Their Life, Their Responsibility – Not Mine
I love my boys. I do my best to care and provide for them, but I have my own stuff to deal with. There are some very hard limits to what I can and will do, and I make no apologies for that. When our boys arrive home from school every day, could I drop everything to make them a snack, but they are perfectly capable of making their own snacks and I have work to do. When I do decide to have hot chocolate waiting, or boil water so he can make Ramen quickly, our boys give me a genuine thanks. It’s not taken for granted. It is their life, and their responsibility – not mine – and they know it.
Just to be clear, we do take care of a lot including grocery shopping, doctor visits, a lot of cooking, etc., but we expect them to be responsible for things that as much as they can, including varying amounts of cooking, cleaning, laundry, and school, based on age and ability.
The sooner you start pushing your kids to be independent (appropriately, of course), the sooner they will get there and the more comfortable it will be for them. Is it comfortable as a parent? Not always, and definitely not as a mom of high-energy boys, but that’s true no matter when it happens. The important things are that your kids know both that you will be there when they need you and that you will listen to them about what they are ready to tackle.
Kids know what they feel ready to do. This may not match what they are actually ready to do, but there isn’t a person on the planet who doesn’t listen better when they feel like they were listened to. If your kid wants to do something you don’t feel they are ready to, listen while they explain why they think they are ready/should be allowed. Don’t talk until they finish their side of it, then take a minute to think about it before you respond. They may have surprisingly good points. Even if they don’t, responding directly to what they said will be more effective than random arguments about why you are right.
I went online to check my sons’ assignments, grades, etc. a week or so ago. I got distracted or had a problem logging in. Whatever. Didn’t happen. I never have a clue what either boy is working on unless he talks about it. I figure I did my schoolwork, this is theirs. This doesn’t work well for all kids, but the longer you take primary responsibility for their work, the longer it will be until they take responsibility.
The interesting thing is that while schools and teachers will all tell you that parents shouldn’t do work, we’ve all seen the projects that are clearly too complicated for a kid to do unassisted. Some of our kids’ teachers were happily surprised that our kids clearly did their own projects. The kids were happy, and sometimes proud, because they know they earned the grade they received. Other teachers mouthed words about our son doing his own work, then questioned why we were more closely overseeing his school work and generally micro-managing him, so there are definitely times schools send mixed messages about how much you should help your kids. It’s definitely in your child’s best interest (and yours) to have them do their own work, but the school may not be as supportive as a parent might hope.
It’s not just about schoolwork. Our son almost not had dinner when we eat out because he wasn’t placing his order. It’s not my food. Unless we’re in a drive through and I’m the driver, I see no reason to place anyone else’s order. I traumatised one son when he was a preschooler. I had my arms full and asked him to carry his drink inside so I could unlock the door. When he refused, I simply left go of the cup. It fell to the concrete, smashed, and was gone.
That was the last time he refused to carry his own things into the house, and his little brother copied him. Parent win.
It’s hard to get them to be responsible. That’s no joke. But it’s important, and it makes their life and yours better and easier, in the long run.