Personally, I hate the word ‘chores’. I associate it too much with its corollary meaning of a tiresome, burdensome task! Of course, my sons would readily agree to that description, but this is my blog, so I prefer to say that my sons are assigned tasks that are life skills!
In general, when I see men in our extended family, I see some men who are caring fathers, husbands and brothers, but I also see other men who are used to being catered to all the time and who think that this treatment is a given for them. I feel strongly about girls being brought up treated as equally as boys, and for that reason, boys need to be brought up treated as equally as girls; no less, no more! In other words, I wish for my boys to be brought up not knowing that there are certain jobs or chores in the world that are designated as a ‘woman’s work’!
For that reason, my boys know how to do laundry, fold clothes and put them away, stir the pan while I cut vegetables, clean up their own messes, make coffee for their parents, put their stuff away, pose for pictures….oh! I’m still working on hanging the wet towel back on the railing instead of leaving it in a sodden heap on the floor; there are some major testosterone workings going against that one, but I’ll defeat it someday!
It’s not that they don’t grumble or rebel, but they’ve been drilled with the concept that they are part of the family, which is why they need to contribute to make sure that the house is safe and clean to live in. They also do not have the concept ingrained in them, as I sometimes see in some men, that mom is there to look after each and every need. Grumbling results in a warning being given, and continued fretting usually results in loss of screen time. I’ve found this consequence pretty effective for my older son and, I’ve found that diversions work well for my younger son!
Regarding the age by which to start assigning chores, I would say, as soon as they have some basic hand-eye coordination! Infants love imitating and both my sons have spent most of their childhood ignoring their expensive toys and happily banging a spoon against a pan in the kitchen! I’ve let them help me in small ways right from the start, like washing rice grains, or kneading a little bit of dough, or letting them pick up the dust bunnies with a small dustpan and brush! The best part is that they thought that it was all a game and were not even aware that they were learning in the process!
The key is patience. When a kid helps you, it will invariably lead to messes. He/She will not be able to pick up dust as well as you do; there will be spills when he/she tries to pour liquid from one container to another; there will be bigger messes once they try more ambitious projects in the kitchen, and they will not be able to fold clothes as well as you may! ! I’ve also learnt to keep calm in the face of messes; I just tell them to clean it up and I don’t ‘correct’ their ‘mistakes’ in front of them! Now, I find life so much easier ever since I shelved my perfectionist tendencies (not that I had much to begin with), and my sons benefit from learning basic life skills too in the process.
What can I say! I’m picturing some very happy life partners coming to me with tears of gratitude later in life! Ha!
Roshni was born and brought up in Calcutta and is now living in California. Her two rambunctious boys, Big A, age 9, and Little a, age 5, are the main subjects of her blog (http://www.bigaandlittlea.com) and she can be found tweeting away (@RoshniAaMom) in her free time (you may well ask, what free time?!)