Imagine going into the kitchen one afternoon to find that your daughter has already laid down the dining table! Or, you enter your son’s room and discover he has tidied it, without you having to nag him. At a time, when it’s difficult to get your children to fetch their own glass of water and place their books and bags in place, and when even picking up their chocolate wrapper is the maid’s duty, this sure is a farfetched thought. Or, is it really?
To raise self-sufficient and responsible children, with a sense of belonging to their home, parents must ensure their kids lend a hand with the housework. When kids do chores, they learn that life requires work; otherwise, they never learn to appreciate what others are doing for them. Studies show that kids who help around the house have better management skills and are more considerate and supportive. However, the question remains: how to motivate them?
Let us travel back in time and enter the home of our Prophet (sa) to witness his daily life. A man asked Aisha (rtaf): “What did the Prophet (sa) do at home?” Aisha (rtaf) replied: “He kept himself busy with housework. He patched his clothes, swept the house, milked the animals and bought supplies for the house from the market. If His shoes were torn, he mended them himself. He tied the rope to the water bucket. He secured the camel, fed it, and ground the flour with the slave.” (Bukhari)
Despite having the responsibility of prophethood, this is how the Prophet (sa) spent his time at home – doing things many of us look down upon. Living in the world of maids and servants, we assume that everything should be done by them. We tend to forget that even though all this was readily available for the Prophet (sa), he preferred to ‘own’ his house. Here are five handy tips for engaging your children in owning their house:
- Be the role models: Children watch you closely. They learn less from your verbal shots and more from your actions. If mother relies on servants for every odd task, children will learn the same. If father does not take any interest in housework, bringing in the grocery and tending to other needs, sons are sure to imitate him. In order to teach your children to own their house, you need to own it first!
- Teach the ‘theory’: Discuss with your children the examples of Muhammad (sa) and his companions. Impart Deen to them; teach them compassion; teach them the concept of Sadaqah (pouring from your vessel into the vessel of another), and teach them the virtue of helping parents and servants (helping with servants is more virtuous! Muhammad (sa) used to mill flour with the slave). Teach them the theory, guide to the practical, and watch them emerge as obedient, helpful kids, Insha’Allah!
- Delegate tasks: Assign age-appropriate tasks to each of your kids. Explain to them specifically what chores they have to do and what they should not expect their parents or servants to do. Keep your word about it. Encourage them, praise them and at times, even reward them. If they mess up, do not condemn their efforts. Give them chances to improve next time.
- Teamwork: Pick out a day, preferably over the weekend, when all family members work on different chores together, like washing the car, tidying up the cupboards and the like.
- Give the hired help a week off: Yes, if all else fails, simply tell the servants to take a week off. Resist all urges to pick up after the kids. This will surely give a strong message to them that they need to take responsibility for specific tasks around the house.
In the end, remember that children are children. You cannot expect them to work around readily all the time. However, when they grow up, they will be grateful to you, Insha’Allah!