We all the importance of chores and how children who contribute grow up into well-adjusted adults. But with many of us, specially in our Indian ecosystem, getting children to do chores is a task in itself. When our children grow up watching helpers around the house, they are less likely to contribute.
When I began assigning chores to my child, I was met with retaliation. “Why I have do it?” “Why can’t bhaiya (elder brother) do it for me?” and so on. I realized that it is not going to be easy to get him to do chores. It was like a ‘Wake Up’ moment for me. But gradually with lot of patience and discipline, we made progress.
The thing with chores is that they are part of our lives and yet, given an opportunity, we all would like to skip them. It is no different with children. Children need to learn that things will not be served on a platter and sooner than later they need to start pitching in. Explain to your child that every privilege comes with a responsibility. Like they have the privilege of toys. So it is their responsibility to take care of them. These two things go hand in hand. If they do not want to be responsible they have to do away with their privileges.
Another thing to add here is consequence. If they tidy and take care of their toys, they can find them later and play with them. If they don’t tidy up, chances are they won’t find them next time to play with. Similarly, if they don’t do their dishes they don’t get to eat in clean dishes next time.
Sometimes, young children do not understand the necessity of a chore like a clean room and hence the defiance. In such cases, parents need to be mindful and explain their children why they need to keep their rooms clean. Highlighting the negative consequences of a dirty room and positive effects of the done task can help children understand its significance. Most children are nor lazy neither defiant. They just don’t understand the consequences of the chores assigned.
Children also need some flexibility while doing chores. In our case, I observed how inflexible I had become while trying to get a chore done. As any parent, I would expect it to be tended to immediately. Young children have a problem with that. Engrossed in play or a something much more interesting, they often take time to do what has been asked. Meanwhile parents assume this delay as lack of hearing or an attempt to shove off the chore.
What helped us here was a timer and patience. Once asked to do a chore, leave it your child displaying full confidence that she will tend to it within 10 minutes or so.
Be patient during that time, don’t do it yourself or nag them. Initially you may need to give some warnings to your child as the time draws closer but with some iterations, your child will learn to leave the task at hand and do the chore to return back to it.
Just as much as we want them to do chores, we must acknowledge that we need to set example. If children see their parents issuing sermons all day, they are going to follow the same. Making tidying up a habit, doing basic chores oneself is a good habit for everyone. With time, patience and lots of encouragement children can be taught to take care of their duties.