Q. Some parents say that children will be taught some household chores when they are teenagers. There are some who also say that it is good to teach children when they are little, just by letting them help when you are doing household work. I remember my mother did not let me do any work because she said I might not be able to do it right and she would have to redo it which was time consuming. I ended up knowing nothing until I reach my teen age years. What is your idea about this? When is the right time suppose to be?
A. The best time to start teaching a child is when they are ready to learn, when they actually ask you to share things or want to do things by themselves. Often we don't allow children to learn new things because we are very controlling and always want it done our way. Yet, by depriving children of the opportunity to show what they can do, we rob them of the confidence, self belief and experience necessary for their own development. By the time the child reaches teenage years, it would be too late to teach them about jobs they should be doing.
They should start from about 7 years old, or earlier if they show the interest, with simple things relating to looking after themselves, then graduate by 10/11 to giving a hand in the house with dishes etc. By mid-teens they would then have a healthy appreciation of their role in the family and feel a sense of value and appreciation in doing it.
My daughter used to have long thick hair and I remember the first time she asked me if she could comb her own hair to go to school. She was just over 6 years old. I took a huge gulp because I could see the results already. I could also see the neighbours taking one look at her and saying how neglected she was! However, I decided that, since she wanted to learn, that was the best way to teach her, and it would encourage me to gradually trust her to do things. So I made a bargain with her. I told her that she could comb her hair twice each week and I would do it all other times until she got used to it. I will never forget the first morning she combed it herself. I wanted to die, seeing the state of it, but I let it go and praised her for her efforts. One month on, as she slowly got used to doing it herself, the results were improving. A few months later and she was combing it herself most days and feeling very proud of it. By the time she was 8 she didn't want me to do it any more.
That's how she gradually learnt everything in the home, which turned her into one of the most confident teenagers - and achiever - I ever saw: fearless, determined and very self-assured. I am very happy with that. It taught me as the parent that there are always different routes to the same end, and not just our own, if we are only prepared to trust our children to develop their own paths. Most important, the pride the would feel in themselves for doing it, as valued members of the family, would be incalculable.
©Elaine Sihera (Ms Cyprah)
Emotional Health Adviser
"Respect and love begin with the self. If we have none, how can we give away any?"