Monday, May 6, 2013

Let Them Do It

Today my 7-year old made my bed.

I didn't ask her to do it. I asked her to sweep all the floors. Apparently she had to pick up the pillows off the floor to do that. So she went ahead and made the bed. And she did pretty good, especially considering her age and the size of the bed.

Its not perfect. But I'm trying to learn to let my kids do some things.

Not long ago Jon came home one evening to find me completely stressed out and overwhelmed. The house was trashed, the dishes were only half done, laundry was in various stages of completion (washer and dryer both running, a clean pile to be folded, and towels still wet from the pool piled up on the bathroom floor), dinner consisted of a bunch of vegetables chopped but not cooked and a piece of meat waiting for the marinade. I was trying to help two kids do homework and attend to all this other stuff at the same time.

Jon took one look around and said "Give them chores!"

I'm pretty sure at least some of the numerous parenting books I've read over the last eight years included something about the importance of chores for children. But you know, when you're trying to teach your kids to love Jesus, read, eat like a lady (or gentleman), say "excuse me", speak with kindness, share nicely, create a matching outfit, use a tissue, say "yes, ma'am", speak up, and just make it to the potty on time, some things can get lost in the shuffle!

For us, it was chores.

Its not that we had neglected it completely. When our oldest was about three I bought her a beautiful $20+ magnetic chore chart. We set it all up and used it for a day or two. After dusting it off regularly for several years, I finally gave it to a thrift store. And, the kids have always had certain things they were responsible for: making their beds before school, cleaning up their toys when they were done playing, and cleaning up any major messes they made (like spilling half a jug of sweet tea all over the inside of the fridge and the floor because apparently "I'll get it for you in just a minute" wasn't quite fast enough!).

But we never really made an organized system for chores. Until a few days ago! We're still tweaking the system, but so far its been amazing! The kids are THRILLED about the chore charts. They are THRILLED to be responsible for new things. They are BEGGING me for more. I mean, who knew? I'd have put off potty training and focused on this years ago if I'd known what a win-win situation it would be!    

Now, don't get me hasn't all been a peace of cake. I've had to have several important "discussions" about why all hangers should hang in the same direction on the closet bar, why socks and t-shirts should be turned right-side-out before washing, and that "putting your clothes away" doesn't mean balling up a bunch of capri pants and stuffing them in the drawer. But, I've also had to learn that you have to let them do some things their way. As best they can. If the middle of the floor is swept, but there's dust and crumbs around the baseboard, that's ok for now. If a shirt gets hung up on a pants hanger every now and then, its ok. Sometimes I just have to let them do it...their way. Because they're trying and they're learning, and the more they practice and the more I coach, the more likely they are to get it. And the better they will become at it. It doesn't matter if I could have done it better or faster on my own. What matters is that they are learning to take responsibility and help take care of our home and family too.

Back in 1715 Isaac Watts published a book of songs for children, one of which included these words: "In works of labour or of skill I would be busy too; for Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do."

I think the point is that when we have nothing to do, we often get in trouble. I've noticed that my kids are most likely to irritate one another or get into something they shouldn't when they have "idle" time (like on Sunday mornings, when all three are ready for church and waiting for me to get dressed...its amazing what sorts of nightmares can erupt in those few minutes!). 

Moral of the story? I'm glad we're focusing on chores. And I'm hoping that maybe, just maybe, these new tasks will help deter my three-year old from dancing on the counters when I walk out of the room! :)

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