Our oldest son is almost 14. Our next two boys are 13 and 12, and our daughters are 10 and 8. So we have a lot of kids, close in age. This dynamic has forced me to encourage and enable our kids to be self-sufficient at a young age. Some might argue that I’ve made them too self-sufficient, but hey, it works for me.
I want my kids to grow up to be well-adjusted, contributing members of society. I don’t want to coddle them or do everything for them; by doing so, I would be doing them a huge disservice. If they don’t know how to think for and take care of themselves, how will they make a difference in the world? They would end up as entitled, lazy, self-focused adults. Who knows? They may end up that way anyway, but I’m hoping and praying that some of what we’re doing now will stick with them later.
I am available for my kids emotionally and spiritually. I am joy-filled when I experience life with them and see them grow. I’m so proud when I see them accomplish goals and reach their potential. And here are some ways that I do that.
Do their own laundry
By the time our youngest daughter was seven, all of our kids were doing their own laundry. I have a daily schedule set up, and each of them gets two days a week to wash their clothes. If they miss their day, they are charged $1 to do their laundry on a different day, or they can wait until their next day comes up. They aren’t allowed to do two loads for free; if they skip a day they will need to pay $1 if they have too much laundry for one load. Right now, none of them really have “whites,” so I haven’t worried about dividing by color yet.
Having our kids do their own laundry was a huge burden off my shoulders. It took a small amount of time to teach each child how to use the washing machine and dryer, but once that was done, we were good to go! Ya know, teach a man to fish and all that jazz…
Buy their own clothes
Our boys all buy their own clothes (our girls pay for part of their clothes right now, they’ll be responsible for all of their clothes at 12 years old). They’ll still get certain items for their birthdays and Christmas, but the majority of what they wear is purchased by them. We’ve encouraged them to save a portion of their allowance each month to budget for clothes, but that is easier for some of our children than others. We have one child who uses the envelope system successfully, another who is a saver, and another whose money burns a hole in his pocket, and he ends up at the end of July ready for school clothes, but with no money. At that point, he either has to do a boatload of work to earn money, or go to school wearing floods. Mean? Maybe. But it sure is teaching them some good lessons on budgeting.
Buying their own clothing makes them appreciate the fact that clothes are expensive. It also makes them appreciate coupons and sales and looking for deals instead of just pulling something off the rack, not caring what the price is. I don’t think any of them had any idea how expensive clothes are until they had to start buying them on their own!
Do their own school projects
I’ve seen many school projects that I know parents help with. You know the ones:
Don’t get me wrong–I don’t mind getting supplies for my kid, and helping if they have questions, but I am not going to come up with the content or put things together for them. That’s all on them. Sure, their project may look like junk compared to others, but at least it was theirs.
I put in my 13 years of schooling + 5 years of college. I did my time. Now, it’s their turn. They need to learn how to critically think, how to put things together, and how to formulate their thoughts. And if I lay everything out for them, print out pretty pictures and nice fonts for them, and glue things down so they’ll be “just right,” I’m teaching them nothing.
So, they may have a crappy project, but if they don’t like it, they’ll be motivated to do better the next time. Or, they’ll be proud of themselves for completing something all on their own.
Do “room time” every night and have set bedtimes
Yes, even our almost 14-year-old still does a half hour of “room time” every night. Our girls go to room time at 7:00 pm, bed at 7:30. Our oldest goes to room time at 8:00 and bed at 8:30, and our other two boys go to room time at 7:30, bed at 8:00. Why do we do room time?
We want our kids to have time carved out each day to read their Bible, pray, and just be quiet. We expect them to make God a priority in their lives, and while this is something they are all still learning and growing in, we hope by the time they leave our house, it will be second nature for them.
It’s also important to us that our kids have a set bed time. Not only to ensure they’re getting enough sleep, but to ensure that Superman and I get time together every night. Our kids know that my husband is more important to me than them (I know that sounds awful, but it’s true. I love them all equally, but I’m going to end up with five kids gone and one husband at home, so investing in that relationship is vital). Since Superman and I are in bed by 9-9:30 every night, it’s very important that our kids are in bed on time as well.
Order for themselves at restaurants
My kids have been ordering for themselves at restaurants since they were toddlers. I firmly believe it’s important for kids to decide what they want, make eye contact with the server, say please and thank you, and to feel comfortable engaging with strangers when they ask questions. Of course, I’m there to help, but it’s up to them to ask for what they want. If they’re out of water, they need to flag down the waitress and ask for more. If they need another napkin, they can ask. I think having them do this instead of me builds their confidence and helps them be one step closer to that “leaving and cleaving” that is inevitable in the future.
So, those are some things my kids do so that I don’t have to. ? What do you think? What is something you have your children do?