The brat, for all that he is pampered, knows that there are some tasks around the house that are his to perform. To start with, he is in charge of his bags—both the school and the swimming bags, he must pack, clear out, put stuff out to dry, figure out what needs to be carried on which day and assume total responsibility for ‘his’ stuff and his room. I stay hands off. If he forgets to pack something, he faces the consequences himself. I call it tough love. I also call it learning responsibility. After all, he is almost ten years old, give a few months more and it is almost time for him to start going all teen angst on me.
At home, he is in charge of prosaic things like opening the door when the doorbell rings, clearing his room, tidying his cupboard, and definitely keeping things back in place once he’s done. He knows he is to keep his plate in the sink once he is done eating, he needs to put his clothes by in the cupboard once they are folded, and he needs to put his dirty clothes straight into the laundry basket without being told, tie his wet swimming costume to dry on the line, and clip his wet towel post swimming and a bath to the line.
Given that we are lucky enough to have house help which decrees that there aren’t actually enough chores to be allocated to him, I must hunt for things he can keep doing to keep him from getting complacent about all his spare time being his to consume as he pleases. Therefore, he is in charge of settling his study table every second day, of straightening his bed every day. He has to keep his stack of reading books tidy, he helps me put away the groceries when we go to the hypermarket—not to mention, helps me lug them up whether the pater is around to offer muscle power or not. If his friends visit, he is in charge of serving them, catering to their wants-water, juice, making glasses of Tang, handing out the snacks on individual plates, whatever, as well as clearing up after they leave. Whether he gets them to help out or not is his call. I need to see the room as spotless as it was before they unleashed a mini typhoon in it.
A lot of children I see around don’t ‘do’ anything around the house. Not only that, they don’t do anything for themselves. I see their parents and drivers carrying their school bags for them for the little distance they walk from the school gate to their cars (not that our schoolbags are quite that heavy given every child has a locker at school to keep most of their books), I see parents bringing them their food and carrying their plates off from the dining table, in public situations I see mothers standing while they give their children the only available seat. I wonder if I’m getting the memo wrong.
Of course, it is tough at times. It just seems easier to do the things oneself rather than spend about one fourth of one’s available energy for the day in yelling at the top of one’s voice to “pack that bag NOW or…” with the implied threat never articulated, thus making it scarier than any specified threat could be. Or redoing what the child has done inexpertly, like organize his cupboard.
I don’t do the “I’ll pay you to clean your room” business, he cleans the room because it is his room and he is responsible for the mess he makes in it. I don’t intend to start linking his allowance with household chores, I don’t want him to start feeling entitled to payment for any little thing he does, no matter how sloppily. I don’t have the television/ipad/PSP time plea bargaining against household chores done either. That he gets down time on gadgets is not a right, not something that he earns through doing chores, and is a privilege he is allowed IF he has time to spare after what needs to be done like studying, swim practice, training and playing down in the park. Yes, to me, playing down in the park is a mandatory part of his day.
Am I being hard on him? Perhaps. I call it part of teaching him life skills and taking responsibility for himself. And realizing that the world owes him nothing. He’ll thank me for this later, I hope. Even if he doesn’t, ah well, he’ll know how to keep a room clean.