Setting Your Kids (and Yourself!!) Up for Success
Today we are going to take a little walk down memory lane. I want you to think back to your very first day at a new job or school. Remember how worried you were about the unknowns! You knew the overview of the job but you didn't know the details of how THIS office or school would operate, even in the simplest of tasks like lunch routines or vacation days let alone the BIG things you would be tackling from day to day. Now think about how you feel today? Do you still feel like a fish out of water? No! Those initial worries and fears about how to submit a vacation request or operate the phone system seem downright SILLY because they have become second nature. Things we used to fret over we now laughingly say "even a monkey could do this part of my job." So what changed? Not the job! You are still doing those now tedious things! YOU are what changed! You see, over your first weeks you were trained, over your first months you learned and grew, and over the years you have put personal systems in place that help you not only achieve but also excel! It was a process, over time, that brought you to where you are today.
Now let's take things even farther back...to childhood. At this point in life you likely don't remember having to LEARN things like how to properly load the dishwasher or sort the laundry. It now seems like such a ridiculously easy task that we forget that we fail to allow our own kids the grace and space needed for them to learn and grow in even the most basic of skill sets. I mean, if my 12 year old can do algebraic equations why can't he do a load of laundry? For many, the answer is simple, YOU NEVER TAUGHT HIM HOW! Wait...what?!?! Yes. You heard me right! Sometimes it's not that our kids are lazy or unmotivated. Sometimes it's as simple as - they don't know what they don't know! They are doing the best they can with what they have. It doesn't meet your standards because (1) they don't know what you know...you clearly have a TON more life experience, knowledge, and years of trial and error that have grown and developed you over the years..and (2) you haven't even taken the time to lay out what is expected of them!
One last time, let's think back to that first day on the job scenario. What if your boss never told you what was expected of you but instead just continually penalized you because you weren't doing it right? What if your co-worker never trained you on how to answer the phone and just let you continue to drop calls and again, getting in trouble with your boss? For some of you, this may have been a very real reality at one time or another throughout your career. If you've ever been there you know this is an INCREDIBLY frustrating place to be - never knowing what's expected of you and/or never being trained on how to follow through with those expectations. For anyone who hasn't experienced a work experience like that, I think we can all agree that that would not be a pleasant work environment. You would definitely not feel like they were setting you up to succeed!
Finally, let's shift our focus to the here and now! To you and YOUR kids! How many times have you been guilty of getting your kids in trouble for not loading the dishwasher the "right way"? Not cleaning their room to "your" standards? Yes, sometimes kids are just trying to skirt their responsibilities but after taking a hard look at the frustrations I was having with my kids when it came to all things chores and homeschool I came to the realization that a very large part of the frustrations came down to the "quality" of the work done and not actual work getting done part! This realization put my planning self into Go Mode and I quickly came to the realization that if I am going to have any form of expectations than I needed to do the following:
(1) Put it in writing - If you are anything like me you have a TON of plans in you MIND that you sometimes forget no one else sees or hears. I just assume that because I know it should be done that way than everyone else should inherently know it as well. But let me just bring you back to reality and remind you that YOUR KIDS CAN'T READ YOUR MIND! When you say "Go clean the bathroom" they might hear "pick up the towels that are on the floor" when what you mean is "take laundry to the laundry room, take out the trash, wipe down the counter, clean the mirror, and throw away that empty shampoo bottle that has been hanging out in the shower for a month". The direction was the same "Go clean the bathroom" but the expectation was VERY different!! So how do you close that gap? WRITE DOWN YOUR EXPECTATIONS! A few weeks ago I decided to post a cleaning expectations list in every room of our house. Now I can say "Go clean the bathroom - Don't forget to check the list" and we are all on the same page! Now that there is a clear expectation, if the cleaning is not done completely and properly I can address and correct it quickly and properly.
(2) Train them - Making the list is SUPER helpful and freeing for both you and your kids but don't forget that you also need to take the time to teach them HOW to accomplish each of the tasks! Don't forget that the things we think are second nature are things we learned over the course of our lives! We did not come out of the womb able to walk or talk let alone able to do laundry or vacuum the floors. Allow them time to learn! Adopt this training model - You do it while they watch. You do it together. They do it while you watch. They do it on their own.
(3) Inspect/Correct - Even after they are self-sufficient and able to tackle things on their own it is still important that you inspect their work regularly. After all, you can only expect what you inspect! We all need a level of accountability and it is important that we provide that for our kids during these fleeting years we have them with us at home. Before you know it they will be off on their own figuring all of this out on their own! Let's do all we can to send them out as prepared and equipped as possible!
(4) Allow grace and space to grow! - Now I am absolutely a perfectionist so this one is the hardest one for me! I 100% think my way is the best and that everyone should just do all the things the same way I do! Anyone else?? I knew I couldn't be the only one! But as your kids grow older and take responsibility for their chores and daily tasks it is important that you allow them the grace and space to grow! Many times that will mean not doing things exactly YOUR way. And that's ok! This is such a beautiful process of learning, growing, and discovery as they learn what works for THEM and sets in place some solid foundational stones that they will continue to build on as they become an independent and confident adult! Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying "let them figure it all out on their own!" You are still setting boundaries, setting clear and concise expectations, training them in those "mindless tasks", and inspecting and correcting regularly. You are simply allowing the space for them to form their own methods in accomplishing what is expected as they grow and take ownership of themselves!
“Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.” ―Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change