Around our house, our girls do chores. Even the word “chores” conjures up images of Little House on the Prairie episodes of Laura and Mary helping Ma with dinner, or Pa with the livestock. The whole concept of making our children work is not a popular these days. Rather, we have somewhat turned into that “hand your children everything on a silver platter” society. I’m constantly feeling like a failure in this area. I grew up being taught how to do certain tasks…from washing dishes, to daily cleaning my room, to learning how to take care of basic household repairs, I had various people investing in my life to develop my work ethic. My sisters and I always had responsibilities we were expected to complete, and if we didn’t we paid the consequences, or to put it plainly…we didn’t get paid an allowance. Even in boarding school in Venezuela, I was doing my own laundry, required to maintain my chores my dorm parents issued and maintaining my studies at the age of 13. I was often lazy, though, and spent many a day trying to play catch up with my work. I complained, kicked my feet and rebelled against responsibility a lot, but in the end, someone – be it my parents, dorm parents or even I – made sure it got done.
In our home, our girls have daily job lists…things they must maintain everyday in order to receive an allowance at the end of the week. Included in that are extra incentives to earn more at the end of the week. I include things like, “do a load of laundry”, “help your sister with her work”, “speak kind words to each other (this is the one we most need work on in our home)”, and even a basic “look for opportunities to serve your family” options on the list of extra incentives. This is one of several ways I have tried to develop a good work ethic in our girls. I do it because, just like my Mama told me when she did the same thing, I love them! This place in my heart of loving everyone from the center of who I am begins at home. In that same light, it is also not easy. I often want to give in to my kids’ complaints that they’ve had a long day and are too tired to complete their responsibilities. I know how that feels, but better yet, I know how it feels to push through that and reach my goals at the end of the day. That is the place I want to develop in them – the character of fortitude, of sticking with it until it gets done. The love I have for them extends to enforcing discipline if they do not complete the task. I do it because I want them to learn that if they drop the ball, the whole family pays for it because someone has to go behind them and complete the task they chose not to complete. When everyone is functioning in their role, our home runs smoothly. We have to start and stop ideas like these so often in our home until we find that sweet spot of what works. We don’t give up because, quite frankly, I do not want my kids to be spoiled brats when they walk out the doors of this house. I believe in them. I believe that they can learn to be incredible human beings by accomplishing very simple tasks in our home. We have chosen to teach our kids to work for the things they want. We buy them what they need, but any wants they have, and yes, this does include their future cars, they will have to learn to save what they earn from hard work to help pay for them. Even now, our oldest girls are required to babysit one night a week for their younger sisters in order to pay for their cell phones. I want them to soar in every area of their lives, and developing the character of a good work ethic that ends in reward is worth the blood, sweat and tears it’s taking us to get there. You think I’m joking…I’m not! It is blood, sweat and tears!!:) Everyday I must make up my mind to stick to it when it comes to parenting well. Developing young women that will contribute to this world supercedes any desire I have to hold them close, to be lax in the rules I’ve set for them or to give them everything without making them work for it. I don’t write this to boast, but to be real about our struggles with learning how to love our kids from the center of who we are even when it comes to responsibility and discipline. What may work for us this week, may not even work for us next week, but we don’t give up…we can’t give up. Today, how can you love your kids from the center of who you are, even if it means choosing what’s difficult? What are some things you do in your own home that have worked for you in teaching your kids responsibility?