Our family was left in a limbo this week after the domestic help left at short notice. Even as we were scrambling to get daily childcare arrangement sorted out and going through the much dreaded process of screening new maid biodatas, we explained the situation to Dana and told her she might need to be a little more independent during this period of transition.
The first morning, as I busied myself with the family routines, I was so relieved that she sprang out of bed without any cajoling and headed straight to the bathroom to wash up. I told her to finish her milk and wait for me while I go take a shower. When I’m done, I was plesantly surprised that she’s all dressed up in her school uniform! (Never mind that the shirt was untucked, singlet worn wrong side up and hair was in a tangled mess)….
Suddenly, the realisation struck me that our girl is a big girl now…she is no longer a baby but an indepenent pre-schooler, capable of taking instructions, capable of helping out in the house and handling simple everyday chores…I gave her a big, tight hug and fought back tears…
Don’t misunderstand us : Dana is not treated like a Prima Donna in our home. In fact, Daddy and I both subscribe to the idea of involving children in housework as part of character building (responsibility, humility, showing consideration and respect). In practice though, we find ourselves often rushing from one appointment to the other (think gathering/playdate/party/enrichment class/family obligation etc etc) that we rarely have time to delegate tasks and teach the little one. It also spares me having to
yell nag at the girl to get the chores done and give room for temper melt-downs on my part). Growing up with a domestic help in the house also means the girl is sometimes deprived of opportunities to practise certain basic self-help skills (e.g. wearing socks, buttoning her shirts, bringing her dishes to the sink etc).
So the predicament this week has strengthened our resolve to train Dana to be more independent. It meant that I (the perfectionist Mommy) have to adjust my expectations that the chores will be done – not quickly, not easily, and probably not as well as I would have wanted them to be, but they WILL be done.
In the past 3 days, she’s helped to:
1. Set the dinner table
2. Dress herself after bath
3, Pour her own drinks when she needs one
4. Put away dirty laundry into the laundry basket
5. Put away her socks and shoes
6. Tidy her desk and play area
7. Read a bedtime story to wind down for the day
Before I start becoming overly-ambitious, I am reminded of these 3 important tips to ensure children can assume any newly given responsibilities well:
1. Children Need to Know What You Expect of Them
If you don’t show your children how to do a job well, you can’t expect them to know how to do it right. Before asking them to do a chore on their own, work alongside them, demonstrate the steps a few times, showing them specifically how to do it.
2. Don’t Expect Them To Do It Well–Especially At First
It often takes a lot of repetitive teaching, gentle correcting, and practice before a child can do a job well. Don’t expect perfection–especially when they are young. What matters is that they are putting in effort and trying their best.
3. Praise 10 Times As Much As You Correct
It’s easy to want to focus on pointing out all the things a child does wrong and where they need to improve. Instead of dwelling on what they didn’t do right, focus most of your energies on praising those things they did well. Our encouragement goes a very long way (especially for children whose love langauge is Words of Affirmation)!
Here are some realistic chores which I hope (and will train) Dana to help with on a daily basis:
Some websites recommend using a Chore Chart to motivate and reward the children for helping out in the home. How about you? At what age did your kids to start helping with housework? What other chores do your 4 year-olds help out on a daily basis? Did you use a Chore Chart? I’d love to hear other ideas!