Inside: Insight on giving kids responsibility and how it contributes to the family culture we’re creating
I love the sound of busy little feet in the morning.
Not just because it means I have help. But because household responsibilities are teaching my kids important lessons and strengthening our family culture.
What is Family Culture?
“Family culture” kind of a buzz phrase in the parenting community in recent years, so it’s likely you’ve heard of it.
Family culture is a family’s unique blend of values, ideals, attitudes, and traditions. It’s what gives structure to the identity of your family. How your family operates in day-to-day life is shaped and given context by your family culture.
That’s why it’s so important.
Your family culture signals to your children what’s expected of them and what it means to be a part of your family. Without it, there’s no real cohesive vision, and it’s harder for a child to know how to make choices that are in line with the family norm. But with a family culture, children become more firmly rooted. It makes it easier for them to discern what’s right and wrong in light of their family’s beliefs and values.
It’s just one more way of training them up.
For more on creating family culture, check out this post from Rachel over at a Mother Far From Home.
Where Responsibility and Family Culture Intersect
- opportunity for independence
- cultivating new abilities
- room for confidence to bloom
So what does that have to do with family culture?
It truly all depends on the type of family culture you’re going for. But in our home, one of life’s treasures we want to teach our kids about is work.
That sometimes it’s hard, but you’ll reap the rewards.
That working toward a common goal with those you love is good for the soul.
That we sometimes have to do things we don’t want to do.
That we share one another’s burdens.
That some of the most telling lessons we can learn about ourselves are learned through working. And not giving up.
That nothing is too hard when broken up into bite-sized pieces.
Maybe all that sounds a little idealized. But some of them are lessons that took me way too long to learn. I’d rather instill them in my kids now
How Young is Too Young?
Like my youngest daughter’s most beloved cartoon character, Daniel Tiger, our family believes “everyone is big enough to do something.”
Obviously, babies would be excluded from this. But starting between the ages of 15 months and 2 years (depending on communication ability), kids can start to have small responsibilities. As simple as putting toys into a bin or being “in charge” of mommy’s shopping list while they ride in the grocery cart, there’s always something that can be done to give small children a sense of having their own role to play.
Not Empty Praise
The key is to choose a job that’s truly helpful for your child to do, especially once they hit age 2 or 3. Before then, giving them responsibilities is more about getting them used to having their own role and kindling their excitement about being a contributing member of the family.
But as they grow, they begin to realize what’s truly helpful for the whole and what’s not. Empty praise won’t cut it anymore. Only divvying out tiny roles for them will begin to make them feel, well… small.
Instead, we try to think of all the things that truly NEED to be done in our family. That way, even if we choose a fairly small role, it isn’t something that’s just invented for them to do. They’re actually pitching in by following through with their responsibility.
Another gem from Daniel Tiger: Everyone’s job is important. We all help in different ways!
Choosing What’s Age-Appropriate
It can be a little tricky to nail down what duties fit your child’s age and abilities. You don’t want to choose anything overly difficult that would discourage them, but it can also be beneficial to give them at least one or two tasks that are a challenge.
At first, I was TERRIBLE at this. I had my 3-year-old (at the time) trying to vacuum… and our Shark was bigger than she was. She had fun, but it wasn’t necessarily the most helpful idea.
It takes some time and fine-tuning. Tweaking and experimenting. But now they (mostly) have responsibilities that fit well.
For some ideas on age-appropriate responsibilities for you kids, check out this post over on Focus on the Family.
Successfully Introducing New Responsibilities
Of course, if this is something new (especially if their proposed responsibilities are less than exciting), kids may be resistant to the idea of taking on accountability. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
It’s all in the delivery
Like with a lot of things, the delivery is important.
Enforcing responsibility doesn’t have to come with an iron fist. Remember why we’re doing this: to strengthen family culture. Not create power struggles.
Some things aren’t optional
This may seem like it’s in direct opposition to my last statement, but it’s actually not. While I’m all for parenting gently, it’s also true that sometimes things aren’t optional. (Again, delivery is important. There’s a line between firm and harsh.)
Even if my kids don’t want to do something, as their mom, I know what’s good for them. They may dislike it some days. But this is one of those areas where I stand my ground.
Rome wasn’t built in a day
Building healthy and positive habits (and creating family culture) takes time. It may not go smoothly for the first day or two. Or even the first week or two. But you’re plowing soil and instilling important lessons in your kids. It’ll get there. Don’t give up!
What responsibilities do your children have? How do they contribute to your family culture? I’d love to hear from you, so comment below!
Until next time,
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