Children and Chores
Pareng Rodel came over to our house one night. I was upstairs folding the laundry when he came in. When I came downstairs, he asked me, “Ma-re, bakit gano’n? Why is Ryan washing the dishes and Reggie is not helping? He’s just sitting there with Ryland and watching TV.” “Oh, that’s because it’s Ryan’s turn to wash the dishes,” I said. “What do you mean?” asked Rodel. “They take turns doing chores. Look at our fridge door and you’ll find there a job list (that’s what they call it in school),” I explained. “That’s good, Ma-re. Mabuti nga iyan,” said Rodel grinning. Rodel inspected our chores list and was surprised to see Ryland’s name on the list, too. Yeah, even five-year old Ryland has his chores. Aside from making his own bed every morning and cleaning up his own mess, he also has his share of chore in the kitchen. He sweeps the floor every time it gets messy under the table. I bought him a short-handled broom to tackle this task. Rodel roared with laughter when Ryland showed him his broom.
I do believe in giving children chores, the earlier the better. I am the eldest of two daughters. My sister and I grew up with maids in the house. But I did chores, too. My mother taught me how to cook rice when I was eight years old. One summer, we were without a maid and I remember complaining to my father, “Why do I have to do everything. Lina doesn’t help around.” “She’s still young. When you girls grow up, then you can order her around,” said my father. That thought calmed me then. But guess what? She was a headstrong girl when we were growing up and I did not get to order her around. Oops, sorry sis. But she changed eventually. Kidding aside, my sister and I had our fair share of household chores when we got older.
When do you start giving them chores? In my case, it was actually brought about by necessity. Working full time and trying to run a household (with three children) at the same time keeps me very busy. Living here in North America, we don’t have the luxury of hiring househelp, like we did back home in the Philippines. I had no choice but to ask the kids for any little help that they can give around the house. I taught Reggie how to cook rice and wash the dishes after I had my third baby. When my lower back started to bother me about three years ago, our family doctor suggested that I delegate some more of the household chores. That was when I handed, actually more of shared, the vacuum cleaner and the floor mop with Reggie. In 7th grade, Reggie learned how to bake cookies and pizza in Tech. Ed. I realized then that he was ready to handle the oven and the stove, as well.
I know you want to ask “Don’t they complain?” Reggie, being the oldest child, is the responsible one. He doesn’t really complain. He sometimes even takes the initiative to do something around the house especially when he wants a new CD or a new Playstation game. Ryan, on the other hand, is a complainer by nature. Oh yeah, he complains at times. Complains are just words, though. He does his chores anyway. And I also think that it helps that Reggie does his jobs dutifully. His two younger brothers somehow look up to him and they follow his lead.
“Don’t they burn the food?” Reggie sometimes burns the chicken in the frying pan. He wants them crispy but sometimes overcooks them. Ryan had a fiasco with the rice one time. He was supposed to cook 4 cups of rice, but only added 3 cups of water. He came to me after the rice was cooked. “Mommy, there’s something wrong with the rice. Ryland was talking to me when I was putting water, and I think I only put 3 cups of water instead of 4,” he said. I came to the kitchen, opened the lid of the rice cooker, and saw that the rice was under cooked. “That’s okay Ryan, I’ll fix it.” I tried, and the rice was still kind of mushy but we were able to eat it. Ryan did not want to cook rice when it was his turn to do so. “Oh Ryan, I’ll show you a cool trick to measure the water without using the cup,” I told him. I taught him how to measure the water with his fingers. He still cooks rice and has learned to say “Ilang gatang?” I don’t get mad when they burn the food. I, myself, have burned chicken and rice before. Everybody makes mistakes, and the important thing is that we do learn from those mistakes, don’t we?
“Do they do a good job?” Yeah, pretty much. Although, once in a while we’d find a fork with dried up rice between the prongs. When the question “Who did this?” comes up, they point at each other while saying, “not me.” If we’re expecting
company, Ronald and I clean the house ourselves. But aside from that, I don’t really care much if their beds are not perfectly made, nor their clothes nicely folded. They will learn to do them better as they get older.
I always remember to say “Please,” “Thank you,” or even “Good job!” even for a job not really that well done. I want them to know that I appreciate their help and that I respect them, too.
Originally written in September 2003
Updated on July 5, 2008
Entry filed under: Raising the 3Rs.