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 singlehood 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, then we're 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. 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 evening, takes time to care about what each person gets for lunch at school, and plans special desserts for a birthday night.
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.
In this model everyone has clear boundaries and responsibilities and their jobs always involve thinking of (loving on) other family members. This mode automatically teaches a child to not think only of themselves but how to serve others, and prepares them to better serve their own future families or employers.
Lyette and her husband of 23 years, David, have 15 children (and one on the way). Their ten daughters and five sons range from 20-years-old to almost two. Lyette just so happens to believe that her children and yours will change our world for good. With Lyette's vast experiences in parenting, she loves to offer hope and help to families on her website TheRebacks.com. Lyette is also the author of Please God Don’t Let Me Screw This Up: Hope & Help from a Mom of Fifteen.
Image Credit: Lyette Reback