The question for the week is what do we do for the children, and what do they do for themselves? I’m going to answer in generalities rather than specifics, but if I were to be specific, I’d say my children do as much as possible for themselves, and hand over responsibilities as quickly as they can learn them and shoulder them.
My goal in parenting, aside from raising children who love the Lord, each other, and their parents, who develop their own talents and personalities, and who are good people of virtue (and that’s a tall order, isn’t it?), is to render myself nearly obsolete. I am management, not staff.
While I don’t have a schedule for when and how we do these things, our goal is to teach and train our children in all the household tasks until they are able to take them over. The process for this is basically first having the children around while we are working and talking about what we are doing and why. Next we let them ‘help’ when it isn’t really that helpful,. Gradually we add in parts of the task as their competency increases, until they are able to take it over entirely. Ideally, this should be followed by spot checks and periodic reviews and inspections (don’t expect what you don’t inspect).
It hasn’t always gone smoothly- we’re replacing the dishwasher this month because the youngest used the wrong soap in the dishwasher and destroyed it. That was an expensive mistake. Usually errors have been more of the nature of ruined pancakes or pink underwear that should have been white. Our coverage is sometimes uneven, resulting in a boy who can shoot a deer, skin it and dress the meat for the table, cook the meat for the family, and serve his own kill in a tasty stew or stir-fry, but didn’t know that you’re supposed to remove the cardboard before cooking a frozen pizza.
There are several things that shape my approach- one of them was my experience in college with a room-mate who didn’t know how to scrub a bathroom sink or do her own laundry. Another was my life as a young military wife. Many of my fellow young military wives did not know the most basic elements of running a household and making it on one income. I’m talking about people who didn’t know how to make a shopping list for the grocery store or make a cake. Once friends were visiting and their son smacked his head on a table while running through the house. When I got out ice to put it on the bump, his mother was surprised- she didn’t know that ice would reduce the swelling. She wasn’t dumb, and she wasn’t that young- in her late twenties.
While I did know how to cook, plan a menu, and shop on a budget, there were things I didn’t know, too. Like, I did not know that you had to scrub toilets. I thought they were self cleaning, and privately decided it must be my husband’s fault that ours wasn’t. I’d never lived exactly by myself. When not living at home, I’d lived with room-mates and we shared cleaning duties. In college I lived with three other girls. After college I lived with two friends, a boy and a girl. I’m guessing my roomies must have done all the toilet cleaning but there enough of us and the others diligent enough, that nobody noticed I wasn’t doing my share in that area. Or maybe they liked my cooking enough to overlook it.
I knew how to cook from scratch, but I hadn’t been responsible for a full meal, so I struggled for a while with getting things together so the side dishes and the main dish were all done and hot at the same time. This was a minor issue, though, compared to my friends who couldn’t cook anything more complicated than biscuits from a can.
I was mostly happy with what I had learned before marriage- except for that whole toilet cleaning thing. But I was sorry for my friends who struggled with things I’d been doing since jr high school. That’s when I started doing my own laundry. I’d started cooking when I was 6- I remember learning how to poach eggs while standing on a chair at the stove under my mother’s close supervision. I was about 10 or 11 when I was responsible for dinner once a week- not forever, but just a few weeks at a time, I’d cook the main dish for dinner on a given night. I didn’t want my kids to be like my friends- being on your own as an adult, as a young married woman, starting out life as a new family unit- these things are challenging enough without having to learn so many of the mechanics from scratch at the same time.
In addition to personal experiences, I read something in a book a few years ago that really made me think. I don’t remember which book it was, unfortunately. The author wrote about how we are supposed to be raising our children to become adults, but so often we leave them with only the skillsets of unruly children who we treat as more in the way than helpful. The author pointed out that for millenia children had been valuable, contributing members of their families, not mere playthings or interruptions. Children actually *like* knowing things, even if they complain about it sometimes, and they usually feel good about being able to do meaningful tasks. But because we have this sharp divide between childhood and adulthood and think we should just let ‘kids be kids’ and enjoy their childhood while they can, we don’t give them meaningful work. Thus, when they reach adulthood and are on their own, it’s a shock, and it’s much harder for them than it ought to be. They also aren’t dumb, and they can see that they are playing like grasshoppers while their parents slave as ants, but unlike the fable, their parental ants will continue to support them and clean up after them, so they have no real incentive to want to grow up and take on the tasks of the grown up world.
We don’t see our role as parents being one of raising our kids as grasshoppers and then releasing them to the world while telling them they must suddenly become ants. We want them to look forward to becoming adults, not to fear it.
Of course, what this means is that my empty nest period, such as it may be (The Cherub will never leave home, so it will never be a truly empty next) will be crazy busy and I try to figure out where everything is in my kitchen once more and learn to handle cooking and laundry all by my ownself once again.;-D
There are two questions I commonly hear about this part of how we raise our kids. One is “How do you get them to….” or some variation of that. Consistency, persistence, and a strong belief in my right and even strong belief in my obligation to rear my kids this way help.
The other is, “But don’t you feel guilty having them do your job?” I don’t really even understand the question. I don’t have them do ‘my’ job. My job is to raise them to be capable adults. They are doing their job- on the job training toward that end. I’m a firstborn child and with my personality type, I do guilt very, very well, but this is just not something I feel guilty about. In fact, it’s the opposite. I feel more burdened by guilt when I stumble across something they don’t know- like the cardboard on frozen pizza thing.
Visit the other Four Moms and see what they have to say!
Connie at Smockity Frocks, married 25 years, mom to 8. We were blog buddies for a year or two before we realized that we had very dear mutual friends in real life. How cool is that?!
Kim at Life in a Shoe, homeschool grad, mama to a family of 13
Raising Olives, married 15 years, mama to 11, homeschooling graduate herself-
Me, DeputyHeadmistress and former Zookeeper (I gave up keeping a zoo when coyotes and coons killed our chickens) of this blog, The Common Room and our cooking blog, The Common Kitchen; married 30 years, mom to seven plus unofficial foster mom to two little boys, Mama-in-Law to two, and Grandmama to four blessings under 3, with number 5 on the way, and yes we are very proud.=)
We four moms also wrote a book together, and you can buy the Four Moms parenting book, which you can get as a Kindle or as an e-book document:
See my other Kindle books, too:
101 Answers to the Summertime, “Mom, I’m Bored” Blues; help your kids use their free time creatively and productively. Give them ideas that will help them use their time and energy to create, to learn, to grow- to contribute. This is not your average ‘keep the kids out of your hair’ book.
Required Poems for Reading and Memorizing (annotated); Charming collection of older poems that you and the kids just might love.
Ten Low-Carb Snacks and Quick Meals Okay, actually, there’s a little more than ten, and they aren’t merely low-carb, they are also sugar-free, grain-free, gluten free. NOT dairy-free.