I think I am pretty easy-going with my kids. I give them choices and always try to listen to their opinions. They get to take turns picking out supper, desert, snacks, special outings, activities, etc. They get to play in the morning, afternoon and after dinner every day….provided they have made the CHOICES to get to that point.
I have come to realize since changing my work patterns (employer, number of consecutive hours at work, amount of work necessary to be brought home, fixed shifts versus shift work, etc) about a year ago how important it is to let kids know that EVERYTHING IS A CHOICE, and every choice has an impact on everything else in your life. When they get upset about the word “no”, I explain what choice they have made to make me say no or why whatever their request is would be a bad choice (usually for their safety of health). There are some things that, while it is their choice to do them or not, they have to do them to earn the choice of what they actually would like to do.
Things that fall into the category of having to be done to earn choices are writing practice, reading, homework assignments and chores. I get arguments about each and every one of these, (“why do I have to do writing practice and L doesn’t?” “why do I have to read longer than T?” “why does my homework have to be started/done NOW?”), but I stand my ground and no amount of arguing will make me budge. They may choose not to do what is expected, but that means they will sit at the kitchen table or in the hallway until they change their mind. If their mind doesn’t change…they will sit there until it’s time to get ready for bed (granted, this means that they don’t get whatever it is done, but they don’t get to do anything else either…and that also means that they have chosen to do twice as much the next day). If they decide to argue excessively or have a temper tantrum, it’s off to bed and lights out (still twice as much the next day + twice as much of everything else that hasn’t been done yet…and maybe extras added on).
The one point in this system that tends to draw the most comments is chores. I have been told many times by other parents (of children who are both older and younger than my boys) that I expect too much in the way of chores for my boys. I expect them to be part of running the house because they are part of the house. I don’t expect them to do things that are beyond their capabilities. I don’t expect them to do a perfect job on all they’re chores, but I expect the chores to be done with maximum effort. Their chores are:
Clean up their toys
Help straighten the living room
Put away dishes
Sweep/vacuum the floor
Clear their dishes from the table
Scrape food remnants from their own dishes
Organise the snack cupboard and plastic container cupboard
Organise/clean the fridge
Put away movies & video games
Cleaning the bathroom (9 year old)
Putting their laundry away
Helping with the laundry
“Kitchen helper” (get out the veggies, peel potatoes, set table, help serve, etc) Take care of/put away books
Put outdoor gear in the proper places
Pack their lunched for school
Pack their backpacks
Help prepare for/clean up from special activities
Help put groceries away
None of these are huge (in my mind). Most of these aren’t required to be done every day. The boys are capable of doing all these and still having time for their schoolwork and playing. I feel like I am preparing them for life by having them complete these tasks.
I ask their opinions regularly about what they do and what could do. I get a lot of feedback from them about their chores (and what chores their friends have). I have heard the comment “did you know that ‘Billy’ doesn’t even know how to…” more times than I can count. They feel more grown up and independent with their chores, which is how I feel it should be. Shouldn’t I be preparing them to one day be totally independent?
I know, given the choice, my boys would take these chores as their responsibility over not having any chores at all. They would (and have), in an objective conversarion, CHOOSE to have/learn what skills they need to be able to lead a life not dependant on others. They choose to ask “why” as we go through each job, whether it’s the first, fifth or hundredth time we have done that job, so that they know how it is important to living a healthily, safe, independent life.
I choose to empower my boys with as many skills and as much knowledge as they are capable of in the hope that they can lead the most productive, independent, safe and healthy lives possible when they move on to their own homes. I chose to make this my goal since before they could walk. Every child is different and capable of different things. I have chosen to push their capabilities as far as I can in the hopes of making their skills stronger. I choose to still believe this is the right path for me, my boys and my family, no matter what other parents say.
What choices have you made that others disagree with? Have you changed your practices in this area or have you chosen to stick with your original decision? Everything is a choice. Choose to live, laugh, learn and love YOUR way!
No matter how dark the day, the sun is always shining somewhere!