I often encourage parents that their kids’ choices are their kids’ choices. They cannot take the blame or guilt of their kids making poor decisions. And that is true. And the converse is true too—we cannot take credit for their good decisions.
All that to say, I’m often amazed at how independent our girls are. I’m not bragging—remember I can’t take the credit. But how did each of them become independent young women each pursuing the path God made for them?
One thing we did that helped, I believe, is teaching them personal responsibility. Where else will our kids learn how to do life as adults if we don’t teach them when they’re kids and teens? If we want our kids to be ready for life an independent launch at eighteen, we need to prepare them now.
- Teach them life skills. Start early and at the latest—now—teaching them basic life skills. Even a four-year-old can learn to set the table, pull the blankets up on their bed, and pick up their toys. Teach your kids what they need to know in the world. How to:
- Properly clean.
- Do dishes.
- Budget, handle money, and balance their checking account.
- Mow the grass.
- Take out the garbage.
- Do the laundry.
- As they grow older—make their own appointments and keep their own daily planner.
- Responsibility—Teach your kids to be personally responsible for their own lives. Help them with a system that works for them. Then let them work it. Sure, they will fail. They will forget something. They will be late. Let them deal with the consequences. Also teach them to be a responsible member of the family. When the girls were home, Saturday morning was cleaning day. They could not do anything fun until their share of the cleaning was done. It was just a typical Saturday in our family.
- Consequences are the reinforcement they need to remember next time. Missing a recess, getting a poor grade, or paying their speeding ticket are mild consequences compared to the consequences that wait for them if they’re not responsible in adulthood. It’s not being mean. It’s being a good parent. Being a mean parent is not preparing your child to live as a responsible adult. Consistency is vital.
- Stress is good. Many parents don’t want their kids to suffer in any way. But they have forgotten the reality of how they grew to be adults and grown in their relationship with God—through suffering. It’s good for us. In his book, Soul Keeping, John Ortberg shares research in which monkeys who received “mild stress in infancy, adolescence, and adulthood” grew through it. “They were better able to handle stressful situations; they are also more curious and explorative and resilient in the world in general.” And one more perk, “Mild stress seems to increases brain size, and actually causes brand-new neurons to develop.”* So if you want your child to be a better learner, the next time they forget their homework let them feel the stress and consequences. They will remember it next time and do better on it!
This heart of this discussion is not just what’s best for our kids. It’s what’s best for us. When we don’t teach our kids to be responsible—when we don’t prepare them for launch—when we try to “protect” them from life, we are the issue. We are operating from fear. We are not trusting God. That is our problem and one we need to take to God. I know it’s hard. Prepare your kids the best you can. It will take time and work. Your job is far from over. Then step by step release them and let them try their wings.
My friend had a sign in her home that read, “There are two gifts we give our children: one is roots, and the other is wings.” Join me in doing both.
As always I’d love to hear your thoughts.
For more ideas on raising responsible kids check out my book Queen Mom.
*Soul Keeping, John Ortberg, Zondervan, page 165.
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.