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On Chores and Manner

August 10, 2012

I am in education mode lately. I guess I always am because life is such a classroom and we are always learning and teaching and growing. My kids are two of my very best teachers, and I hope my husband and I teach them a few things before they head out into the world. I am thinking more about education though and how I want to educate my kids. One thing that I have been thinking of a lot is the non school part of schooling; like all the important things that your kids need to learn that don’t fall into the categories of language arts, math, science or social studies or at least we don’t usually classify them as such. I am thinking about things like chores and manners. Now these are actually important social studies topics but they are often neglected by our school system and there is a good reason why. These are supposed to be taught by parents.

Did you ever take home economics in school? I took it once in junior high. They taught us stuff that my mom had already taught and so it seemed redundant to me. Now, I am not even sure if many schools offer home ec. Maybe they do. Budgets are tight and most extra, non essential, classes, meaning classes that aren’t focused on the four major topics (math, language arts, science and social studies) are being lost, so home ec is going the way of art classes and disappearing. But they should offer home economics. Home ec is not a redundant class. It is super valuable in our busy world of two working parents. I had a stay at home mom and she was a great teacher and I gained valuable experience by watching her and helping her cook and clean that has helped me immensely in my adult life. Kids need a good teacher at home as well as at school because life requires more than just being able to read and write.

Chores:

My kids are at chore age. They are 3 and 5 and can help with a lot of things around the house and this is the time to start instilling in them a work ethic. Now does having them do chores really make my life easier? Nope. Not right now. Right now, having them “help” with chores takes three times longer than doing them myself and if I cared about things being done right, I would not have them help at all. Having them clean their room up in the morning means my standing there directing them on where each toy and piece of clothing goes and takes a ton of time. I could clean their room in 10 minutes. It takes at least 30 minutes for them to do it and sometimes two hours if they are particularly ornery that day. They want to help me make meals too, and I let them. They make a huge mess. Them helping is definitely more work for me, but I am going to keep having them “help” because I value how important this is to them growing as well rounded people who can take care of themselves after they are out of my nest.

One of my friends on Facebook recently posted the above list of age appropriate chores, which I loved, but what shocked me was how many people commented that “Kids should be allowed to be kids. They can do chores when they are adults, but they shouldn’t have to do chores as kids.” To me, this is as irresponsible as not teaching them to read because it cuts into their “being kids” time. I get aggravated just thinking about neglecting teaching kids to function in a household because I have seen the effects of supposed adults not even being able to take care of their homes because their parents let them be “kids.” The craziest thing about this is that kids actually like to learn how to be grown ups and we really ought to let them practice while we can help them instead of throwing them into the world without the most basic of skills.

I also understand that busy parents often do all the chores themselves because it is faster, but parents, make it a priority even if you just give your kids one chore a day. Teach them! I am an English teacher and you know what? It takes a long time to teach a high school student to write a research paper. It is actually a total pain and can take me months to get a good paper out of a student. There are a ton of steps to writing one and I have to make sure the student is able to do each one right. It would be so much easier to write the paper myself and we could spend the next two months watching movies in class instead of discussing how to properly cite sources ad nauseum, but how irresponsible would you find me as a teacher if I did that? I would get fired!

Teaching your kids to do chores is a ton of work and you really need to do it.

Manners:

Manners are taught by words and examples, so this becomes an all day challenge for parents. You have to model these and realize your kids are always watching you. We live near the beach and have a lot of house guests and there are definitely differences in the quality of guests. Some are a pleasure to have and we would gladly keep them forever. Others exemplify one of the many sayings of my dad: “House guests are like fish; both start to stink after three days.” We had a two house guests a few months ago that we are the type we would have kept forever because they come into our house with a “how can I help” attitude instead of an “I’m on vacation” attitude. Every morning, they would wake up and offer to watch the kids while I got a run in and when I got back the breakfast dishes were done. They would ask me daily what they could pick up from the store for dinner and they would do the dishes after dinner, while my husband and got our kids ready for bed. A few nights, they even cooked dinner. They were here for three weeks, in our tiny house, and instead of being sick of them, I was sad to see them go. They were GREAT house guests and I can only assume that they learned to be great house guests from this being taught to them by their parents or other amazing mentors. Being a good guest, like being a good hostess, is a learned skill. I am trying to remember this. I have in the past been a pretty bad house guest and dinner guest. I have shown up with the “let them serve me. I am on vacation” attitude. But my kids are watching me and I want them to offer to help clean up dinner when we go to a friend’s house. I want them to be the kinds of people that bring joy to others and not burdens. I want my kids to be better than I am and so I have to step up my game.

Parenting is exhausting for so many reasons but as a teacher, I see one of them being that class is always in session. Before I had kids, I was on my best behavior around my students. I watched my words carefully and tried to model good citizenship as well as teaching the students to write essays and analyze literature, but when I went home, I was free to be a selfish person. Now, I am being watched all the time and every action is teaching my kids. I mess up a lot and I have to start fresh a lot. Being a teacher was good practice for parenting because I messed up a lot as a teacher too. I planned lessons that just didn’t work and at first, I was pretty bad at classroom management. Now, I plan activities with my kids that don’t work and have a hard time managing temper tantrums, but I am learning so much. My kids are great teachers and they are teaching me to be a better person. I want to return the favor to them and so I treat each day as my chance to teach them something important that will help them be people that can function in our world. We do reading and math everyday and we also do chores and manners everyday.

School is always on at my house and I believe it is always on at yours too, even if you haven’t realized it yet. Embrace your role as a teacher, even if your kids go to a regular school during the day. When they are with you, you are teaching every moment. Make the most of your precious time!

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2 Comments
  1. I would like to add that my mom is also a phenomenal house guest. Her hands are always busy helping and she makes my life easier when she is here. I would keep her forever too if I could.

  2. Lisha permalink

    This is SUCH a poignant post, one which I totally identify with as a parent and as a former Math teacher. I have posted a few lines on my Facebook parenting page today, in the hope of sharing your take on parenting and the role of a parent as a teacher in our Teaching and Learning Special. I thank you for sharing this and invite you to visit us at http://www.facebook.com/ConsciousParentingApproach – see you there! 🙂

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