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Having a ‘chore’ curriculum for children at home.

I grew up with three siblings at home and all the four of us had chores to perform at home from a very young age. It was someone's chore to set the lunch or dining floor (we ate sitting on the floor) and it was another person’s job to clean it up after eating. Someone was responsible for sweeping then another one of us took up swapping. I remember being sent to buy things from a nearby shop as early as when I was four years old. This was not unique to our household. This was how children contributed to running the homes in almost all the households back then.

Then as years went by, the households began to shrink with just one or two children at home. Somehow parents got the notion that children should not be given housework and should be allowed to only play and do academics. Perhaps the ‘knowledge’ of how Americans and Europeans deal with the issue had seeped into our culture too. Even if children volunteered to help, they were shooed away saying there was time for them. Once they became teenagers and the parents got a little older and wanted help, the children refused to help. They did not want to participate in household chores and parents began to wonder why.

Children as young as two-three years want to help adults in doing household work. You would have seen these young kids pick up a broom bigger than them and try to sweep. They might attempt to wipe surfaces or even clean vessels or wash clothes. But the parents stop them from doing it. They don't allow them to participate in household work and often children grow up thinking their contribution is not needed or appreciated and they are entitled to have things done for them.

The older Indian ways of parenting have great merit. It makes the child a part of the family and he or she was expected to contribute to chores at home and often the children would do it voluntarily without any resentment. No work is considered lowly and the dignity of labour is ingrained in the child.

Here are some ideas on how to have a ‘chore’ curriculum for children at home.

*When they want to contribute, don't’ stop them because they are young. Let them do it. Yes, they may cause more mess and there may be more work for you in the beginning but they will learn and you will be benefitted as a parent.

*Make small corrections in their work. Their work may not be perfect but it is still work. Welcome their contribution.

*Don’t force them to do work.

*Let them choose the ‘chores’ they are happy doing.

*Don’t expect ‘adult’ quality work from them.

*Don’t discourage them from doing household chores by saying things like, “You go and study, I will take care of the housework”. A few minutes of chores will not take away time from studying. It is a good break for them.

*Don’t hesitate to send out the kids to buy stuff. “Traffic” is the word parents often use to prevent children from going out and buying. There are many occasions where children don’t have to crossroads to go to a shop.

*Allow the children to pay the bills wherever possible. Paying the maintenance bills of the apartments, utility bills etc should be encouraged.

*Allowing them to pay cash, collect the correct change is not just about dealing in money it is also a social transaction, to interact with vendors.

*If you have children of both genders at home, rotate all the work between them and don’t make chores gender-specific. Let children grow with the idea that there is no 'man's work' or 'women's work' when it comes to housework.

It is never too early to have a chore curriculum at home. In fact, the earlier they begin the better they appreciate ‘homework’ and be a willing contributor to cooperative living even in later life.

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