Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Giving teens “responsibility” vs “chores”
I have discussed (probably too many times!) over the past several days an important aspect about children and chores that we discovered in our parenting—that of not giving tasks to older kids, but rather giving full responsibility. This especially comes into play with teenagers and chores.
So much of chores and responsibilities is truly expectation. We can expect our sixteen year old to set the table for dinner on Thursdays—and that is what she will do. Or we can expect her to plan and prepare dinner on Thursdays—and that is what she will do (with training and years of working alongside us, of course).
Four of our kids have been out in the “real” world of college, work, marriage, etc. in the past few years. They have used the skills they have learned at home—and they have been successful in work, study, service, and more. Our son was seventeen when he served one semester as a state congressman’s aid/intern at the Oklahoma state capitol. (The following year he did the same at the Michigan state capitol.) He went on to test out of his entire college degree except for two classes of which there were no tests available. Our next daughter began writing a language arts curriculum when she was fifteen, having already learned all of her household skills and finishing nearly all of her mandatory high school credits early. (She went on to work her way (first in our family’s newspaper delivery business, then writing for our family’s publishing company, then teaching classes to homeschoolers and providing private tutoring, then as a nurse’s aid, then as an RN) through three degrees—along with the full ride academic scholarships that she was awarded at all three colleges she attended.) Our next child, a girl, began a disability ministry in one of the largest churches in Fort Wayne, Indiana, when she was seventeen. She, along with her husband now, have grown it until currently, four years later, it ministers to over one hundred cognitively disabled adults each week. And finally, our next daughter learned to key punch and typeset books at the age of fourteen until by the time she graduated from high school, she could have gone to work with a magazine or book publisher easily. (At nineteen, she now travels around the country with a ministry teaching children and teens Christian drama.)
Guess what? All of this started with putting their books in their book baskets when they were one, picking up their toys when they were two, having a daily morning routine chart when they were four, doing the dishes and setting the table when they were six, doing the family’s laundry for thirty minutes a day when they were eight, learning to cook when they were ten, taking care of the yard single-handedly when they were twelve, maintaining freezers and refrigerators when they were fourteen, and learning whatever skills we had to offer them when they were sixteen.
And it all began when their parents learned the difference between token chores and responsibility—and when their parents had high expectations for their children’s behaviors, skill development, and character—anything that was in the kids’ control. Our children can, and probably will, meet our expectations—assuming these expectations are reasonable, in their control, and preceded with proper training and a whole lot of love.