Monday, April 5, 2010

Teach Them Well and Teach Them Young

I once knew somebody, who stated that cleaning dishes was “the woman’s job,” so he was not going to help, even if it meant bringing his dish to the sink. True story. Despite the obvious problem of labeling “girls’ and boys’ jobs,” which is definitely a message that one does not want to impart upon impressionable young children, another statement was made in that phrase. That statement was, “you are not as important as me, so I do not need to clean up after myself.” After cooking AND cleaning after a long day at work, it is needless to say: that person was not the beneficiary of my culinary expertise ever again.

In today’s society, having social skills dictates that one must learn to keep track of personal belongings, as well as be responsible for discarding that individual’s trash, including dirty dishes after enjoying a delectable meal. That concept is facilitated in a preschool classroom, with pictures and words of what item belongs in each bin. Detailed lessons on how to put a napkin into a cup and tuck the chair under the table after snack time is over are discussed within the first days of school. At 2 and 3 years of age, of course mistakes are made, but it is hoped that the behaviors will become automatic by the end of the year.

To a 3 year old, one can explain that the toys have to go away because if someone breaks it (due to it not being in the proper place), it will not be replaced. Precious art work, created during “work” or “free” time can get stepped on and destroyed, and the creator will be pretty sad if that happens. Testing the waters, every child experiences the pain of losing an important item once and vows to never let it happen again. The cherished stuffed animal is placed much more carefully in selective and appropriate spots. And for that matter, expecting someone else to set up and clean up snack makes the “setter-upper” feel like those actions are just expected. Bringing the empty cup and napkin to the trash is a way of saying “thank you.”

Think about it: no relationship should have one person always doing the cooking, cleaning, giving and/or taking. Relationships between families, significant others, peers, employees/employers, and friends are no different. The "give and gets" of a relationship means that teamwork is important, but being responsible for one’s own belongings is required.

As everything has its place, it is unnecessary to throw the jacket on the floor when first entering the house. Empty gum wrappers, and gum for that matter, belong in the trash can. For grade-school students and beyond, expecting someone else to scrape the gum from the underside of the desk is disgusting. Dog feces should not be left in the street or your neighbors’ lawns. Think how you feel after stepping in dog poop; considering that you don’t enjoy it, clean up after yourself, and your dog! And if you are a guest, anywhere, leave a place better than how you found it.

These scenarios might all seem quite different and unrelated, but they most definitely are. Having good social skills means that one is responsible for his/her own personal belongings, and does not expect anyone else to remove them. If everyone made a concentrated effort to put personal items in their appropriate place/receptacle, this world would be a much cleaner place! And if you teach your child, at an early age, to clean up his/her dishes, you will feel more like a parent and less like an indentured servant.

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