I have been reading through some organization blogs the last few days, learning how other moms and dads teach their children “personal responsibility.” Personal Responsibility is a fantastic starting line in our parenting goals, but if that is the end goal, it greatly misses the mark.
In life, we are rarely ever responsible for only ourselves. Maybe for a few years during college, and a span of single-hood until marriage…but other than that, we are constantly responsible for others. If you are a young child in a family, it is important to share in the care of your home and your siblings, and if you are a married adult, well, you’re pretty much responsible for everyone.
If we land on teaching a child “personal responsibility” as our final goal in parenting, is pretty much teaching them to think ONLY of themselves. This is why I prefer a “zones” type of division of work in the home instead of the “every-man-for-himself” idea.
For example, one blog I read discussed how each child was responsible to do their own laundry, make their own lunches, clean their own rooms and complete their own homework. Sounds like every man is an island!
Instead I suggest putting one child on laundry, one child on helping with meals, one child on tidying main rooms of the house or maybe another on lawn duty. In this way, every child is serving the entire family with their job. If you have a family of one or two children, perhaps chose one of the larger tasks in the home, like meal prep or laundry and have them work that entire responsibility as a team. If you have older children, then give each child the sole responsibility over something in the home. The main idea is that every family member would be contributing to the love and care of every other family member. It does not take an army of children to still train the basic characteristic of teaching children to serve one another and their parents, even amidst other responsibilities such as school and sports. And beware, just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, this trait takes time and effort to teach…be ready for some challenges along the way.
The laundry team is washing and caring for everyone’s clothing and has to be mindful of when uniforms are needed, special dresses need to be ready, and favorite blankies must be back in bed before tuck-in time. They learn to think of everyone!
The kitchen person is mindful of everyone’s favorite meal and learns to plan it lovingly for a special birthday family evening, takes time to care about what each person gets for lunch at school, and plans special desserts for a birthday night.
The person on lawn duty may need help one Saturday a month, but they take pride in the outward appearance of the home and make sure everyone’s toys are put away safely, that the front porch is nice and welcoming, and might get to plan ahead for decorating for the holidays.
A child in charge of tidying main rooms may learn how to go that extra mile to make sure that by the time dinner is ready, the place looks clean, smells fresh, and is ready to help the evening go smoothly.
See how in this model, everyone has clear boundaries and responsibilities, but their jobs always involve thinking of (loving on) other family members? See how this mode automatically teaches a child to not think only of themselves but how to serve others? IN our home this has proven a far better model to prepare them for a lifetime of service in their own family. It even prepares them better for their first job…they quickly become known as the type of individual who will willingly work to help others, not just themselves.
When they grow into adulthood and marriage, they will be far less likely to see their own children as a burden, or only as work…they will have been serving their siblings way in advance and will have learned to ENJOY it.
In chapter six of my new book, Please God Don’t Let Me Screw This Up: Hope and Help From a Mom of Fifteen, I share how we practically apply this in our home and the lasting impact it has had on our children. Pre-order your copy today by clicking here.