Growing responsible children.
Yikes, there's a daunting topic. One, that if I'm honest - I do not feel equipped to write about. The idea that I could have something to offer here seems slightly ludicrous.
Maybe because this particular topic always weighs heavy on my heart. Often throughout my motherhood journey I have felt like an utter failure in this giant, looming department. Nit picking, noticing each time one of my wilds chooses not to listen, or shirks a job, or refuses to turn their socks inside out even though I've asked a billion times.
But, you know what, and this is the honest truth, and I feel a little conceited saying it out loud, but here it is…. I AM growing responsible children. I am. Its slow. It doesn’t always smack of it, but it's there. Its a process, and one that must be carefully tended, and watched over with a bucket load of grace. For you and them.
So, I wanted to share a personal story of the time I took matters into my own hands and decided to teach my kids a lesson in responsibility that we will never forget. Plus a few practical, less drastic, approaches you may find useful. Enjoy!
From an early age in my kiddos lives I had been mindfully cultivating this idea of responsibility. Beginning with simple tasks: learning to pick up their toys, put away books, make beds, and gradually adjusting these chores to meet their abilities. Then one, no good, horrible day, hit me right in the face. It was one of those days where I wanted to scream, pull my hair out and shake my fists at the heavens, that here I am- years into this process and still, every morning, I found myself asking “Is your bed made?” “Are your teeth brushed?”
Why weren’t these lessons taking hold, I wondered. I wasn't really doing them any favors by continuing to nag. I questioned myself, "How would they learn to be responsible adults: adults who would take care of their own demands and also comprehend the importance of being held accountable for their actions toward others and the world as a whole?"
And, thats when it hit me. These kids needed bottle calves!! Right? I mean, it’s so obvious, isn’t that your first thought? Think about it, four months of mixing up bottles and heading out into the cold two times a day. Its pure genius!
I’m not entirely sure why everyone hasn’t tried this method. This was a venture that would give them the opportunity to care for something other than themselves, an animal wholly dependent on them. How could this obviously well planned and thought out strategy fail? (*insert winking emoji here*)
Well, my husband told me in no uncertain terms that it would indeed fail. In fact he pleaded with me to change my course. To drop this fool hardy attempt. All in vain of course, for once my mind is set, there is no retreat.
So, one morning after a quick trip to a nearby dairy farm I returned home with four very sick, very malnourished calves. I had a lovely chat with the kids, “these sick, dying calves are yours” I said with pride and delight. “You will raise them, sell them and the money will be yours to put toward a family trip.”
Well, you can imagine their joy I'm sure.
We soon found ourselves way out of our league. We had to buy special medicines, up their feedings to four times a day. One got a cough, One tried to run away. There was smelly spilled formula everywhere, and any hopes of making some money for our trip….gone.
Yet my sweet little champs tarried on. Everyday groaning as they pulled on their muck boots, heading out at the crack of dawn laden with sticky warm bottles.
Four long months later they sold those calves with a huge smile and not one glance back. Good riddance. I never told them how much money we actually lost on this gig, honestly at that point it didn’t even matter. They had succeeded! They were beyond proud of themselves and I was just grateful we survived it. On the drive home that day, the paltry check still in my hands, my husband leaned over and with love in his eyes said “promise me, you will never do this again.”
Do you know what though? We saw so much growth. Each child stepped up in their own right. It was a clear picture for them of how important it is to be there. To show up and to get your job finished. It gave them a real life opportunity to feel that pride that comes from doing a job well. A chance to understand the feeling of someone relying on them. Little ones want to feel important, the desire to feel needed is in our very nature.
Of course, I’m not saying that you need to go out and buy bottle calves. In fact, please take it from me, its not that great of an idea. But I would say, try something big. Something brave and intentional. Something beyond the everyday tasks. An idea that draws everyone in and hones in on this truly important idea of growing responsible children.
And yes, I did promise not to raise bottle calves again, but….lambs. Well, thats a whole different story.
Here are a few practical ideas to help get your wheels spinning
- A pet. Learning to love and care for an animal is a great way to teach responsibility. Most likely they will love it and will hardly even notice that they are learning major life skills. Win, Win.
- 4-H Poulty Chain, you can sign up online from your local farm extension as a homeschooler. Each spring you pick up chicks to raise and then show them in the county fair come fall. Its a lot of fun and another great way to get kids busy and outdoors.
- Have them work to pay for something they are interested in doing. Grandparents are a great resource here. My older kids really wanted to take music lessons so every Friday they worked at my Dads Health Food store to earn the money for lessons. It really reinforces the worth of a dollar and has led to them being more independent in their pursuit of music. It has truly helped for them to own that process. Plus the added benefits of learning to manage money.
- A report or assignment. Give them a due date with clear instructions and let them loose, trusting them to work hard and have it finished on time.
- Meal Planning. I like to set out cookbooks and let them pick out one meal that excites them, make their grocery list and assign them an evening to cook. It amazes me each time how much they love to feel that responsibility, and yes mamas- its a lot of extra work on us, but so worth it in the end.
- If you have little ones start small. setting the table, watering plants, clearing dishes, sweeping
And here's the real kicker, as if we don’t have enough on our plates I know, but it does start with us. Most of our days are simply us moving from responsibility to responsibility. Can we do it with joy and enthusiasm? There really is no better way for them to learn than from watching us.
Now, is this really health related? We are a supplement brand after all. And you know what, yes it it really is. If you have hopes or plans to go big, or to tackle any of these practical approaches, may I suggest Emotional Ease? It will prove invaluable in helping you survive parenthood in tact! (*insert sweating smiley face*)
Chelsea, Co-founder of Dr Barry's Remedies