Train up a child in the way they should go and they will not depart from it, so the Holy Bible says. The issue of parenting is so complex that many parents hardly understand it. For many, once school dues are paid and children have eaten, that’s good enough.
Janet Bulya, says teaching children house chores is the foundation they need to learn about responsibility and hardwork.
Joy Mirembe, a mother, says since her children were small, she has intentionally taught them to be responsible for their spaces. “They lay their beds upon waking up, clean the bathroom after use, and each one has a space in the kitchen they clean. With that, they have developed a sense of discipline,” she says. Mirembe is also very particular about cleanliness.
Bulya, who has a 13-year-old nephew whom she has lived with most of her life, a five-year-old daughter and a three-year- old son, ensures each is assigned age- appropriate chores. “The journey starts when they are very young. Children should be taught at a very young age that look after themselves and to avoid dropping clothes, toys or cups anywhere,” Bulya says.
However, this needs a lot of patience by teaching them repeatedly. It is important to note that children learn by seeing. Sharing about how she has divided the chores among her children, Bulya says the 13-year-old sweeps the compound, washes dishes, cooks dog food, cleans the dog, digs around the house to remove weeds, washes the cars, lights the charcoal stove and peels food.
Immaculate Nantongo, a mother, says parents must be deliberate about teaching boys to learn house chores. “Chores are not subject to gender. You are raising someone’s husband and a citizen. Everyone wants to associate with a responsible and resourceful person.”
Bulya says while the girl-child has been prepared, the boy child has been neglected. So you have a man in a home that cannot prepare a basic meal. This man will also not be able to teach their children anything because you cannot give what you do not have.”
But one wonders, if we are teaching our children chores, do we need house helps?
“Toddlers aged two and three learn by observing and they should be handled with care lest they develop a negative attitude towards work. Their energy levels are not high and they spend most of their time playing,” says Margaret Nalyaali, a family psychologist. Children aged between four and five can talk and differentiate between yes and no. They can help parents around in their little ways such as tidying up their clothes, washing their underwear, and organising groceries. “In the villages, these will go to the garden and while they do not do much, they are given small hoes to learn the skill.” Nalyaali adds that they have a low attention span and they should be given chores that do not last for long.
These understand and reason. They can wash their clothes, cut onions as you cook, and peel matooke. “Parents must be clear about what each child will do because there are some children who do not want to work. You should continually remind them why they need to work and show interest in how they are executing their tasks,” Nakyaalisays.
“If you have not modelled them from infancy, it gets hard to nurture them at that age because there are several changes going on in their bodies. For example, some feel ashamed to be seen doing certain chores.” Nalyaali says children between 13 and 14 are at the rebellious stage because they are discovering a lot about themselves and experiencing autonomy. Instead of giving orders, you will employ negotiation to avoid friction.
When maids do all the chores, children cannot appreciate the value of work. Nalyaali cautions parents against getting pushy. “It helps to remember that they are not at your level of thinking. Being pushy also affects their self-esteem yet it is at this age when you ought to be building .”
When they fall short, she says it is better to be loving, less critical and avoid comparing them because children are different. Name calling should also be avoided and have empathy when they say they are tired.
Why chores are important
When children are involved in housework, it reduces stress, they become self-reliant, develop a sense of responsibility and they are able to live on their own without burdening others.
Chores teach children to plan and they learn to get things done. They also learn to juggle life, meeting deadlines as they work within time frames. Children also start to feel important and valued when they contribute to the family’s wellbeing.
Chores prevent children from being idle. When children are involved in housework, it reduces stress in the home as not just a few people are bearing the burden.
When children learn chores, they become self-reliant, develop a sense of responsibility and they are able to live on their own.
Chores teach children to plan and they learn to get things done.