ďCan you drive me to school today?Ē Elizabeth asked. She wasnít running
late. There was plenty of
time to walk or take her bike. I could have driven her to
school, but I resisted.
This was something she needed to do for herself.
I think about children taking responsibilities at home in much the same
way as I think of using
muscles to exercise. With the muscles, if we use them
regularly, they get stronger.
If we donít, they atrophy.
Likewise with responsibilities: if children have small jobs when they are
younger, and these jobs
grow with them, they become stronger people. Their
sense of self is well-developed
and they grow up with a can-do attitude.
Here are three examples of ways we can help build this important quality
into our childrenís character.
You wonder what homework papers your child has brought home. Resist
the urge to let your fingers
do the walking through her backpack. This is an area
where it would be best to
have your child be in charge. Sit with her as she takes
everything out, shows you
what assignments need to be done, asks you to sign
any papers that need to
go back to school, and then puts everything back
together for the following
Your children are constantly asking about upcoming events, unclear as to
how much time will pass
until they come. Donít take on this burden yourself. A
family calendar, posted
on the refrigerator or other place accessible to children,
can do this for you. Each
member of the family puts her or his activities on the
calendar with a marker of
a color that designates whose it is. This way, children
can track their own activities
and learn how to read a calendar.
The kids are hungry. Is it reasonable to have you wait on them every time?
Why not designate certain
snack foods as the ones that are most acceptable
for between-meal snacks,
put them in an accessible place, and let them serve
themselves? Make sure you
have a clear understanding of the way you expect
the area to be cleaned after
they are finished.
This column has been incorporated and expanded in Teach Your Children
Well: A Teacherís Advice for Parents.