Children and chores

On a recent family trip to Hong Kong, we saw a woman asking her granddaughter to pose for a photo. The girl, probably 7 or 8 years old, was obviously not happy about it and smacked her grandmother’s hand so hard, the mobile phone flew a few meters away.
My mother could not help herself and blurted to the child, “那有這樣?太沒有禮貌.” The girl’s mother had seen it, and both she and grandma told the child, “你看,別人說的,你沒有禮貌 (See, other people say you’re impolite). ”
My girls saw the incident and immediately asked Ahma what she said to the girl. Ahma explained that she told the child, “You have no manners.” The girls agreed, “We can’t hit each other nga e; Nanay gets angry. And we definitely can’t hit older people. That’s sooo bad!”
We really couldn’t let it go and started talking about the children we see behaving like little emperors and little princesses. Mom was in China recently and told us about how couples with only one child inevitably doted on that one child, spoiling them rotten. The girls compared Ahma’s stories with what we saw in Japan.
We spent two days in Tokyo and three in Nagasaki where I presented an academic paper last year. My daughters saw first hand how students their height took the subway by themselves. At restaurants, people cleaned their tables, put their trays away and dumped disposables into trash bins.
I also told the girls what my students shared with us after an exchange program with a Japanese university. The students were housed with families there, and they marveled at how everyone cleaned up after themselves and kept the house spic and span. The students at their host homes did their own laundry and ironing, made their own beds, and generally did quite well all by themselves.
Even our own AirBnb place had rules about throwing out trash!
The apartment owner left us a note that said to throw out everything in one trash can but not to take out the trash. She would segregate the trash for us because segregating is complicated there and she did not want us to make a mistake.
That’s why, I told the girls, “you have chores.” They have always had to pack away by themselves. Even as toddlers with yayas, they were required to clean up after themselves, with yaya supervising them.
My husband and I decided early on in our parenting lives that we would raise independent girls. One way to do that is to assign chores. Numerous studies show that chores help children become better and more successful adults.
These days, we see the term #adulting on our Facebook feeds. Hubby and I wondered where that word came from. We realized that many of the Facebook posts are about life skills that these young adults never learned as kids or teens, e.g. how to cook rice, how to cook in general, how to change a lightbulb.
When Achi was eight, she had the bright idea to ask us for a salary for doing chores! We agreed that payments for chores is a good idea. Oh, and since as parents, our chore is to drive her around, then she should pay us too for taking her to school, driving her to ballet class and to playdates. That killed her idea!
Chores are a requirement, not an option. Chores are done because it is the right thing to do. Children should not get paid for it. Chores are about helping around the house and being part of a community (the family). Being part of the community means being responsible for it to keep it functioning well.
One evening, Shobe threw a tantrum and only half-wiped the dinner table and left large patches of food and drink stains. I left it at that and seemingly ignored it. At breakfast time the next morning, there were ants and a couple of other black bugs on the table. Tatay, Achi and I ate in the kitchen. I made Shobe eat at the dining table and told her to talk with the ants and bugs.
Tough love.
These days, she still has her don’t-wanna-do-this moments and would not wipe the table clean. But she would make sure there is nothing left on the table that would attract bugs.
Achi’s responsibility bones grew by leaps and bounds once she had regular chores. She chose to wash dishes and sweep the floor. She has to wash her own ballet leotards and leggings.
During the first couple of weeks when she forgot to launder her ballet clothes, I didn’t bat an eyelash when she was bawling while putting on dirty leggings and leotards.
Again, tough love.
Now, she does her chores without being asked.
My husband cleans the house and works on our backyard compost. All our food wastes are buried in our backyard; Shobe wrote, “dig a hole” as his chore. We wanted the girls to know chores are for everyone, not just girls.
My chores are everything else left over. I cook lunches and dinners while the girls make their own breakfasts – pancakes, oatmeal, cereal, fried eggs and bacon, sandwiches.
The girls are now getting a bit savvier in the kitchen and can make their own meals when I’m not at home. They have also started to bake.
Most importantly, chores are for children to learn life skills, and where they learn to figure things out for themselves.
A few weeks ago, Achi started serving her father and me meals on one plate, then tells us to share! Another of her ideas: no more serving plates or bowls; scoop rice and viand direct from pot to plate. She would also make the four of us share one drinking glass during dinner. This way, she has fewer dishes to wash.
We usually just play along because we found it funny.
Not worried about microbes? I’m wondering if some of the readers may find this gross. I know I don’t want to share my drinking glass with anyone, especially when food from the mouth sometimes slip into the drinking glass…
Meanwhile, I’m waiting for Shobe to figure out that she could ask me to buy placemats, so that her wiping-the-table days will be over.

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