Teach A Child
Last week I wrote about my basketball tournament tradition of cleaning the coils of my refrigerator. Now I want to encourage you to share the duties of household maintenance. Here’s why.
Growing up on the farm, we learned to be helpers at an early age. There were usually bottle babies to feed or cats and dogs for which to care. There were always household tasks that we could do from setting the table to doing dishes. There was no question about whether or not we could work. The only question was which chores were age appropriate.
When I was twelve, my mother was pinned beneath a heavy garage door. It was a weight activated door and as she was walking under the door, the weight fell off and her spine was broken in several place. She was paralyzed for some days. The nuns in the Catholic hospital prayed over her continuously for days. The trauma of seeing her in this hospital was exacerbated since my dad’s sister had died in the same building just weeks before.
For the weeks she was in the hospital, running the household and attending school was my responsibility. My dad was busy with spring farm work. Making meals and doing laundry landed in my lap. We boarded the bus at 6:45 every morning and returned home at 5:30. It was that very week that the wringer washer decided to die.
This experience motivated me to teach my children basic tasks so they could survive should such a tragedy befall our household. They learned to take dirty clothes to the laundry area if they wanted them washed. In time, they learned to sort into appropriate and color-coded baskets. Eventually, their clothing was sorted into their individual containers and they could fold and store as they wished. By high school, they did their own laundry.
As youngsters, eager to help, they learned to set the table, unload the dish washer, use knives safely, bake, cook, and clean up. When they went off to college, they were astounded that new friends were clueless on cleaning rooms, managing dirty clothes, or even time management skills.
It's thrilling for me to see young moms teaching their children basic domestic skills today. Here’s why:
Chores develop a work ethic. Learning to start and finish a task is important. Seeing a job complete creates a sense of accomplishment. Life involves work. School, earning a living, day to day life doesn’t come with a butler in our culture. It’s important to learn that life takes effort.
Children are excellent observers. They watch everything we do. Littles normally want ‘to help’ because they want to grow up to be like mom or dad. Let them. Work beside them. Give them opportunity to try things. Yes, it takes longer. Yes, there are more messes to clean up. Yes, they develop a sense of accomplishment by assisting. There is research to show that doing chores can helps kids be more responsible, develop high self-esteem, and even delay gratification.
Chores help children learn skills and become independent. Learning how to do things gives the natural inclination to want to learn new things. It’s the carrot to higher learning. If a child is confident in knowing basic life skills, he will have every confidence to strike into new territory as an adult. It’s an important reason to start early. Honestly, by the time middle school rolls around and sports or activities in school occupy their lives, it’s too late to start. Begin when they are little.
Find an outside motivator if you need. Our children participated in 4H. There are a host of opportunities for children to learn new skills. Scouting and many spring break classes or camps offer other ways to teach children specific skill sets. Use them for things that don’t happen in your house. Your child wants to learn to bake bread but you don’t? There’s probably a class for that.
Let’s arm our children with the confidence and skills to be productive and engaging in their adult lives. It’s our job as parents to train them up in the right way. You never know when it will be an important aspect of your family’s survival.