Yana Blog > #parenting

Asking Kids to Help
12/05/20

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving!  First I want to share what one physician mom raised about my Thanksgiving post last week.

"A single negative COVID test that was not paired with a 14 day quarantine is not enough to safely see family.  It needs to be preceded by a 14 day quarantine. This may be what your family did, but it was not specifically stated.  This article does a good job of explaining it. "

As she said, COVID is a very challenging and confusing illness. The question of testing before getting together will likely come up again for the next set of holidays, so I do want you to have the correct info. Covid-19 is on its second or third wave now, and we very much want to keep our loved ones safe.

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Previously I wrote about asking others for help.  This time I want to talk about a related topic:

    How much do you ask your kids to help out around the house?

I had a conversation with a mom over the Thanksgiving weekend that blew me away.  She said she was on a work Zoom call when she smelled smoke.  Looking over, it's her son making a grilled cheese sandwich for her (after already making one for himself.)  Oh, and her son is eight years old!

What?  I told her how impressed I was that her son's doing that.  "Oh yeah, and he makes dinner once a week. Could be simple things like a frozen pizza."  

I realized this is no fluke, this is a mom actively training her child to be a responsible member of the family.  This is eye-opening for me.

Sure, I ask my kids to do chores like folding their own laundry, cleaning putting away dirty dishes and setting the table.  And they've watched me make scrambled eggs and helped out with brownie making.  

The cautionary tale I like to tell them is how one of my mother-in-law's friend still does laundry for her daughter in college.  Yep, she drives over and does the laundry and folds them.  So when she was on vacation one time, she asked my mother-in-law to help her daughter instead.

I know it's a range in our expectation for our kids in helping out.  I know plenty of moms at the other end, who would do anything to get their kids to please eat more.  "Hungry at late night?  Let me go make you your favorite sandwich."  Parenting is an individual choice.

I've been telling my kids I expect them to learn the basics of survival by the time they leave the house.  My Asian immigrant mom also never had me help out much around the house, as she feels I should be focused on studying.  So when I was on my own, well I figured out how to make eggs, spinach, and shrimp... and that's about it for most of my adult life, till I became a mom and realized learning to cook is pretty useful.   

My husband cooks in our home, thankfully.  And he often serves the kids too, and make sure every meal is at good as can be.  He probably learned it from watching his mom.  I often remind him we should let the kids serve themselves, let them do more.

Still I realized after hearing that mom's story, that I might be setting the bar too low for my kids. 

Case in point, the other day I asked my 12-year old to heat up left over rice and he asked me "How long? Is 30s enough?" I told him try a minute at least.  He took out the rice, still cold, and started playing, thinking job done!  Already overwhelmed from trying to make the meal, I yelled at him.  We talked about it later, and I realized I never told him how to keep warming until it's done.  

Now rather than calling my kids to dinner and waiting for them to come down to eat, I call them as soon as I start cooking.  There's always things I can put them to work on, from peeling shrimp to adding seasoning to cutting vegetables (with a serrated rather than sharp knife) to heating leftovers. I found it's much easier to have some help: I could keep mixing raw shrimp with seasoning if my son adds the marinating seasoning.   And kids have a natural curiosity to learn if given the chance.  

Thinking it over, I realized what bothers me the most upon hearing that mom's story isn't so much my lack of skill training for my kids... it's that her son cared about her being hungry while busy working, such that he took the initiative to make a sandwich for her.   

How sweet... I want that!  Perhaps by giving my kids the ability to help, I can also empower them to be full member of the family, to not just responsibly do their chores, but actively think about caring for others.   That's the loving & caring family I really want.

How much do you ask kids to help around the house?  Leave a comment on your thoughts.


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