In his commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin in 2014, Admiral McRaven described making the bed as one of the most important lessons he learned in his basic SEAL training: “The wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over. If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished your first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another and another. And by the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never be able to do the big things right.”
In fact, growing up with a healthy habit of doing chores at home is quite important. In Lebanon, children are rarely expected to help in the household. However, as research has shown, completing chores around the house helps build a child’s character and prepares them better for adulthood (Lythcott-Haims ,2016). Etcetera spoke to Pauline El Kallassi about why it is important for children to do chores in the household.
“Chores are important simple tasks that teach children to take responsibilities early on,” explains Pauline. Having chores can build a child’s self-esteem and sense of value. In addition, doing chores teaches children self-control. As they focus their energy and attention on completing a task, they become more disciplined and structured. For example, if we are to follow Admiral McRaven’s guide to success, making the bed teaches an individual about the importance of tidiness, routine, and organization. As Pauline adds, “making the bed teaches children that they can take care of their needs. They do not need to wait for others to take care of them or their stuff;” thus, they are on the right track to becoming independent go-getters!
Unfortunately, in Lebanon, Pauline believes there is a widespread belief that parents should do everything for their children. “It is [usually] the parents who prepare snacks or do homework and projects. In these households, parents are constantly following their children and doing what they are supposed to do in the belief that they are helping them.” Indeed, this “help” causes Lebanese children to become dependent explains Pauline, “they feel like they can get whatever they want easily without making any effort,” she elaborates.
What parents need to realize is that assigning chores is not a punishment, but a privilege. “Adding chores to a child’s life sends the message to the child that ‘I am confident that you can help me and that you can do it,’” iterates Pauline. Parents need to assign simple age-appropriate chores to their children and teach them how to complete them. As early as age 2-3 years, children can learn how to put away their toys. They can then gradually be taught to do other simple chores around the house such as arranging the cushions on the sofa, putting the napkins on the table while preparing for dinner, and clearing the table afterwards when they are 4-5 years old. Children see themselves as contributing to their family.
Undeniably, the alternative is not that great. Children who do not have any chores are at risk of being spoiled. Pauline explains that such children are usually regarded as immature and self-centered: “they do not tolerate any frustration and always want their needs met as soon as possible by others. They might scream, yell, nag, and slam doors to get what they want. These children do not appreciate the effort that others are doing for them because they are used to getting everything easily without working for it,” she elaborates.
So, if you want to raise a well-rounded and independent child, assigning them chores is probably a good idea! Pauline stresses the importance of not tampering with a child’s chore once it is complete. “It’s okay if the chore is not perfect in the beginning. Parents need to let things pass so that their child can learn to perfect the task with time,” she adds. For example, if the bed is bumpy and not well done, eventually, the child will learn how to do it properly. But, if the mother intervenes and re-does the bed, “the child will give up on doing it, and his self-esteem will be affected,” clarifies Pauline.
Whether it’s making the bed, washing the dishes, or feeding the family pet every day, it is impertinent that children have chores to do on a regular basis. Ultimately, your child will thank you for teaching them the value of routine and hard work.
Pauline El Kallassi Mansour is a clinical psychologist specialized in Adult and Adolescent Psychotherapy and Child Play Therapy, and she is a certified Family Coach. She runs her own clinic in Zouk Mosbeh. Pauline holds a Master’s degree in psychology from the American University of Beirut (AUB). She also received a diploma in Psycho-Organic Analysis from L’EcoleFrancaised'Analyse Psycho-Organique in Paris and did her training in Clinical Psychology at the University of Denver in the USA.
- I read a lot about the benefits of learning how to play a musical instrument. But how can I pick an instrument for my kid to start playing?
A child will reap the benefits of musical training regardless of what musical instrument he or she is playing. However, choosing the right instrument for your child and for your family environment remains important. Forcing children to learn instruments they have no interest in will not foster a love of music and might cause the child to resent having to practice. However, you also don’t want him or her to choose an instrument that does not suit your family. For example, if as a parent you do not like the sound of the electric guitar, you will not be able to support your child or endure the hours of practice he or she needs to put in. Parents also need to like the sound of the instrument their child is playing. Take into account your child’s body type and make sure he picks an instrument he is comfortable holding and carrying. Also, make sure your child’s choice is not affected by any perceived “social value” of an instrument. For younger kids (4-6) you can’t go wrong with the keyboard or piano as those instruments provide a great foundation and children can easily transition to other instruments later if they would like to. Violin is also a good option as it comes in scaled sizes, but it requires more patience and persistence. Another thing to take into account is your child’s personality type. High energy kids can get great stress relief from playing the drums, and outgoing personalities may prefer instruments such as the saxophone or trumpet. The most important consideration, however, remains your child’s personal preference and passion as those are the biggest guarantees that he or she will stick with the instrument long enough to earn the life-long benefits.
- My kid is sometimes having temper tantrums and complaining of headaches to avoid going to school. How do I know if he needs help or therapy?
It’s important to note, before jumping to conclusions, that this could just be a phase or something that will pass. Children change a lot. Things happen in their lives that might make them vulnerable for a certain period of time. They can become more resilient when it passes. So you always want to think of the whole picture. When parents come to me and ask how they can tell if their kid needs help or therapy, I usually tell them to ask themselves those questions:
1- Is the kid physically sick all of the time? (Migraines, headaches, stomach problems, etc…?)
2- Does the kid look happy or miserable all the time? Do they consistently nag or cry or are they generally in a good mood?
3- Do they have friends at school? Do they communicate well with other kids their age? ( for example, do they get invited to birthday parties?)
4- How are their grades? How is their performance at school?
If the answers to all of those questions are positive, then it is probably transitory. There will of course be problems but after all kids are kids. Let the child be, let them live, and don’t make a big deal out of something small. However, if the answers to all of those questions are negative, then they do need help.