Being a parent, even from the very first hours in the hospital, requires the training of a child. The first thing we have to teach them is how to eat. Some take to it easier than others. But for each one their growth is a result of the amount of milk they take in.
The child is later introduced to solid foods, a little at a time. We offer little mounds on soft tipped spoons into their little mouths, as they sit like little baby birds on limbed seats. We mimic their ready mouths as we encourage them to taste, swallow and grow. “This is good for you! Try it!” we urge. It’s not long thereafter that they begin to grab the spoon for themselves, and we begin on the path of being able to eat our own meal, while it’s hot, as we relish their independence.
I’ll never forget my surprise one day to come into the kitchen and find my five year-old firstborn standing on the step stool at the kitchen counter, making her own peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She had had her booster shots the day before, and her little arm was so sore, that it drove her to have to use her right hand, her “other” arm, to spread the ingredients for her lunch, but she bypassed her obstacle so that she could accomplish this task!
I applauded her efforts that day, and the many kitchen exploits after that. Some cooking adventures were the mandatory kind – meaning that she wasn’t always an enthusiastic student, but I insisted that she learn. Just as I was determined that she learn to eat when she was little, now it was time she learn how to put a meal together for herself. I believe she was about fourteen when she was the cook for the guests we invited to join us for dinner. She prepared the entire meal herself – main course, side dishes and dessert. There was a day of lessons in the making of Strawberry Freezer Jam. The picture I snapped of her at the end of the day, showed jars full of success, but with a less than happy face. I don’t share that to embarrass her, but to simply say that as parents, it’s our responsibility to train and teach, even if the child is less than willing.
It’s so much easier to fold the clothes, make the bed, and yes, cook the meal without a whining, fussy, and messy child beside you, but then, how will they learn to do those tasks? It requires us, the parents, to be willing to discipline our own selves and take the extra time to teach and train them. Teach them to do a few tasks each week that they’re able to do at their age. (Beginning with and progressing to:)
- Feeding themselves
- Putting their toys away into a basket
- Pulling the blanket up on their bed and putting the pillow in its place
- Setting the forks and napkins on the table
- Folding washcloths
- Helping to mix the ingredients together for muffins or a cake
- Wiping out the bathroom sink
- Making lunch – sandwiches and fruit slices
- Sweep the kitchen floor
- Sort laundry
- Peel potatoes with a vegetable peeler
- Set the table completely
- Help mash fruit and add ingredients for jam
- Change their bed sheets
- Make a simple casserole for supper
- Fold and put laundry away
- Bake cookies or muffins
- Wash dishes/Empty dishwasher
- Make a complete meal