Planting Seeds of Responsibility
I went through my usual routine-- saw my husband and preschooler off for the day, had a short worship with my two older children who were staying at home because of school vacation, made breakfast, fed the baby while the two kids ate, had my quick breakfast and got on with the chores. Before loading the laundry in the washing machine, I checked the girls' rooms to make sure there were no stray socks lying around.
I noticed right away Angelika's neatly made bed. She was assigned of making her own bed since age five and even before that, but it has only been recently that she has taken it to heart. It is like the task has become her crowning glory. Her bed looked fit for a princess. I felt pride for my daughter. There has been no need of telling her to do the job.
By the time I finished loading the laundry, the two kids were done with their breakfast with their plates piled in the sink. Misha was gone and Angelika was playing with the baby. I thanked my daughter for making her bed neat and for doing it without my prompting. She beamed with pride, hugged my middle and said, "You're welcome." It was an effusive response, but, well, coming from Angelika, it was quite normal.
I asked where Misha was and got my answer from behind his bedroom door. I peeked in and saw him with a Russian book. He was on with his daily goal of reading a Russian book to improve his Russian language skills. At times he needed reminders, especially when he feels like being lazy and not up to doing anything. But most of the time, he is like a small young man--- getting on with his daily business of study, work and play. I can't believe this was the baby I had held in my arms almost nine years ago, helpless and putty in my arms. Well, he did become stubborn and mischievous when he grew to two years old, all play when he was four and even when he was six. He still likes to play a lot but he already knows the meaning of time, and often is the one who reminds me of his schedule and what I need to do (in other words, my responsibility).
As I looked at this young boy, I couldn't help but venture into the privacy of his room, which he often keeps close to ward off his baby sister's unwanted mess in his domain, and gave him an affectionate peck on his warm, musk-scented forehead. Gone is the baby smell, but I guess, I will always remember that special smell of his head. (Just one of those weird things moms do!)
Presently, I have been away from my husband and three older children while I am in the Philippines with the baby. Before I left, my husband told me to have a really good, restful vacation. Yeah, I know. It's every busy mom's dream. I remembered nodding to my husband, but at the same time, was wondering how to make that dream happen. Well, it hasn't taken me long to realize that the things I was looking forward to getting away from--- dinners to cook, piles of clothes to sort, iron, fold and put away, kids to mind, nag and teach--- are what have made me to who I am as a wife and mom, along with the other things that I like to do. I didn't think I would miss doing late-night ironing, yet I have to admit that I do, along with the thought that my family is well-cared.
That's why I am worried for my family while I am away. But my husband has assuaged my worries a bit with his descriptions of how they are coping in my absence. It is a picture of my husband's faithfulness and my children growing independent and responsible. And I am one proud wife and mother!
Two of my children will be starting school today, September 1st, in Russia. At school, I'm certain that they will be taught how to be resourceful and do things on their own. However, school is not the only place to learn how to be self-sufficient. Just like most things, the home is where responsible behavior starts and where children learn the most.
Responsibility doesn't come naturally to children. We, parents, have to instill this mindset and trait on them. Here's what I am certain is helping develop responsible behavior in my children.
1. Assigned tasks. Chores within the children's developmental age instills confidence and a sense of accomplishment when done successfully. When parents teach and show the children patiently how to do the task, the feeling of being part of a team gives children a sense of belongingness. At first, my children had to be asked to help or be reminded to do their chores, but as time goes by, I noticed them offering help without being asked.
2. Daily schedule. Children thrive on routine. Although they may like an occasional break from the usual, a routine makes children feel secure and safe. It also teaches them skills regarding time, like finishing tasks on time. When started at an early age, a consistent routine of certain tasks like brushing of teeth, hand washing, preparing for bedtime, doing homework gives the little ones mastery over these tasks and makes them confident and able.
3. A stress on etiquette. Teaching children etiquette and manners expands their world from merely being focused on self and to what is expected of them. It makes them aware of their responsibility to the family, the community, and the environment. They will learn, for example, that hand washing not only primarily saves them but as well as others. Leaving trash for others to clean up, not only is wrong, but also harms our planet. Even table manners like keeping one's elbows from the table is a thoughtful consideration for others.
4. An allowance. My husband and I didn't give our son an allowance until we determined that he could already understand the concept of money and what it is about. By that time, he was already eight. The idea of giving him an allowance was not so he could work for it, but so he will know how to manage money. Money is an important part of life, and should be controlled so as not to control the person. So in giving our son an allowance, he is given control to it and we encourage him to save part of it. To our delight, most of our son's allowance was saved and we cannot hear him begging us to buy him anything. He told us that he will buy them himself out from his savings.
5. Accountability. Parents should never hesitate to tell their children how proud they are for good behaviors and, conversely, should hold them responsible for misbehaviors. Holding children accountable instills in them responsibility for their own actions. In so doing, children will learn to avoid blaming others, and as a result, will take measures` toward positive behaviors or actions on their own initiatiave. In communicating to them their accountability, they learn what is expected of them and what constitutes responsible actions.
6. Appropriate freedom. Allow children freedom of choice appropriate for their age, development and environment. Take for example the freedom to pick their own clothes, wake up on their own, spend or save their allowance, make choices within directed boundaries. Children who are not allowed to make choices on their own end up very dependent and uncertain. They vacillate and most often have a hard time making up their own minds. On the other hand, those who are given the freedom to make choices with their parent's guidance, even in just a simple matter as picking what to wear, get to learn to make better choices and get more confident in their choices as they learn to make better choices.
7. Model responsible behavior. Children learn most not from what they are told, but from what they observe. We cannot expect them to wake up on their own, get to school on time, keep appointments and such, if we also have a hard time waking up and have a negligent attitude in keeping appointments or with our own schedules. When we let others wait while we dilly-dally around, children notice that and won't have a care on what effect they have while others wait on them. When we do our job even if it's hard and try to meet deadlines, we teach or children the importance of perseverance despite difficulties and the importance of reaching a goal. Responsibility starts from us. We cannot teach what we don't have.
Most importantly, direct the children's eyes on Jesus and how He is the ultimate model of responsibility. In the book Desire of Ages, Jesus was described in such a way that there is no doubt He learned responsibility when He was young and went on to do His mission of saving mankind faithfully.
Jesus lived in a peasant's home, and faithfully and cheerfully acted His part in bearing the burdens of the household... He was a willing servant, a loving, obedient son. He learned a trade, and with His own hands worked in the carpenter's shop with Joseph. In the simple garb of a common laborer He walked the streets of the little town, going to and returning from His humble work. He did not employ His divine power to lessen His burdens or to lighten His toil.
As Jesus worked in childhood and youth, mind and body were developed. He did not use His physical powers recklessly, but in such a way as to keep them in health, that He might do the best work in every line. He was not willing to be defective, even in the handling of tools. He was perfect as a workman, as He was perfect in character. By His own example He taught that it is our duty to be industrious, that our work should be performed with exactness and thoroughness, and that such labor is honorable. The exercise that teaches the hands to be useful and trains the young to bear their share of life's burdens gives physical strength, and develops every faculty. All should find something to do that will be beneficial to themselves and helpful to others... The approval of God rests with loving assurance upon children and youth who cheerfully take their part in the duties of the household, sharing the burdens of father and mother. Such children will go out from the home to be useful members of society.
Throughout His life on earth, Jesus was an earnest and constant worker. He expected much; therefore He attempted much. After He had entered on His ministry, He said, "I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work." John 9:4. Jesus did not shirk care and responsibility, as do many who profess to be His followers. It is because they seek to evade this discipline that so many are weak and inefficient. They may possess precious and amiable traits, but they are nerveless and almost useless when difficulties are to be met or obstacles surmounted. The positiveness and energy, the solidity and strength of character, manifested in Christ are to be developed in us, through the same discipline that He endured. And the grace that He received is for us. (E.White, Desire of Ages, p.72,73)
Even in death He stayed true knowing that He has the whole of mankind to save. He was in anguish on the night before His crucifixion, still He prayed, "Not my will but Thine be done."
We cannot let chance develop responsibility in our children. It may never happen. We cannot exchange academic or extracurricular activities for physical work at home. They are not enough to develop a sense of mastery and responsibility in children. Nor can they develop helpfulness and empathy for others, and a teamwork that is needed in each home.
Plant the seeds of responsibility early and watch your kids develop responsibly. Hoping the best for all!
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