Cultural differences

Give your kids a job

9:10 AM

Growing up, I remember being entrusted with all kind of responsibilities around the home. When the Summer holiday came, my mom would give me a few more to keep me occupied, and lessen her work load (and salvage her sanity).
They were all age appropriate things of course. At an early age I was just helping her dust around, or put the cutlery away in the drawer. As I grew, the tasks became more complex: vacuum cleaning, doing the dishes...By age 7 I was officially a big girl and was entrusted with money to buy a few groceries my mom had ran out of, I was also told I could buy myself a treat with the leftover change.

One thing I was absolutely 100% responsible for from very early on was my own room. I was free to mess it up, but had to keep it clean by the end of the day. And whenever things did start becoming a bit too chaotic in my organisation system (kids have a sketchy idea of what is clean after all) My mom would come in and help me do a deep cleaning spree. But she would just help, not do the heavy load. On the occasions that I complained, she would say that if she had to do it herself, it would involve a big garbage bag and me having no say about what went in it.

The message was clear : if you can't do things responsibly yourself, you have no right to complain if somebody else does it their own way.

It goes as no surprise that I have applied the same wisdom with Ishita. She is in charge of cleaning the mess she creates to begin with. Anywhere in the flat might I add. Then, I regularly stress that the only room she can do what she wants with her toy is her own room. She is privileged enough to have said own room so the least she can do is use it, and be made responsible for its care.
From very early on, she has been made to put the toys and books away once done with them. At first with help, and now that she is nearly 6, on her own.
On messy days my maid was tempted to do the decluttering herself so she could mop that room. I stopped her and gave her clear orders. She may clean the floor in that room IF it is free of clutter and only then. If Ishita wants a clean floor, she is in charge of keeping it neat so that it can be done.

I've told Ishita a couple of times that in this home, I have a maid, but she doesn't. She is free to benefit from that privilege if she follows my rules. If her room becomes too dirty, I march in my own mom's foot steps. I offer some help in getting things back in order, but the bulk of the work is hers. She made the mistake to tell me to do it myself once. Only to see me walk in with my big garbage bag and starting to throw away things I judged to be trash. All the while being deaf to her complaints and whining. And of course pointed out to her that when you delegate a job, you loose some of the freedom you would have had if you did it yourself.

This is a valuable life lesson. One of these lessons that are rarely learnt in school and will have far more use in your daily life as an adult that the ability to solve a complex square root without a calculator.

Giving responsibilities to your own children, ensure that they will grow into respectful self sufficient adults. In India, it would be tempting to leave it all to the maid. This is a country were having one is affordable so why not take advantage of it? But then, when you delegate to the maid, you take the risk of the job being done differently, or to a lesser standard. Of course, homes get dirty much faster in India, and their help is necessary at time. But, the same pear of wisdoms distiller by my own mother keeps coming : when you delegate, you can't complain. So I picked my battles, re-mop after my maid and do the stuff I am very particular about myself.

This Summer, Ishita is not only still responsible for keeping her room clean, she is also enlisted to help me with my own chores. She even decided she liked to mop herself and does it. Yesterday she surprised me by pulling all the chairs away from the dinning table to mob thoroughly under said table. A thing I do on occasion myself. I admired the initiative and the thinking behind it.

But then, when you give kids responsibilities without interfering, they learn to use their mind in constructive ways. And you'd better surprised how much wisdom and logic they have at a very young age if you allow it to shine through.


  1. Anonymous9:35 AM

    My son who is seven years old, also puts his things himself. He is so particular that if he seems something not in order like shoes kept in an untidy manner, he will put them in a straight line. He also cleans up any paper or stuff lying on the floor and puts it in the dustbin. He learned it from his mother who is mighty well organized. He is hyper active and it is said that children like him often like to organize things in a straight line and are very particular about how things should be done. They are pattern loving. So, sometimes his over organizational capabilities make me fearful. Whoever heard about a seven year boy who is so well organized. That is why sometimes when he gets into that mood of throwing things and jumping around, I am very happy. That's more like a normal boy. However, his mother gets perturbed by all this, which is quiet normal. There is a boy in every man and I am sometimes tempted to join his antics.

    About children and their rooms, we had no separate room for us. We slept in the bed of our parents. Our stuff was kept in their cupboards. We never got to manage our stuff, so I guess for a boy growing up in those times, it is very difficult to manage your own affairs. Children should be made self reliant. My wife's parents were working so all her brothers and sisters could manage everything. My mom was a housewife and my father managed everything. So, we never had to worry about anything.


    1. In the early years my mom was a stay at home mom, then when I was 7-8 she started working out of the home again. Delegating responsibilities to all of us was a must for my parent, and that way, we had time to enjoy doing family stuff too because it was not all falling on the shoulder of one parent to keep the home clean. We had a dishwasher at home, but whenever we went camping or sailing on my dad's boat, which was very very very often, the motto my parents had was "We cook, you guys do the dishes", my grand ma had no dishwasher and it was our job to do the dishes whenever we visited too. A deal all kids had :-)

      I was the neat freak growing up. Interestingly, my sister is the o me diagnosed with ADHD, and her room was total mayhem, she could never focus long enough on organising things because her trail of thoughts took her somewhere else. I found huge comfort into patterns and organising my room, and I still do. I am also a jigsaw puzzle fanatic. I like keeping myself busy, so I might have a bit of a hyperactive mind, but it seems I found ways to channel that energy on my own while my sister needed a lot of help to cope.

  2. Anonymous7:01 PM

    i don't think standing on books or copies is a gud idea..just sayin..
    i love ur cr.. :)

    1. She is cleaning her own mess whatever works for her. The deal was clean your crap or I bring the garbage bag. If she felt like stepping on her books, then be it.

    2. Anonymous2:58 PM

      I saw this comment while browsing your blog. In Hindu culture books are considered sacred as they are the source of knowledge, therefore, stepping on books is strictly prohibited. if you do so, you pick up the book/paper and apologize to goddess saraswati, the goddess of learning.

      The same goes for money and food. Probably, that is what the commenter was trying to say, I guess. No offence meant, just and observation.



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