part of the routine and some what fun. Wishing tons of smiles to the little one…. 🙂

  • Agree with you about making the kids independant. My children have been instilled the values since they were young. Infact, my previous post had subtle hints about their organizing abilities. They were around two when they knew they had to put the things in their place like toys, socks etc., at around 5/6 they were organizing their wardrobes. Infact, it was initiated through fun like giving stars for the best kept wardrobe. now organizing things independantly has become a habit with them.

    now at 16, my daughter independantly drives to her school while many mom’s/dads /driver chauffeur drive their grown up children to school. (my daughter’s school does not have bus facility). It is a nice habit, but at times it is nice for parents to get show our appreciation through hugs, cuddles and kisses.

  • sorry too many typos and grammar mistakes. Hope you got the message.

  • Hi Asha.. Thanks for your inputs… yes hugs and appreciation go a long way. I have read a bit about the star system though have never been able to implement the same. Will try in this summer vacation..
    Indeed going to school on own Scooty is something to be proud of both for daughter and parents. Wishing her safe travels.

  • I am loving your post. I was expected to do chores when growing up (my brother too). Small things like ironing our clothes, washing out lunch boxes etc. After living in the US for a decade with no help when I moved to Singapore I was shocked. I see maids carrying school bags of 13 year olds till the bus stop. One of the reasons I do not have a maid is I want my daughter to know house work is not beneath one. Everyone has to chip in to have a neat home (I have a maid who comes in once a week for 4 hrs). At 3.5 my daughter understands this – her job is to bring the dry laundry to the ironing board and also load the dirty laundry in the washer. Cleaning up the toys and anything she spills is required. Yes it involves quite some patience but when has parenting not required patience. I tell her this is her house and if she needs to stay her she needs to do the required. Start them early and keep it consistent.

    • Hi Vinitha… My experience here in India is not very different. I see so many parents and maids carrying the school bags of kids till the bus. I wonder who carries the bag in the school, I wish there parents also think about the same. Thanks

  • Wonderful post Prasad …. I remember an incident when I was young. I had challenged my mom when she threatened me that she will throw my schoolbag out of the house .. and thats exactly what she did. I remember being very embarrassed to go back to the road to pick my books. I learnt it the hard way.
    Now I expect the same from my daughter. She better keep her toys back at its place before she goes to school or else she will find those near the dustbin when she comes back. She hasn’t given me an opportunity so far to actually implement it. She has been pretty good in doing her own things.

    • Hi Divya… I strongly feel every kids should be trained to do age appropriate things from as early as possible.
      On a lighter note you must have been a real naughty kid 🙂

  • Amrita Thavrani

    I had started roping in my 2+ years into small responsibilities like cleaning up building blocks after playing with them, throwing the toffee wrapper in the dustbin placed at kitchen, closing the cabinet doors if she had opened them, bringing her own spoons and bowl from kitchen drawer if she needs a share in our food, keeping her school bag at her room and opening her shoes and put them in shoe cabinet… so far she is proactive and getting nicely with the flow of things.

    • Hi Amrita.. You are doing all the right things, though I will be a little more careful with the kitchen drawers if they are the auto closing types.
      Over all these good habits will stay with her life long . Thanks

  • Gauri

    My five year old thinks I am being too hard on her if I ask her to put her toys back in place, hey milk mug or food plate in the kit chen sink or put her shoes in the shoe rack. It has been an uphill task trying to get her to do just her chores, forget about the household chores. Yet, I keep trying everyday and We are getting there bit by bit.

    • Hi Gauri… You 5 year old seems no different from our younger one who too thinks on similar lines. But we need to persist and not bow down, and like you say we are getting there one step at a time.

      Thanks.

  • Hello Prasad,

    A well written article and an informative one too at that. Yes, I agree. Most of us tend to pamper our children. And then, later when our children do not behave the way they should then, we wonder where we went wrong.
    I used to sit with my son when he was small and after he had finished playing with his toys we used to put back the toys together. Later, he picked up the habit. Now that he is a young teenager, I cannot possibly put back things together for him but there are days when some things are scattered and I keep waiting that he will pick them up. It then requires a reprimand or an expected visit from his friend and then, his room shines like it never did!

    • Hi Shail… You have given us a new mantra… ” Peer pressure from friends…” Will remember to use it. Thanks