Finding balance, Parenting

How I’m Teaching my Kids Responsibility

I’ve read many articles online about how to make your morning routine smoother, including this recent one from workingmother.com that I really like. One thing that most of these article have in common is that they are all aimed at how we can make changes (faster hair and make up routines, preparing meals and laying out clothes the night before) and none of them seem to address how our kids can play a part in making routines more manageable.

I love and want to serve my children as their mom, and I think that it’s important to protect them from too much stress, but are we really serving them best in life if we aren’t teaching them to take some responsibility for their own routines?

Raising Responsible Children

I work at a university, so I have a fair amount of interaction with students and parents and let me tell you, we moved from the era of helicopter parents to hovercraft parents about five years ago. About that time, I was working in a different position at TCU and I had to staff the Senior Fair, where seniors would order their cap and gown, make sure they didn’t have any outstanding fees or overdue library books, update their contact information, etc. I was administering satisfaction surveys as students left the fair when one 21 or 22 year old woman walked up to the table with her mom. The mom started pointing to the survey responses she thought her daughter should select and at one point even tucked the woman’s hair behind her ear for her.

I wonder if they noticed me staring at them in complete shock. I was just amazed at the level of parental involvement and complete lack of independence for this woman about to graduate from college! If our children learn to depend on us to usher them through the business of life, how will they ever learn to function independently from us?

The Weekday Evening Battle

I know that getting everyone out the door on time is a battle that many working moms fight on a daily basis, but not me. Both of our kids were born early risers; sleeping in for them (if it even happens) is 7:30am. If they’re still asleep by 8:00am, we check on them to make sure they’re still alive. And my husband takes the kids to school, so if they are running behind, I don’t usually know about it. My struggle is real when we come back home at the end of the day; when everyone is tired, hungry and irritable (current company included!).

I leave work at 4:30pm sharp and drive 45 minutes to pick up my daughter at elementary school. With any luck, it takes her less than 10 minutes to say goodbye to her friends and get in the car to pick up her brother from preschool. By the time we all pull into the driveway, I’m happy if it’s before 5:45pm. And then the most stressful part of my day begins:

  • Phase 1: unloading the car, hanging up jackets and backpacks, unloading dirty Tupperware from lunch bags and stowing the bags away.
  • Phase 2: making dinner for four (including one vegetarian, two meat lovers and the world’s pickiest eater) while two hungry kids whine about how hungry they are and why isn’t dinner ready yet!?!
  • Phase 3: homework/gymnastics, bath time, story time and off to bed.

Just before spring break, I decided that I couldn’t take it anymore. Trying to take care of everyone’s needs and everyone’s stuff at the end of the day was turning me into mom-zilla, so I decided that we would take a new approach.

Our new approach to coming home

Our children already had a couple of chores they were responsible for regularly, such as cleaning their rooms and putting their dishes in the kitchen after dinner, but now we’ve added to their responsibilities upon coming home from school during the week. (If you want to introduce your children to regular, age appropriate chores, this article from WebMD has recommended chores and lots of helpful tips for getting started.)

  1. Everyone brings his/her own bags and jackets inside from the car.
  2. Help mom take out the trash/recycling or bring in the trash/recycling bins if needed.
  3. Bags get hung up on their hooks and shoes and jackets can get tossed on the stairs.
  4. Unload your own backpack and lunch bag.
  5. If you’re starving, you may have a piece of fruit or an applesauce.
  6. Everyone helps with dinner! Even Brady, who is only two, helps put napkins on the table, takes condiments out of the refrigerator and can do rudimentary things like put lettuce into bowls.

Taking care of their own things and collaborating to get dinner ready is teaching the kids responsibility, allowing us to spend more time together and greatly reduces my stress level. So far the kids have adapted well to the new routine, but that was before spring break. Today is new week. Wish us luck!

 

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