When Ron first went to prison...
I was so overwhelmed that my priority for my children was to make sure they were fed and safe. That is all I could I mange; keep them from starving or getting hurt. It seems like a pretty low threshold for effective parenting now. But at the time, I could not do anything more than safety and meals. Them having any sort of responsibility was certainly not important.
It didn’t take long before my sweet boys become little monsters. My brother-in-law nicknamed them “los brutos” or the brutes. They ran wild. They made huge messes, ate wherever they wanted, and left their things everywhere. Their only responsibility was to answer when I called their name and to come when I called for them.
"It's Not My Job!!"
As a result, one day I looked around and saw a huge mess of toys and clothes all over the house. I was tired of picking up the messes. I asked them to come and help me to pick up so we could watch a movie together. “It is not my job!” my four-year-old son stated with his arms crossed and then ran off. I was shocked. What had I created by letting them do whatever they wanted? Irresponsible, wild, and disrespectful children is what I now had because I had not taught them anything different.
I clearly remember the big deep breath I took before I sat them down to explain that it WAS their job to pick up after themselves. I started a new rule for our home that day. We would all share the responsibilities of keeping our home clean and tidy. They were surprisingly excited about working together. We picked up the mess together that evening. From that point on, we shared the responsibilities of the chores.
"They learned the value of being a part of something larger than themselves"
Giving them an important job actually helped them to settle down and become more respectful, calm, and responsible. They felt needed and an important part of the family now. As they grew older, I gave the boys more and more responsibilities. They learned to clean showers, tubs, toilets, vacuum, dust, take out the trash, and do yard work. We even started a small cleaning business together. We got jobs from a larger cleaning company and we worked together.
They learned the value of being a part of something larger than themselves. They also learned the satisfaction that only comes from working hard to accomplish a goal. As they became teens, they would notice that some of their friends had little or no responsibility. Sometimes they would lament that their friends got to do whatever they wanted. But most of the time, they would complain that their friend didn’t know how to do anything, or that he left all of the work to them.
How many times have you heard these refrains or something similar when you request your children to do a chore around the house? Chances are it has been often. Children can be pros at procrastination, excuses, resistance and refusal when it comes to chores. Read more
Some things are learned through action
Research indicates that those children who do have a set of chores have higher self-esteem, are more responsible, and are better able to deal with frustration and delay gratification, all of which contribute to greater success in school.
There are lessons that cannot be taught with words. They must be learned through action. Responsibility is one of those lessons. Children learn by doing. When they are an active part of the family, they are more secure emotionally, can self-regulate better, and are better positioned for future success in life. We can all think of people we know who never learned what it means to be responsible. It isn’t what we would ever want for our children.
Their Responsibility = Our Responsibility
It is so easy to try to over-parent our children because we want to somehow make up for the loss and pain they feel because their father is in prison. When we do that, we remove responsibility from them and try to do everything for them. I have also seen many moms under-parent. They give adult responsibilities to children and wonder why the child falters and fails under the weight. We have a huge responsibility to our children. We must teach them the value of hard work, the importance of working together as a family, and provide opportunities for them to thrive.
Give your children responsibilities that are age appropriate and watch them thrive! Involve them in the day to day activities that are small, but important – tasks that make a family healthy and strong. Here are some examples of things your kids can do to help
Ways Kids Can Help
- Laundry – Depending on the age of your child, they can help sort, fold, or put away. If they are teens, they can even take on being responsible for their own laundry.
- Dishes – There are so many small jobs in the kitchen the kids will love doing. Rinsing dishes was my sons’ favorite. Make it a family activity and you will finish in a blink of an eye.
- Bedrooms – Keeping their things put where they go is a great habit to teach your kids. Making their beds gives them a sense of accomplishment at the start of every day!
- Trash – Emptying trash, or putting the liner in, or gathering all of the wastebaskets—anything that contributes and you name “their job” builds responsibility.
- Cooking – Kids LOVE to help in the kitchen. All they need is supervision and clear direction to experience a huge sense of satisfaction when they eat what they helped to prepare.
- Pets – This is a great way to teach kids to care for others. Younger children can dump food or water in a bowl, play with the pet, and help groom your pet. Older kids can train a pet, clean up messes the pet makes and take it for walks. Not only do they learn responsibility, but also get an awesome experience of bonding.
"Your Children Need Yow NOW!"
These are just some easy examples of things you can engage your kids in right away. Look around and come up with other responsibilities that will prepare them to grow up healthy and strong.
Don’t put your job of parenting on hold until your husband comes home. Your children need you now. Giving them responsibilities is a great way to not only keep your family engaged, but also focused on working together to achieve a goal.
I am rooting for you!