I know I’ve had a lot of posts lately about children. I guess it’s been on my mind a lot, and let’s be real… I spend most of my day with them so they do take up a bunch of brain space (in an awesome way!). One thing Seth and I are huge on with our children is them contributing to our family and to society. We want to raise children who are contributing to the world around them. One of our favorite authors is Tim Elmore who has some amazing books on raising children who aren’t entitled. Entitlement drives me crazy. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a great article from Tim.
I grew up with a really good work ethic. I don’t say that to brag, but if there’s something I can do, it’s work hard. Sometimes I have a hard time not working and taking a break. Let’s just say, I’m a driven person! Growing up, my parents did a great job of providing for me and giving me gifts, but also having me work for a lot. Saturdays were always farm days in our family. We were building our barn or clearing brush or mowing the yard most Saturdays of my childhood. And we loved it. I’m sure we complained and whined some (okay, maybe a lot – my brain is a bit fuzzy on this one, but I’m sure my mom’s isn’t), but I have great memories of working together on the farm. I gained a lot of skills. You should see me with a tractor. And I learned how to work hard. We had the priviledge of having a great childhood growing up on a farm, but farms take work and my parents weren’t going to do it all by themselves. I’ve imagined creating a similar childhood for my children. I LOVE that they are growing up on land, but I also want them to learn that being a part of our family means contributing to the family.
Contributions vs. Chores
The word “chores” has that feeling of dread with it. Seth and I wanted to come up with a different word for chores. We chose “contributions.” Every time we talk about contributions, we are reiterating the fact that our children are contributing to our family. From an early age, we’ve purposely looked for ways that our children can contribute. When they are two, they are helping to feed the dogs. When they are three, they make their beds and separate their laundry. Our daughter now feeds the chickens and cats as well as hangs and puts up her own laundry. All of our children (except the newborn) in some way or another contribute to what needs to be done around the house each day.
Now, all that I have written above sounds awesome. But reality is, it’s much harder to maintain. Let’s face it, it’s much easier to feed the dogs yourself than to help a two year old do it. Since we’ve moved into our new house, I’ve gotten out of the “groove” of having our children contribute. We were on a pretty good routine at our old house. I even had a chalk board with everything listed they were supposed to do, and they could check things off each day. But ever since moving and having a new baby, I’ve been slacking on following through and having my older children contribute.
So the other day, I sat down and brainstormed a bit. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with all that needs to get done at our new house. That’s when I realized… I’m not alone! I have children. And no, they can’t paint trim or hang shelves, but they can weed flower beds. They can brush the dog so I don’t feel so crazy with dog hair all over the floor. They can help me cook dinner. They can set the table.
Our children have had their “set” contributions for about a year now. Our son, who is three, separates the silverware, makes his bed, separates laundry into darks and lights on laundry day, and feeds the dogs. Our daughter, who is six, feeds the chickens and cats, makes her bed, hangs up laundry, and dusts the living room. But I started to realize they were capable of helping more. No, I don’t want children who work all day for me, but I do want children that help me out around the house. There’s a lot to do. Much more than I can do by myself. So I started thinking about what I could have them do. Here’s what I came up with… remember they are three and six. If you do this for your children, you’ll have to adjust depending on the ages. But I think a lot of times we underestimate our children. They are MUCH more capable than we often believe they are.
- Make beds
- Get dressed
- Load dishes in dishwasher after meals
- Feed dogs, cats, chickens
- Brush hair
- Clean room
- Wipe down table after meals
- Set table for dinner
- Sort silverware
- Separate laundry
- Weed flower beds
- Help cook dinner
- Put laundry away
- Clean out flower beds
- Help wash vehicles
I’m still brainstorming on other things they can help with, but this is a really good start. I don’t want to overwhelm them, but I also believe in them. I know they are capable of helping me and contributing to our life. I’m hoping to make up a contribution chart so that they can check off each time they do something. We do pay our children for some of their contributions, because we want them to learn to manage their own money. So, those are my thoughts for now. I want to be intentional when it comes to raising my children especially when it comes to contributing.
What is neat is how children actually thrive when they are contributing. They need to know they are needed. Yes, my children complain about doing contributions sometimes. But lots of times, they are proud of themselves. They are proud that they are big enough to be helping out. They are confident in themselves and know that they are needed. They are important and contributing to this family. In a sense, we couldn’t do it without them. It makes them feel important. This is the power of contribution for a child.
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