When Justin Crisostomo was 8, his mother left to work overseas so he and his brother could go to a good school.
“My dad told us, ‘Tayong tatlo lang dito sa bahay, walang ibang tutulong sa atin at walang ibang gagawa para sa atin. Matututo tayong mabuhay ng nagtutulungan at maayos. Para sa inyo rin ito.’ He taught us life skills in and out of the house,” said Justin.
While his friends played on weekend mornings, he cleaned their house and polished the floors with a bunot (coconut husk). Justin’s father cooked while his older brother did the laundry. They took turns doing the dishes and cleaning the toilet.
“In the afternoons, my friends came by so we could play. They knew I had to get in before 6 p.m. to wash up, cook rice and prepare the table for dinner,” said Justin. “We had fewer chores during school days, but still we took turns washing the dishes and had to keep the house clean and orderly. My dad was very strict about that. We had that routine until my mom no longer worked abroad.”
Now 40, Justin has passed on the same habits to his children Santino, 13, and Solara, 9. His wife Jerma, 41, grew up with the same values.
“I was 6 when my mother taught me how to make my bed, clean my room and the house. We had to do it the way she did it or we’d get spanked,” Jerma said. “Even when we had a stay-out helper, my mother still had us do household chores. She is a very strict disciplinarian, and if she wanted something done, you had to do it right away, no questions asked. When I got older, I also had to clean our car before and after using it.”
Sense of responsibility
The Crisostomos don’t have household help. By age 5, their children were taught to start helping around the house.
“Santino is very curious and always wants to be involved in what we are doing, so we let him,” said Justin. “Even if we know that he would not be able to do it perfectly and make a mess, we let him feel the noble sense of responsibility that he helped us. We make him feel that his help is often needed.”
“When Solara was born, he set the table, helped his sister with her bottle and cleaned up after himself.
He added, “Solara has a way of getting her kuya and mom to do things for her, but we still have her help kuya with his chores. When she turned 7, she got her own room but it was her responsibility to maintain it.”
The kids make their beds every morning and keep their rooms neat every day, including their closets, bookshelves and toy cabinets. If there is no school, they clean their lola’s room, too. They set the table, clean up after meals, sweep and mop the floor as needed.
“Santino helps with the laundry when he is done with school. He also helps with the weekend cleaning and helps me fix things in the house,” said Justin. “Sometimes he cooks rice and washes dishes.”
“Solara is in charge of dusting furniture during weekend cleaning and helps water the plants. She chops vegetables and prepares some of the ingredients, especially when her lola is cooking or baking.”
They have more chores during the summer, holidays and weekends.
“Chores help kids learn responsibility and self-reliance,” said Justin. “It develops discipline and life skills. They help build a strong foundation for work ethic and self-respect.”
Chores also make children fully appreciate all the hard work their parents, grandparents and helpers do for them. They also reinforce respect for the people and the work that goes into maintaining a home, a school, a public place, wherever they are. Chores keep kids grounded even if they have a comfortable life and are well-provided for.
“Doing chores also serves as family bonding during this pandemic. Shared chores teach kids the importance of team work and good communication. Tasks are done faster and more efficiently, giving families, especially parents, more quality time to do other fun stuff and rest,” said Justin.
How do they get their kids to help out? “We explain to them the significance and benefits of doing household chores,” Justin said.
“For starters, a reward system was effective. As they grew up and got more exposed to gadgets, deals had to be made to get them to help. If they wanted more gadget time, they had to do more chores faster but still in order. But as time went by, it became part of their daily routine—responsibilities that didn’t require a reward or a deal. We need to be firm in assigning tasks. A little tough love won’t hurt; it will give them strength to prepare them for adulthood.”
Added Jerma, “Once they had adapted to these, we didn’t have to tell them what to do or how to do it. They have the initiative to do their duties on their own.”
Once, Santino and Solara were really engrossed in their games. It was midmorning and they were still in their messy room. “I told them to clean their rooms,” recalled Justin. “They said, ‘Dad, wait lang.’ Ten minutes later, I went back. ‘Dad, wait lang, patapos na po ’to.’ On my third attempt, they were still at it, so I took their tablets, cell phone, their Xbox and said, ‘Ngayon na!’
“After their chores, I gave them ‘the talk’ and they didn’t get gadgets and video games for two weeks. Since then, whenever we ask them to help or do their chores, they comply immediately.”
Jerma is admittedly “softer” on the kids. “We give warnings and consequences for their actions, but we never forget to explain to them why we get angry by having a heart-to-heart talk with them. I give them time to think and realize what went wrong. They have feelings that I have to also understand and respect. They may also be having a bad day, so I give them space they need.”
Justin advised other parents to lead by example. “If we want our children to be self-reliant, we, too, should be able to do things independently. It is never too late to learn. Children usually follow our example and not our advice.” —CONTRIBUTED INQ