Talking Point 4: Responsibility
Did you catch the story about Jessica Stillwell this week? The mum who grew tired of tidying up after her kids so decided to go on strike; without telling them. It was five days before her crew noticed there was a problem, five long mess strewn days according to Jessica’s blog. But in the end they got it; realised it was their mess and tidied up. A creative lesson in responsibility.
Do we do too much for our kids?
It’s a bit of a curly subject around our house for while I like to give responsibility, I think Kirstie’s a bit quick to take it back. I notice it around the small stuff. When Kirstie was away in Germany recently the kids made their own packed lunches. But since she got back some of them have stopped. Yet they don’t go to school lunch-less.
“Look, it’s quicker for me to do it,” pleads Kirstie. And maybe she’s right. There’s certainly less nagging involved. But what does it teach?
Then there’s the Scout Navigation Camp Matt’s going to this weekend.
“Have you got your stuff ready?” I ask. He shrugs. I know he hasn’t, but I’m not going to do it for him. And I know Kirstie’s already been through his kit list. It’s obvious when I catch her coming out of the attic with a compass, whistle and survival bag; they’re not for her handbag. I’m able to persuade her she should let him organise himself, but it’s not easy letting go.
“I’m still doing his food shopping,” she insists, “to make sure he’s gets the right food.”
But why do this for him? Why not give him £10, get him to make a list and send him shopping. He’s more than capable, if we give him the opportunity, maybe coach a little, and let him feel responsible. After all he’s supposed to be learning to do it for himself. And isn’t that what we really want?
We have to give responsibility not take it away
But of course he has to know it’s his to do. No opt-outs or get-outs. No mummy will do it for me. When we do stuff for our kids all the time, what do we really teach them? That we love and care for them? No, that they are not responsible. And that we’re mugs!
As a parent I often forget that in my relationships with the kids I’m part of a system, a dynamic. We’re not separate; their behaviour and reactions are entwined with mine. If I want them to do something, I have to do something too, like stop doing it for them.
Lunches and camp kit aside, I think kids are capable of far more than we give them credit for. I never thought a five year old could pitch a tent or a ten year old could cycle tour 1,000 miles in a summer, until I gave them the opportunity to do it. I’m not advocating dumping chores, giving responsibility without limits or over-stretching kids to see what they’re capable of. I’m just saying giving responsibility is good for them and it’s good for you. Isn’t it?
Responsibility; sometimes we give it and sometimes we take it away. What do you give your kids responsibility for? How do you stop yourself taking it away?
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Talking Point is our series of short opinion posts where we pick a photo from the archive, post a talking point and invite you to join the conversation. Leave a comment with your thoughts or tell us what the photo says to you.