Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Parenting Thought

One of the questions my wife and I often get... ok, my wife often gets is: "how do you do it with four kids?" The basic question hints at a whole range of sub-questions like: How do you have time for all the work? How do you clean up after them?  How do you do _________ for that many? etc. The basic answer is we don't, we expect our kids to take responsibility.

Principle: God wants to you train your kids to take responsibility for themselves.

Obviously, you can go to far with this, that is one of the reasons that Paul instructs Father's not to exasperate their children (Eph. 6:4). But there is nothing wrong with expecting children to take responsibility. If they get out toys, they should clean them up. If they make their room dirty, they should clean it up. If they expect to eat at the table, they can help set it and clean it up.

This has to be done in an age appropriate fashion. Presently our kids are 1, 3, almost 5, and 7. The two older girls have expectations on them. Our oldest daughters knows it is her job to do homework when she comes home--and we don't check up on her every night because that is her responsibility. Our two older ones know they must sweep the floor after dinner and on Saturday they have some chores to help clean up.

Our three year old has begun to help clean her plate after the meal. I will hold it and she will scrape it. She will put the dishes by the dishwasher. She can help bring the laundry downstairs. She has a few things to do that we've have given her the responsibility to do. 

My wife and I take care of our kids, but quite frankly we aren't going to take the time to do everything for them. With the exception of the baby--they can dress themselves before breakfast (ok the 3 year needs a little assistance from time to time).  Our oldest daughter knows that after breakfast she needs to pack her lunch (if she is not buying in the cafeteria) and get herself ready for school: this includes her book bag and her homework folder. Occasionally we remind her or point out the time so she knows to hustle a little but that is far different than doing all the work for her. She knows her responsibility and to my knowledge she's never missed the bus.

If you never give your kids any responsibilities, you get teenagers and young adults who can't or don't want to handle responsibility. Our job as parents is to prepare kids to be future adults and parents of their own. We are training them to be released into the world. We want them to be mature and competent for life--both on the spiritual and the ordinary. If kids are used to having their parents do everything for them, they don't learn to be self-sufficient particularly as they move into adulthood. These types of adults may still live at home for too long and expect their mom to do the laundry.

None of this is to say that we do not nurture our kids, we do. It is important for them to know that we love them. But it is also important that they know we are a family. In a family everybody has their own part to do, it is not the mom and dad show with the kids along for the ride.

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