Assigning your children tasks or chores around the house from an early age helps to build a sense of responsibility and self-reliance in them, as stated by a study published by US-based University of Minnesota. Despite that only 28 per cent of parents are asking their children to do chores even though a majority of them did regular errands growing up.
Gulf News reader Shabir Zain Al Deen, a Dubai resident and father of three sons, believes it is due to the ease with which people can get help these days.
He said: “We have had a housemaid since my children were very young and because of that they didn’t get to do much. But, there was a period when we didn’t and that’s when my children helped out by cleaning the house. We rewarded them with pocket money or entertainment opportunities.”
In Zain Al Deen’s opinion, it is essential for children to learn basic tasks from a young age. When he was seven, he learnt how to wash his clothes, sweep the house and would even participate in gardening with his mother. He had to live in a hostel for school and had to do everything on his own.
Today, he fears that when his children are older and go to university, they won’t be able to do anything on their own and will be vulnerable. He once asked his son to tie a knot and he was unable to do it. “They lack such basic skills and it is a big drawback,” he said.
Apart from being able to do things on their own, chores teach children to be empathetic and responsive to others’ needs, according to research conducted by US-based Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Qassim Mohammad, an Emirati and father of six children, was involved in many chores as a child and it made him appreciate his parents more for teaching him things that made him feel responsible and self-reliant. He thinks that household chores are a basic and “important responsibility of every understanding individual”.
He said: “I would do things from washing clothes, cooking to buying grocery. Now as a parent, I believe in assigning chores to my children from a young age. My wife and I assign tasks like vacuuming, cleaning their rooms, washing clothes, disposing garbage, ironing and some kitchen work. This will make them more disciplined and responsible.”
Bina Mathews, an Indian national and mother of two daughters, grew up with similar principles and believes these tasks make you value the work your parents do. She remembers being eight years old when she was given her first task and was happy to do the things she was assigned.
“It would be things I enjoyed doing, like arranging the books in my father’s library,” she said.
In her household today, the children are assigned tasks as a means to build character and confidence and also earn some pocket money.
She said: “Linking it to an incentive teaches them the value of money, too. The biggest bonus? It makes them realise the effort their parents, grandparents and housemaids put in, to keep the house looking nice and clean and making their lives so easy!”
The tasks her children usually do are clearing the study and their room, taking care of the dogs or washing the dishes.
Sheryl Salvador, a Filipina national and mother of two, used a fun method to get her five-year-old daughter to help out. Even though she does minimalistic tasks, such as washing the dishes or putting her toys away, Salvador kept her engaged and the fun tasks soon became a habit.
She said: “At first, I would do the task with her. For example, I would pick up one toy and she would have to pick one and count along. After some time I would tell her that we have to go out and she cannot leave until the room is clean. An incentive encouraged her. Now, she doesn’t want her room to be dirty and cleans it up herself.”
This process began when her daughter was three years old, which Salvador believes is the right age to assign tasks to children. Her younger daughter, who is just two, doesn’t understand tasks yet. “If I tell her to clean up, she will initially, but then throws things around again,” she said.
When she was younger, Salvador was always assigned tasks by her parents. She learnt to cook and clean from a young age and believes it is important to be prepared later on in life.
Umbereen Rahman, a Pakistani national and mother of three adult sons, agrees that it is important for children to do chores from as early as three years of age and parents should set an example, because “children learn what they see”.
She said: “My mother-in-law had nine children and her philosophy of keeping them busy and away from mischief worked wonders and helped to mould them into fine human beings. She would hand each child something useful to do and they would gladly oblige. It helped them become adept at handling all kinds of tasks inside and outside the home with perfection.”
At the age of five, Rahman would help her mother and grandmother with chores. They would be simple tasks such as setting the table, bringing in the laundry from the clothesline or simply making sandwiches. “These habits made us feel useful. What we learnt, we passed on to our children,” she said.
When her sons were young, they would mimic her actions as she went about doing her work. As they grew older, they managed to learn some slightly more difficult tasks like “cooking, cleaning and assisting their father in repairs around the house”. As adults, they carry these habits with them and according to Rahman, are “independent and manage their lives with ease and confidence”.