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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Teaching Responsibility

When our oldest child was in 1st grade, I remember her calling home and asking me to take something to school - something she had left at home. It only happened three times, but I remember thinking to myself, "Should she be remembering these things? Is this normal for a 1st grader?" I assumed it was normal and took the items to her. But, when our second child was in 1st grade, two years later, he never called home. He always remembered his things. Now in 3rd grade, our daughter was still occasionally calling home for left items. It occurred to me that it was just her - it wasn't "normal" or "abnormal", but just the difference in the two children. One was more naturally responsible than the other one. Now, five years later, it is still this way with our oldest two children (I won't take the time to analyze the youngest two in this post!!), but they are both pretty responsible with most things.

It is very important to teach our children responsibility, isn't it? We want them to grow up to be responsible adults and it is our duty, as parents, to do so. So many children are free to do as they please and aren't give responsibilities at home while growing up. They become lazy, unproductive adults, and they may end up being employees who may not be able to keep a job for long.

There are two people who have children just a few years older than I do who have served as great role models for me. They have shown examples of teaching children responsibility. One of the women is my sister-in-law, Robin, and the other is a friend named Mary. Both of these woman have given me unique ideas over the years that have helped me as my children have grown. When my children were young and we were visiting Robin's house, her three children had a rotating chore schedule posted on the refrigerator. The chores were done each morning, and could be done in about 5 minutes. The rotation gave each child a different responsibility for each day. Immediately I came home and made a chore chart of my own for the three oldest children (#4 hadn't arrived, yet.). It worked perfectly and the kids all seemed to enjoy having these small responsibilities. Now each child is just given daily chores as the need arises, but will be more scheduled during the summer months.

My friend, Mary, gave me another great idea about that same time. My oldest two children were always arguing about who got to sit next to their younger brother in the second row of the minivan, and who would sit in the back alone. Mary had four children. She used a rotating seat system, where each child got to sit in a certain seat for a week, then would rotate the next week to the next seat. The week system was implemented in our minivan immediately! The children were responsible for keeping up with the weekly schedule, which was put on the stick-up calendar on the visor. Now, with four children, this system is still used; however, with two over 12 years old, it also involved sitting in the passenger seat in the front when Mom is driving!

Sometimes teaching responsibility isn't fun. It takes time, and it takes work. Sometimes it takes planning. But, it's definitely worth it!

I'm reminded of this Chinese Proverb I saw at a teacher's workshop recently: “Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.” Involving our children in the day to day activities of family life is teaching them to be productive, responsible adults - just like God intended for us to do, as parents.

Involve your children in something today!

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might...Ecclesiastes 9:10a

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24

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