Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start a youth out on his way; even when he grows old he will not depart from it.” Most assuredly, as parents, we have been given the most important role as the primary faith trainers of our children. It is our main objective, and our honor, to instruct and model for our children how to love the Lord and love others (Matthew 22:37-39). But what else do they need to know?
Parents’ roles are also to teach their children basic life skills, responsibility, and independence. I am certain there is a tired momma or single dad on the other end of this article reading and thinking that their kids are just too little to start learning these vital life skills; you may think that they are not capable or will not understand. Well, I am here to tell you, KIDS CAN (and should)!
God has entrusted us with children so that we can “train them up.” What exactly does that mean? The answer is multi-faceted, but for now let’s focus on some practical life skills. The culture among many parents and children has shifted to one of entitlement. We are ending up with weary moms and dads, and kids who aren’t prepared for the real world.
How do we combat entitlement and shepherd our kids toward a spirit of humility and servant-heartedness?
We teach them age-appropriate ways that they can help at home; we teach them that their role in the home is important. Whatever your family unit looks like, you are a team. Everyone pulls their own weight and learns the value, importance, and humility in serving those around you (Phil. 2:3). In our home, our philosophy is if they can, they should. Does that mean that I will never bless my children or do something for them that they can do themselves? No, but it is my job to be their teacher, to prepare them for the future while showing them their value in helping with the now, and to help build their self-esteem by showing them how capable they are to do it themselves.
Let me begin by saying, as a mom of three, I completely understand the seasons of parenting where you feel like you are drowning. Diapers, potty-training, getting your kids off to school, all of this makes taking the opportunity for that teaching moment, when it would be much easier and faster to just do it yourself, a little harder. I just want to encourage you that any work/time you put in on the front end will be of great benefit in the long run (or even the short run).
Will you have to “let go and let God” when they don’t do a perfect job or do it slightly different than you would? Absolutely. They are learning, but the important thing is that they learn to do it themselves. At two years old, my kids loved to be in the kitchen with me. I tried to think of some things I could teach them that would both give them life skills and allow them to help, so I taught them how to snap green beans (which they then ate with pride at dinner time). At the end of the meal, we would walk over to the sink, climb on a chair, and wash off their plate. Do you know that they loved it?
These basic practices of age-appropriate tasks made them feel so big and useful.
Here are some more examples of age-appropriate chores that have worked in our house. (Tip: Chore time doesn’t have to be a drag! Throw on some good music and dance your way through or set a timer and see who can get done the quickest. Your attitude is contagious, so if they see you having fun, their outlook on pitching in will be a positive one.)
washing their own dish
sweeping the floor with a little broom
helping prep food
cleaning up toys (putting away what they have out before moving on to the next thing)
teaching knife safety and having them help prep food
teaching them how to use the washer/dryer – we put the laundry soap in an empty dish soap bottle for easier handling, then taught them how to fold and put away their clothes
emptying the dishwasher
using our stick vac to vacuum the floors
setting and cleaning tables
making their bed
making their own breakfast and packing their own lunch
teaching them stove/oven safety and having them cook while monitoring
teaching them how to use simple tools
loading and unloading the dishwasher
taking out the trash
mowing the grass
teaching them how to make simple repairs
Outside of the chore world, we encourage our kids to first try to handle issues with friends/teachers/other kids themselves and coach them how to do so. If the issue still does not get resolved, we discuss getting involved. We help shepherd them in how to handle difficult situations themselves, empowering them, and leading them to essential developmental and problem-solving growth.
If we continually rescue our kids, we aren’t equipping them to navigate difficult interactions in the future.
While we realize that all kids are different and many family situations can look different, our mission is the same. We are taking these mysterious, foolish, glorious, magical little beings, and through a plethora of teaching and a whole lot of prayer, helping them develop a rich relationship with the Lord, showing them how to love and serve others well, and helping shape them into responsible humans. Parenting is one of the hardest and most amazing rides I have ever been on, and one of our kids is only now about to hit the teenage years.
There is no such thing as a perfect parent, and we will all fail miserably at times. Have grace for yourself, your kids do. Some of you may also be thinking that it’s too late to start. While the most formative age window for discipline and the forming of good habits is about two years old to about six years old, you can start anytime! It is never too late to start investing in your kids. So, take that extra moment to teach, release some responsibility to them, and watch them grow. Kids can!
By Sarah Thiele
For more on this topic, view the teaching session of Kids Can: Growing Character and Responsibility in Your Child