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Encouragement Article

Creating Responsibility

There comes a time in a child’s life where mom and dad are not going to pick their clothes, dress them, make their food, clean up after them, brush their teeth, bring them snacks and assist in their bathroom hygiene. The education never stops as a parent I wager, but there comes a time a young person has to start handling their business.

My wife and I deemed this year “The year of responsibility in the Post house”.

Cue the child wailing and gnashing of teeth.

With our collective of children, three kids in two years; our life got very busy and full very fast. Every stage of growth brought us new joys and new challenges. That was a lot of milk bottles, a lot of diapers, crying kids and sweet sweet baby/toddler snuggles.

As time has gone on, they have grown. The business has not halted, but only morphed. One of the methods of keeping things going, and somewhat controlled, is preparing, and organizing everything.

My wife and I would get their clothes out for the next day. We would get their tooth brushes set out. We would have their dinner plates all set in place. Their jammies were set in the hallway before bedtime. Rooms were cleaned, hallway was picked up, toys were put away. All for the sake of orderliness, cleanliness, and structure. I could not control the circus of children around me for all intents and purposes, but dang it I could get those tooth brushes ready for a modicum of efficiency advancement. As a former squad leader and a tad bit obsessive about structure, I LOVE me some efficiency.

My preparation and organization was a positive way to keep the gears of my house moving, it helped the efficiency of mornings and bed times. It helped keep our house clean. BUT as the classic tale of the small rodent with a cookie, my children felt the cookie should come with a proverbial glass of dairy juice as well. I cannot and will not blame them. They had and have parents that are dedicated to caring for them at a high level. As classic conditioning goes, it was my fault for doing so darn much in repetition in the first place. When we would ask them to get their clothes, get changed, get their shoes on, the efficiency I care so much about, would crash and burn in a fiery wreck. Their wails and body floor flopping of why they needed to complete these tasks without our help was motivation enough to continue these preparations efforts to avoid these breakdowns of emotion and organization.

This year was a watershed moment, they have grown, they are KIDS not babies, not toddlers. They have placed demands upon their parental guardians that they should be treated like "big kids" and they no longer should have constraints that tiny babies are shackled with.

We had some issues in the early summer of our kids enjoying the relaxed schedule a tad bit too much. My wife and I agreed. It was time to change our structure. Our approach to daily tasks, house chores, and kid wrangling efforts needed a shift. It is not that we haven’t worked to create responsibility prior to this year. We have had a chore chart. Used chores for incentivization. We have challenged them in appropriate activities to do more for themselves. We are not hovering, bulldozing parents, but a lot of times the activities I described just got done faster with us doing it.

It was time. We had a family meeting. It was time for the hammer of life and responsibility to come down. Daily chores need to be completed, and completed with improved output. You as kids will pick out your clothes for tomorrow. Periods of instruction (had been given prior, but were reiterated for hopeful improvement) on proper tooth paste application, toilet paper usage, clothing donning and doffing without assistance. Clothes placement in the laundry shoot, hanging up clothes in the closet with a stool. Animal chores needed attending too, set and clean the table. Intermittent toy pickups before it is an insurmountable mountain, with acceptable placement in bins-shelves versus stuffed in a corner of the room or under the bed.

The Post kids were saddened. Why shouldn’t they? They had it made in the shade.

It would require more work from them. It would require more patience from us as parents. We are attempting to be more vocal about what they need to do, and then to detach to allow them to do it on their own terms and time. My wife and I are attempting to be more direct in their duties, and then to give positive feedback and incentive when they nail it. Sometimes a little more gruff Dad statement of “that wasn’t good enough” does get uttered.

We are attempting to create the mindset that while we are your parents and we have your back in all things, we are NOT your servants. It took repetition, it took reminders, multiple tantrums and act outs were had. We are seeing our kids respond positively as of late. My wife and I have spoken about how we as parents must give them chances to show us what they can do. Of course the progress is not linear. All parents are on the roller coaster of ups and downs as kids grow. It is life that mistakes will be made. Kids cannot NOT be kids, we as parents must do our best at rolling with those punches and sustaining positive attention to the overarching goal. I sometimes lose track of this. See “Father Fatigue”.

Challenge your kid’s responsibility. Ask them to perform at a higher level. Instruct them on how and what that looks like. Assess how they can help themselves and you as parents through their day. Make a chore chart, create a family activity board. Use their favorite activities, snacks, family or self activities as incentives.

When our kids have progression in responsibility, they will become higher functioning individuals with more self reliance and a raised work ethic. We can all benefit from that.

I wish you luck on your next family meeting about responsibility and the wails of kids heard near and far.

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