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Children and Chores

October, 2010
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“Is it Ok to bribe my child to do a chore at home?”
“Should I punish him if he refuses to do his chores?”
These are familiar thoughts in the mind of parents.
chores-2sIt is clear that children have to get involved in house work. However, to get them to do their chores spontaneously and diligently is a continuous struggle for parents.
Virtues in Us project considers each child to be a mine of virtues and that through EDUCATION the child’s inherent potentialities can be unearthed and utilized in service to humankind. This article hopes to give the reader some tips on what parents and teachers can do to help children develop the virtue of helpfulness such that it is ingrained in them by the time they turn into youth. Yes, it is a full 15-year investment!
Let us examine what being helpful means and how it can permeate our children’s behavior. Helpfulness is humble service – a gesture of kindness to others. Helping makes life easier for another fellow human being, saving the other time and energy, often to accomplish a task he or she feels inadequately equipped to do for various reasons.
First, children need to know they are contributing members of the family. Then, they need assistance in mastering the skills of service. Right from the time they are toddlers, the parents should already begin the process of education.
The mother, being the first educator, may begin by teaching her child to take care of his or her own basic needs, such as taking a bath, wearing clothes, going to toilet independently and fetching drinking water. Along the way, they should be taught to pick up their toys and put them in their proper place, to clean up the food they dropped after eating, dispose of leftover food on their plates, and to load their utensils into the dish washer. The best way to do it is to lead by example and engage the child in play.    
Stories are always effective in reinforcing the development of virtues in young children. You could make up simple stories to motivate your child to perform simple acts of service. The following story is one example that you could use to tailor-make your own stories.
chores-3sWashing Socks
Benny was visiting with his grandparents in the country. They enjoyed being with each other very much. Grandpa took Benny for a ride on his bicycle every afternoon while grandma prepared dinner for them. Every night, after dinner, grandpa washed his socks and hang them to dry.
One day, Benny suddenly said to his grandfather: “I want to help you wash your socks.” Even though Benny was only four years old, his grandfather agreed, as he believed Benny could do it well. Benny was very happy to wash socks for his grandpa and he washed them very carefully so the socks became very clean. He thought since his little hands could this work, he could do a lot more and help many more people.
Following the story, ask a few questions to highlight the salient features of the story to enhance retention, and then immediately seek to engage the child in an act of service together to demonstrate the next logical step of the process.
While performing the chore, add pleasure or enjoyment to the work by singing a funny song or synchronizing your movements to some lively, rhythmic music.
As your child grows older, both parents and teachers can provide lessons beyond those of self-care to helping members of the family, peers and others. A ten-year old, for instance, should be able to change bed-sheets, operate the washing machine, buy groceries with a list, bake cakes using mixes, prepare simple sandwiches and simple meals for the family, plan parties, use simple first aid, sew a button, be responsible for his or her personal hobby, wash the family car and mow the lawn for the neighbors.
Get the children involved in brainstorming a list of chores that they can help with although you will need to ensure the tasks are age appropriate. Take the time to work along them to demonstrate how the tasks are to be done well. Do not criticize if the work is left incomplete rather appreciate every small contribution that they had made in the process. This will boost their confidence and they will do better the next time.
chores-1sWhen the parent and the young child help one another, initially, not many things could be accomplished efficiently, and oftentimes accidents happen. It makes the process rather frustrating for the parent. Hence, it is essential for the parent to be patient and understanding. Rest assured that this is the path towards self-independency, and eventual, healthy development for the child.
Train the children by your example to notice and be sensitive to the needs of others and to take spontaneous action. Help them cultivate an attitude of selfless service whether appreciated and thanked for or not. Let them take joy in the act of service and not in its rewards.
Let them know that some of the most valuable assistance one can render is not at the physical or material but at the emotional or spiritual level. Sometimes all people need, whether child or adult, is love, kindness, understanding, a few words of appreciation. At such times, to offer a listening ear and say a few sincere words of encouragement can go a long way to healing the human spirit.
Let them also know that they should ask for help when they need it. They deserve to be helped as much as they are expected to help.
By Dr. Mozhdeh Mohajer and Mr. Foo Check Woo
 For Virtues in Us

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