Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Being Brave To... Raise Responsible Kids

Yesterday we were joined by speaker, author and educator, Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, and her talk was on "Responsibilities for Young Children."

I know a lot of moms couldn't make this meeting; there are so many sick kids right now, and that, along with the time change, sure makes it hard to leave the house.

Literally, the only reason I was able to come to MOPS was because my husband was home and offered to stay with all 4 of my kids. Mine have spring break this week, so it was pretty heroic of him.

Anyway, on to the topic at hand.

Dr. Fritzemeier joined my table for breakfast. She's a smart, educated woman, with a lot of ideas. I mentioned that I was probably late to the game, as I'm only just starting to give my 7 year old more household chores. And she agreed, I was a little late; but better late than never.

The whole premise behind her talk (dare I say, lecture?), was that if you start giving your young children responsibilities in the form of chores around the age of 2, they will learn that this is just what you do in a family, and that taking care of ourselves and contributing to the work load is part of life.

Waiting until school age can become a bit more challenging, as by the time they are maybe 7, they understand that chores are work, and aren't so eager to join in on the "fun."

But it's more than just chores and chore-charts, said our speaker. It's about raising self-sufficient and responsible people. Chores tend to be a path toward helping our kids to problem-solve, think creatively, and think critically.

They also can help our children become more independent, and increase their self-esteem.

Here's the conundrum for a lot of us moms of preschoolers: We are low on time, low on energy, and low on patience. Is it just me? Because my life doesn't allow for a lot of direction and instruction for my toddlers.

I'm literally struggling to get them to eat their dinner and get to bed on time.

But here are some things I have been able to initiate in my home, as far as chores and responsibilities are concerned:

My 7, 6 and 5 year olds must keep their rooms basically clean, especially before leaving the house or doing something "fun" (i.e. watching tv, playing games, going on play dates, etc.).

I do not make them clean up or make their beds in the morning before school in the morning. And that's ok with me. It works for our family this way, because the room-cleaning takes place usually at night before bed, or when they are home on the weekend. I've had to evaluate when I as the mother and supervisor have the most time and energy to devote to the process of that whole room-cleaning deal. And this is with my school age kids. It might look differently with a 2 and 3 year old, but it really depends on your life, activities and family structure.

Some other tasks my kids are responsible for are: cleaning their place when done with a meal, cleaning up a spill when they are at fault (usually a drink at dinner), and putting their laundry away.

According to Dr. Fritzemeier, I'm probably giving my school-age kids the responsibilities of a 2-4 year old.

Here's why: I'm a perfectionist. I take over a lot of the time, and have difficulty allowing my kids to do things when I know it won't get done the when or how I want it. (I'm a work in progress)

But you know what? I feel like I'm far from failing. I know my kids, and I know myself, and believe me when I say, what chores I give them stretches all of us.

And it should. Learning to be responsible (for a kid) or to give responsibly (for a parent) is no easy task. When one task is mastered, we move on to another. We are consistently challenging ourselves, even if the tasks we're doing aren't at a certain level or place on a list.

Another big part of the discussion yesterday was giving young children choices, or limited choices. This helps to foster decision-making ability, and may make your everyday tasks a little less chaotic.

For example, instead of asking your child "Do you want to get dressed?" We say, "What do you want to wear, your blue shirt or your green shirt?" Therefore, taking the element of "no" or a battle out of the equation.

But for those of you (me) with "threenagers" this may not apply, or you must break out your creative thinking skills because those kids will always find a third option.

Preschoolers. Amiright? Seriously.

So, I will leave you with a statement for thought and reflection in light of this whole topic: "Rarely do things for your children that they can do for themselves."

However this may look in your home, with your kids, and the stage you are at (in your perfectionism recovery, maybe), I hope you are able to continue or begin or whatever in helping your kids to grow into confident, thoughtful, and responsible adults.

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