Thursday, July 17, 2008

From whence comes my help

Back in the Philippines, I used to have house helps who did most of the house chores, usually minding my children in my absence. I was able to effectively juggle family and work matters because of them. They made life so much easier.

Where we live now, house help is mostly unheard of. Gone were the days when we can stay glued to bed all morning without worrying about our breakfast. Or watch tv or read book all day without minding about the accumulated dust and mites. Or simply spend the entire day at the mall oblivious about the pending laundry.

Nonetheless, hubby and me were able to fashion an arrangement that conveniently meshed well with our new lifestyle. The one who is available must do all stuffs in a row – from laundering to washing the dishes to cleaning the floors. Capping these of course would be a good meal served hot upon arrival of the queen or king of the house, as the case maybe.

Happily, I recently discovered a great and effective way to ease our household burdens. It was there right under my nose, waiting to be tapped and utilized. I am talking about none other than my two dutiful daughters.

It was amazingly easy to get them to act on their feet – simply by asserting my authority over them. Now I hope I don’t sound like the Wicked Witch of the West or Hitler the Dictator. But given our family atmosphere, I knew this is the only way for me to get quick results. Of course, this wasn't easy for them, having been accustomed to the presence of nannies helping them in many ways before.

I started by setting clear and concrete expectations ripe for their age (like fixing the bed, folding the clothes, cleaning up, washing the dishes, cooking rice, setting the table, etc.), giving allowances for mistakes as a way of learning, reinforcing positive outcomes, and implementing consequences as needed. Rewards came in the form of heaps and heaps of affirmations, praise notes and love letters, extra allowances, favorite toy, extended tv or computer time, or anything that is viewed valuable by them. Consequences came in the form of grounding, withheld allowance or use of computers, not being able to watch their favorite show or additional workloads or anything viewed unpleasant by them. I had to resist the urge to do the tasks myself. I also had to be firm and consistent all the time and to really put on a good act of seriousness (the kind that says, I mean business, baby, so don’t test me) between procrastination, whining, promises to do it later, or outright tantrums.

After training them for about three months, my perseverance was worth it. They do their house assignments even without nagging from me and with little or no supervision. It had become a habit for them.

What is more important is that the payoff is way beyond helping me in completing the chores at hand. It’s about teaching my children the value of caring, consideration, flexibility, hardwork, teamwork and excellence even in the lowliest of tasks. It’s all about teaching them life skills that will prove valuable in their adult life.

Truly, the best lessons are first learned at home.


Droomvla said...

nanu, gin paugob mo na ina na duwa? wawa man! Hahahahahaha

the donG said...

great idea and im sure this will teach them to be responsible and disciplined.

karen v said...

Starting them young is a great way of training the girls. Your article reminds me of the time when Samantha and I did not have a house helper for a few months. We had to do everything on our own so she had to learn how to set the table (formal and casual dining), sweep the floor and wash the dishes. It took her ages just to wash a pair of drinking glasses, two pairs of spoon and fork, two plates ... I had to fight the urge of doing the chore myself. We did the laundry for two saturdays and we actually had fun sorting the colored from the plain whites. Eventually, we yielded the laundry to the professionals. It is so convenient to have a helper but Sam and I had lots of magic moments when we did not have one.

Our helper will go home in three weeks and after reading your story, I guess I won't get a helper for a while. Your story is an inspiration. We all can do it!