Monday, April 20, 2009

Around the barnyard #8

More on kids...

I've been called a lot of things in my life, most often coming during my time as a parent. It's been interesting hearing other people's take on how we live our life and raise our children. Ultimately I only give credit to those with whom I respect, and the comments from others... well they roll off like water on a duck!

That leads me to the advice I want to share with you. I've mentioned on previous posts, both in the barnyard series and just in general, that children should pick up after themselves. They should keep their own rooms clean, and in general help out around the house. WHY? That's the big question I get a lot of. "They are just kids, they don't need to bother with that sort of thing"... "or if they pick up what they've taken out it might stifle their creative nature"... and so on.

My answer (sometimes it has to stay in my head along with a long list of other things I want to say) is, what is your job as a parent? To train up your children... right?! For me, I want my boys to know how to keep their property in good working order, to be able to clean up after themselves, and ultimately make a good husband or priest devoted to God and family. Now, if by age 5 they haven't figured out that stepping on toys breaks them... we have a problem. If by age 5 they don't realize that stuff belongs in a certain place... um, we have a problem. If they can't follow simple instructions (obedience), we have a problem.

At age two, Snookie knew that his toys had a place. He didn't always get them back in the right place, but he knew they didn't belong on the floor. When he would forget, one of the other two (aged 3, and 4) would remind him or move it to its place on their own. Rarely did I have to clean up behind them in regards to their toys. This was laying the ground work for respect... respect of property. After some time, we moved on to putting away a toy you were no longer playing with before you got something else out. Were they perfect in this, no... did they get in trouble for it, no... but they were reminded of what we've asked of them. Why did we do this... well, we had a couple of reasons. First the 'gameroom' they were in was a small space, and there were three of them hardly ever playing with the same stuff... floor space for everything was an issue. Then there was the damage and injury issue. We've lost several toys to someone stepping on them and breaking them... and hardly ever did they break their own toy... oh no, they would break someone else's toy! Let the crying ensue!

Since the gameroom is now the office/learning room, the boys have had to make due with even less room now that all of their stuff is in their room. But this isn't a problem, because they've learned not to pull everything out and dump it on the floor and hope fun will show up. They pick the thing (or set) they want to play with and they play with it till they don't want to play with it anymore, put it away and move on to something else.

We also have the practice of when I call out to say it is time for a meal, then the play area is cleaned up before they wash their hands and come to the table. Again, this is one more way to cut down on the mess. If they have to clean it up a few times a day, there is no reason for it to get out of hand. Secondly, the next time they will go into that room will be to either go down for a nap... or in the evenings to go to bed. And that room, there is no way to pull out Snookie's bed if there are toys laying about (it's a small room for three boys).

Now, what about if 'they've built or created something so wonderful and I just don't want them to dismantle it because it's time for bed' or whatever? Obviously we don't make them take apart every lego creation they come up with... but there too, we have a place for that. They can keep it out on the top of their cubes, or it fits in can go back into the cube that holds the legos (or magnetix, or knex... or whatever it is). Now the train set... that is differently story, that does have to get dismantled every time... we simply have to have the floor space, but there are times when they have built things they were really impressed with and we took a picture! That pleased them to no end (they love that sort of thing), other times we've carefully moved things to the living room... but it can't stay long. They completely understand and like rebuilding whatever it was, trust me, they love coming up with new ways and new improvements. I know, I know, some of you are thinking this sounds harsh. Maybe you have tons of room for that kind of stuff... if you do and they can keep everything tidy around it... more power to you, we DON'T have the space for that with the way their room is set up.

Moving on to older children. I want to share with you a few things my parents did with me, that I plan on doing with my children... by the time I was 12 or 13 I was preparing one dinner a week (for the whole family... my parents, my sister, and myself). I was given a day that I would do it, and then asked for the menu and ingredients so that proper groceries could be purchased for it. The first few weeks I had a lot of hands on help from my mom. Oh, I should say that 95% of our meals were homemade. Rarely did we eat out or eat things that were frozen... it was just a thing that my mom did (of course that all changed when I moved out, then they ate out all the time...). Anyway, I was taught how to cook, by doing! Not by watching or helping, but by actually preparing the meal start to finish. They did this FOR me to teach me how to plan a meal, prepare a meal, and to participate in my FAMILY. This was expected of me because I was a member of the family. When I turned 16 they added the responsibility of actually grocery shopping for the family. They also opened a checking account in my name, and would put in enough money to cover the groceries. During the week I would be given the grocery list, and expected to take care of that task by a certain date. Again, I was a participating member of my family, and I was learning how to grocery shop... and a side benefit was they were building my credit name by opening that account. In return for this task, I was given car privileges. I didn't complete my responsibilities... well, that fun thing I wanted to borrow the car for... suddenly the car was unavailable.

My parents didn't do it to be mean, they didn't do it because they didn't want to do it themselves, they did it to train me... teach me... prepare me for being a grown-up. It wasn't mean (although I know at times I told them it was), it was exactly what they were called to do as parents.

So in conclusion, having your children clean up after themselves isn't because you're being militant... you are teaching them a skill they will need to have to be an adult. If you wait until they are older, it will only make that much more difficult to form such a good habit.

Now... go and enjoy this beautiful day!

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