I've had a post rolling around in my head for awhile now. As a mom of boys and as a Youth Pastor, I'm always thinking about what it means to raise up functioning human beings into the world. People who know how to pay bills, how to work hard, how to take care of themselves, and even how to care for others. Last night I was talking about this with a friend and she told me I should just blog about it already. :) So, I think I will.
There have been quite a few articles as of late about the difference between American kids and kids in other cultures. American kids are very privileged, they feel very entitled, and generally have it easy. Meaning, modern parents are very concerned that their kids feel safe and secure and loved, which are all VERY GOOD THINGS. But, at the same time, in making sure our kids feel safe and secure and loved we also err on the side of making sure our kids feel special and "above average" in everything.
We are also taking away the drive and determination our kids need to succeed in life. We let our kids quit when things are hard. If they aren't able to do something, we do it ourselves rather than letting them struggle until they figure it out themselves. We are in a hurry and find that it's easier to do whatever task for our kids rather then taking the time to let them do it. (By the way, when I say "we" I lump myself into these categories, and I don't put everyone in these categories, I'm just being general).
I always hesitate to use examples from outside of my family, but since I am actually not a parent of a teenager, I have to use these examples to make my point. The past few weeks our church has put on a Sunday School program for the younger kids. The youth program (Jr. high and High School) are in charge of making sure it happens. This means that the teenagers are teaching, making photo copies, taking charge of crafts, etc. while the adult volunteers are simply supervising the kids as they move from room to room.
We have some great young leaders. We have students who have taken the curriculum and have run with it, double checking to make sure that they can do what they want to do, then going and doing it. There are students who I don't even have to check on because they have it under control. It makes me super happy.
Then, we have the other students. These are the students who sit on their butts and let everyone else do everything for them. They watch people rush around and do things. And, when asked to pitch in they either look at the leaders blankly, like we are speaking a different language, or they say, "Nope. Not going to help." The other day I was carrying about four items in my arms and kept calling to some of the high school boys to help me. They actually refused to help me out. They said that it wasn't their problem and when I called them out on it one of them actually said, "You didn't train us very well." (Entire different post there, but might I say that as a youth pastor it is my job to come ALONGSIDE of parents, not to train students on basic manners...).
All of that to say...what the heck!? Interacting with these kids who feel entitled to things and who have no drive or desire to do anything for anyone else makes me take a step back and evaluate my own parenting style. How do I raise adults? How do I raise young men who open doors for people, who carry things for others when hands are full, and who respect adults? How do I instill values into my kids? How do I teach them that it's not okay to still live at home when you are 25 and not have a job? How do I teach them that they need to care for their families and that living on government assistance is not an okay plan? (I'm not looking down on people who use government assistance out of necessity because they have lost jobs or cannot work. The economy sucks right now and welfare and other assistance is there for that reason. I do, however, have a problem with people who abuse the welfare system or who use it as their plan A.)
So, at the end of my rope, I did something drastic last week for our family. I took down the sticker charts and I sat down with a piece of paper. I then made a chore chart. Every day there are things that each child has to get done before they are allowed any t.v. time, any play time, and any fun time. The chores are for them to do because they are a part of the family. They aren't earning stickers for a reward, they aren't earning an allowance (right now they don't need anything and they don't understand the value of money).
After I made the chart we sat down as a family and looked at the chart. I then explained that as a family we pitch in and do things to help each other out. I told them that we are a team and that it's not my responsibility to pick up their toys, just like it's not their responsibility to make sure my stuff is put away. I pointed out their jobs, then hung up the chart.
So far, no arguments have come up. I also haven't simply done one of their chores because it's easier for me to do it (and boy, have I wanted to!). Also, they run to the chart, look at what they are supposed to do, then go and do it. That's how Aaron ended up outside last night with Sam learning how to pick up dog poop. That's also how Aaron told me to put my breakfast bowl down this morning because it was his job to clean off the table today.
We'll see how it goes as they get older, but Sam and I are doing everything we can to raise adults. I'll let you know how it turns out.