I had a very interesting conversation with some parents a little bit ago. They came over for dinner and heard me ask my child to do the dishes. Their jaws dropped!
“You have him do the dishes?!” They asked in astonishment.
“Yes. He has chores around the house.”
“Wait. He has more than doing the dishes? What else does he have to do?”
“Oh, clean his room and bathroom, feed the animals, pick up the dog poop, and fold and put away his laundry.”
“I think that is too much! He is a kid. Kids should be out playing and being creative. Their job is school and that is where it should end.”
To which I graciously responded. “You are right. He is a kid. For this short time, I have him, I am responsible for teaching him how the real world works. I have a full-time job as well. Then I teach him home school and take care of his social and health obligations. My house still needs cleaning, the laundry still needs to be done, and the dishes still need to be cleaned. Simply because I have a job that does not change the responsibilities at home. We have chosen to teach our son that as a family who resides in the same household, we all have responsibilities and must contribute.”
They sat in contemplative silence for the next five minutes and then agreed.
So, how do you teach responsibilities? What is too much? Where is the balance? Here are 10 easy steps to taking the work out of teaching work responsibilities.
1) Whose Responsibility? It is important to not just teach how chores are done but whose responsibility things are. For example, as a kid, I learned multiple instruments. If I forgot my instrument for band practice, I was not allowed to call my parents to bring it for me. They had full-time jobs as well. I remember my mother saying to us when we forgot our homework/backpack/coat/instrument/etc. “Whose homework? Whose responsibility?” Boy, did we hate hearing that! She was right. We do our children no favors when we come in to save the day every time they mess up and forget. This does not mean never be that hero (life circumstance often teaches us we need help from others), but we should not make it the norm. Let them learn and grow.
2) Chores, Chores, Chores: No one likes chores. Don’t fool yourself. You don’t even like chores. They are a part of life, that also teaches us to work ethic, responsibility, and diligence. Check out the downloadable document below on Age Appropriate Chores for Children published in 2013 for a place to start. (Thank you, Pastor Lisa for making this great resource available.). Remember, each child is different and has different needs. This is just a guideline. We also introduced one chore at a time so our son could perfect before he got overwhelmed.
3) Planning: Weekly I try to get some idea of the menu for the week. Or at least when I get the grocery shopping done. Sometimes, I am just out of ideas. This is a great place to have children help and teach responsibility. Let your kids help plan (and cook) a meal. They will love being involved and usually will like to eat what they make (for you picky eaters out there). Let them help at the grocery store. Teach them how to pick produce, how to get the cheapest item or the best quality for your money. Give them a budget for their “impulse buys” they will undoubtedly ask for it. Start the conversation on money and taking care of the groceries – a life skill they will need for the rest of their lives.
4) Kids Help Kids: For those with multiple children, use this opportunity to develop leadership. Let older kids help younger kids learn things like how to tie shoes, or send them on an errand together to pick something up. Kids learn a lot from older siblings and teammates. Use this to teach generationally.
5) Play-dates: I know it is really easy to want to be present at all playdates all the time. But this is just no necessary. It is ok and good to leave your children with a trusted adult. If you trust the parent, and it is age-appropriate, leave your child to have fun without you. This helps build confidence in children. Knowing Mom and Dad trust you to make good choices without them is empowering to them. But more importantly, it gives them real-world experiences. Not one house is the same, not one human is the same. This opens the door to some really wonderful conversations.
6) Volunteer: Generation Z is known for a passion for social justice. But, they are also known for not following through. They were taught the issues and a passion was ignited. But they were not taught the practicality of the hard work, critical thinking, and diligence it takes to make a change. Simply posting a meme on social media does not change make. Teaching volunteering gets to the root of this problem. Volunteering showcases need, teaches work ethic, dependability, and commitment. It also allows the first-hand experience of need, bureaucracy, and politics. All those things play large roles in adult life. Teaching volunteering at a young age starts a healthy foundation for these areas that can easily become toxic later if not healthy discussed.
7) Students keep track of their own work and test: It is great to know about your child’s schoolwork. But their work is not your work. You already went to school. You already know it. Don’t do their work for them. Set them up to succeed. We use this great Student Smart Planner Academic Planner (I use the Wordsworth Goal Setting Planner for myself) for our home school (it has places for long term projects, schedules, grade tracking, and monthly and weekly calendars). For younger kids, this is a great planner as well. For those in school, we used a checklist morning and night for our son to know what was needed each morning and what was completed.
8) Organize your own schedule: Today in America we are socially judged by the number of activities our child is in. We are told kids need perfect grades and extracurriculars out the ears to get to college. Our kids are tired, stressed out, and overwhelmed. A great documentary on this is Race to Nowhere. Let’s give our children the power to decide what extracurriculars they do – if any. Some kids might need extra time for school. Some kids might want three or four a week. Some might just want to do one thing they can learn to do really well. Let’s stop making Jack-of-all-trades-and-masters-of-none.
9) Independent Thinkers: Kids need to learn how to think – not just memorize facts. Set them to succeed in this by encouraging independent and critical thinking. Let them learn about themselves and how they learn. ReadTheory helps kids in reading comprehension, Learning Styles is a great place to learn about how your child learns. When you know how you learn, you equip yourself with the ability to better learn the more difficult skills and academics.
10) Entertain Yourself: You are a parent – not a Hollywood movie star or singer-songwriter. You were charged with raising compassionate, intelligent children into wonderful adults. You were not charged with being your child’s friend, entertainment, and all-around everything. Release yourself of that stress. Teach you, child, to entertain themselves. This is critically important to brain development, social play, and creative and critical thinking. It is also entertaining to you as a parent to see what they come up with.