5 Foundations in Early Parenting


My first-ever YouTube parenting series is underway, talking about five key foundations to establish in the early years with our kids!

In the series, we’re talking about love, obedience, respect, honesty, and responsibility.

If you haven’t seen the new LizzyLife YouTube channel yet, here are the first few links:

In “First Comes Love,” we discuss the importance of putting lots of love in the bank with our kids, creating an atmosphere of expressiveness and affection. This gives us the confidence we need to parent strongly, and the comfort of knowing that “love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

In the second video, “Establishing Obedience,” we examine what godly obedience looks and sounds like. (Hint: It doesn’t look like eye-rolling and slumped shoulders, and it doesn’t sound like moaning and wailing and muttered complaints.)

If you’d like to be automatically notified with an email when I post a new video, it’s easy to subscribe to the YouTube channel! You’ll need to visit YouTube directly—click here to watch “Establishing Obedience” from YouTube. Once you’re there, just click on the little red rectangle that says “subscribe,” found right underneath the video. I’m shooting to post videos twice a month for now, then we’ll see how my sanity and marriage are holding up! Heh heh. (Okay, but really.)

Thanks for watching, and I hope you enjoy!


For information on speaking availability, click here. 


You might also enjoy reading:

These days of small things

When being a grown-up means you’re still growing up

“I’m a Big Kid, No Wait, I’m a Baby” Syndrome

13 Confidence-Building Scriptures for Kids and Teens


Know some other parents who would enjoy these videos? Great! Click the icons below to share this post: 


The simple plan that gets game-loving kids into books!


strategies to help kids love reading

When Plants Vs. Zombies started eating our son’s brain, we had to help him overcome a gaming obsession and make crucial decisions about the kind of person he wants to be. I am so proud of the changes he’s made and the boy he’s become.

He’s doing great, but even so, we are experimenting with a new plan—a strategy that is not only keeping his technology usage balanced, but is also… (but wait, there’s more!)… inspiring him to love reading.

Yes, you read that right.

A game-loving boy who also loves to read!

A strategy that helps him maintain a healthy, balanced relationship with technology and develop lifelong reading habits!

I know, it sounds too good to be true. And I sound like an infomercial. Sorry. I’m just really that excited. We are so thrilled with the new plan that I had to share it.

strategies to help kids love reading

Even though technology isn’t a problem right now for our son, his interest in reading recently hit a low point. Last year, he got hooked on the Harry Potter series. He spent months devouring all seven books, and I must confess… during those months, watching him laugh and cry and gasp over my favorite books, I was the World’s Happiest Book-Loving Writer-Mama. But ever since he finished all 8 million pages of the Harry Potter series, it’s been tough to get him excited about another book. But Minecraft… yeah, he’s still excited about Minecraft.

So here’s the new reading-meets-gaming plan:

Every week, he gets to “earn” his iPad time for the following week by reading. He can earn up to two-and-a-half hours of iPad time per week, depending on how much he reads. (That works out to about 20 minutes of reading/gaming per day.) If he reads 2.5 hours this week, then he gets to play 2.5 hours on the iPad next week; if he only reads an hour this week, he only gets an hour of iPad time next week.

So far, the new plan is working beautifully. Our son remembers how fun it was to be excited about books, and so he has embraced the new plan. Because he is a diligent kid, a goal-oriented person who thrives on systems and schedules, he loves the idea of planning ahead and having some control over his own choices and free time.

But best of all, after just a few days of reading, he has already rediscovered the joy of books. He keeps coming to tell me what’s happening in his novel, wanting me to laugh with him at all the crazy parts. Here’s hoping that this new plan helps to inspire a lifelong love for reading and habit of reading, while also allowing him to enjoy a healthy system of reward with the games he loves!

What a balanced relationship with technology looks like 

In case you’re still suffering in the My Kids Are Obsessed with Games and I’m Losing My Mind Stage (a thousand sympathies, friend), I thought I’d back up for a minute to paint a picture of what a healthy relationship with technology looks like. After some painful mistakes, many heart-to-heart talks, and a lot of family soul-searching, here’s where our son is now:

He still loves to play, but the games are no longer the highlight of his life or the center of his thoughts. He has developed a conscience about what is healthy and pleasing to God, and what is not. He has learned to monitor his own time and mindset, to evaluate whether or not he’s becoming obsessive and selfish, and to take breaks when he needs to free up brain space. And even though he’s doing well, my husband and I continually reevaluate how things are going. Every few weeks, my husband checks in with him to discuss basic questions like,

  • “How are you feeling about iPad games?”

  • “Are they taking over too much of your thoughts?

  • “Do you need to spend more time with people, or more time playing outside?”

— Click here to check out 26 Questions Every Parent Should Ask About Technology.–

Those simple conversations have gone a long way toward helping our son develop his own convictions about having healthy priorities, godly thoughts, and an unselfish focus in his life.

If you try this reading-meets-gaming strategy with your kids, please let me know how it goes!

I’d love to hear about your experience. And if you have any other creative strategies for helping kids take a healthy approach to technology, please share them in the comments section below, or email me—I’m always looking for new ideas.

If you scroll to the bottom of this post, I’ve included a fantastic graphic on Children’s Media Usage from California Cryobank. It gives a fair, balanced perspective on the pros and cons of children’s media usage, with helpful suggestions for parents. I hope you find it as helpful as I have!

Looking to share this post? Thank you! Scroll down to the bottom of the page, underneath the graphic, and you’ll find the share buttons there. 

 


If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

13 Confidence-Building Scriptures for Kids and Teens

What Moms Say Vs. What Kids Hear

13 Reasons Moms Never Get Haircuts

When Your Kid Won’t Stop Whining

Before you leave, don’t forget to sign up for my monthly parenting newsletter! Some recent newsletter topics have included “5 Ways to Help Siblings Become Friends” and “6 Simple Ways to Teach Kids to Walk with God.” As a welcome gift, you’ll receive a free download: 7 Two-Minute Devotions to Do Around the Breakfast Table with Kids!



How We Helped Our Son Overcome a Gaming Obsession


When your kid won't stop gaming

This is the story of a boy whose brains got eaten by digital zombies, and how his parents fought the zombies and reclaimed their son.

When our son was two, he discovered the joy of puzzles. He could hardly talk, but every morning he woke up bouncing with excitement in his crib, lisping, “Pizzoo, pizzoo!” That was our first hint that this was one focused, single-minded little boy.

When kids love puzzles and games

 

When he turned three, he began to collect every Thomas the Train engine and Transformer toy he could find. At four, he moved on to Legos. He wrote to Santa and asked for his first-ever Lego set. The wait for Christmas morning almost killed him. A few days before Christmas, he turned to me, clutching his tattered-and-taped-together Lego catalogue in hand. In anguish, he gritted his teeth and moaned, “I can’t stop thinking about Legos!” Poor sweet boy. His intensity can be a wonderful strength—he’s passionate and focused, diligent and hard-working—but of course, it can also be a weakness, especially where games are concerned.

Thomas the Train obsession

So last year when my husband got an iPad, and casually introduced our kids to the game Plants Vs. Zombies, maybe we should have anticipated that our son could become obsessed, but we didn’t. It’s not like the iPad even belonged to our son—he didn’t have unlimited access to it. But even so, in a matter of weeks, we had a problem. He became consumed. Time limits didn’t help: If we gave him half an hour a day to play, he spent the other 23 hours and 30 minutes thinking about the games, strategizing how to win them, and planning when he wanted to use his next half-hour of play time. His behavior and attitude changed. He turned inward, and got lost in his own mind and in a digital world.

Something had to change.

The Plan

We decided a total break from gaming was in order for all of the kids. (For us, that meant a break from games on Kevin’s iPad. We didn’t own any game systems.) The kids were not in trouble; they hadn’t done anything wrong; this was not a punishment. Our hope was that this break would allow our son to disconnect his mind from the electronic world, to reclaim some of his other interests and find some new ones, and to engage in a more meaningful way with the rest of the family.

The key to this whole experiment was the indefinite time period. It wasn’t enough to take a break for a week or a month—because all that would have done was get our son counting days until he’d get his beloved games back. He needed to be completely set free. Once the games were no longer an option, he would have to let them go altogether. He would be set free to move on, mentally and emotionally.

The Talk (no, not that one!)

We called a family meeting, and had The Talk about taking a break from iPad games. Even though there were a few tears shed, they turned into the good kind.

We started by talking about King David, and how he spent his boyhood years outside and in training, learning to kill lions and save sheep and pray and sing and just be close to God. We talked about how you can’t learn those things by playing computer games. You have to be outside, using your imagination and your heart and your voice and your creativity. We explained that God made each one of our kids special and gifted, and that he has big dreams for who they become and how he can use them. What fun we had talking about each child’s unique, wonderful gifts! And then we explained that they won’t become the people God intended them to be by spending all their time watching cartoons, or trying to defeat zombies on the iPad. (Meanwhile, the children were wiggling and laughing and being ridiculous, but somehow listening, too.)

When we got to the crux of the issue—the indefinite break from iPad games—our daughters immediately leapt to their feet and began exercising (?!), and our son began to cry. But we spent a lot of time talking to him and encouraging him, explaining how talented God made him, but that his gifts will be squandered if he spends his best mental energy learning to defeat digital zombies. We made this so positive, and in a few minutes, we watched a light turn on inside our son.

It was amazing, one of those epic parental moments you remember forever. He heard what we were saying—how God has great plans for him, and how even though he’s a boy, he can already start preparing himself to fulfill those plans. He can do that by having fun playing and learning and growing; by learning to play sports and have friends and build things. (Meanwhile, there was even more wiggling and exercising and general ridiculousness, but somehow there was a lot of listening, too.)

This was a Big Night for our family. A night when we decided to live intentionally—not just individually, but as a group. A night when Kevin and I more fully grasped what God intends for our children, and what our role is in helping them get there. A night when we recognized God’s purposes for us. A night when our entire family committed to growing and loving and living life to the full—not wasting our lives on stupid things, but being present, and being ready for God to use us as he sees fit. We decided to live our lives on purpose. We decided to grow, and to work together to become the individuals—and the family—God intends for us to be. (Wiggling and laughing and being ridiculous all along the way.)

When kids won't stop gaming via @lizzylife0121

The Changes

Within hours of our family devotional, we felt like we had our son back. A fog had lifted, and he’d awoken from a coma whose power we hadn’t fully understood. When he came home from school the next day, for the first time in weeks, he talked my ear off about school. He happily played outside with his sisters, built things with Legos, and laughed and laughed and laughed. We were flabbergasted—we hadn’t expected such dramatic change so quickly. For our girls, we didn’t notice much difference; the iPad had never really been a problem for them. But we were taking this break, united as a family, for our son—and it turned out to be the best family decision we could have made. Overall, our kids spent a lot of time playing outside, playing creatively, and even playing the piano. Our family became an even louder and more active—and yet more peaceful—place to be.

DSC_0031


Want more from Lizzy Life? Click here to sign up for the quarterly Lizzy Life newsletter! You’ll receive a gift of seven two-minute devotions to do with kids (including one about teaching kids to set their thoughts on God). You’ll also receive a free download of the first chapter of my new book, When God Says “Wait”!


The Follow-Up

Our total break from gaming lasted about three months. Honestly, at first I resisted the idea of ever letting the kids play games again. (I know, I can be a little dramatic.) But the more Kevin and I talked, the more he helped me to be realistic. Our children are growing up in a technology-rich world. One of the best gifts we parents can give our children is the wisdom and self-control they will need to handle technology wisely for the rest of their lives. Children need opportunities to practice using technology in its various forms while they are still at home with us, under our supervision. We need to provide God-centered training in how to handle devices of all kind in positive ways. We need to teach them to use technology is ways that promote relationships rather than hinder them. And at our kids’ ages, games can provide a manageable introduction into that lesson. (I’m still not convinced that a game system would improve our family life, and so we have no plans to get one. For now, we’re letting the kids “practice” using technology by playing some iPad and computer games.)

We followed up with another family devotional, centered around the verse, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” We talked (again) about how we don’t want our minds to be so full of iPad or computer games (or email or Facebook or texting for the grown-ups!) that there’s no room for God or for people. We told the kids we were willing to give the iPad games another try, within certain clear parameters.

The Plan

Here’s the thing about our “plan” for technology: It’s an experiment, not a lifetime commitment. It’s working for now, but we will continue to tweak it as our children mature and their needs change.

When we laid out the plan, we explained that each kid would have their own time limit that is appropriate for them as an individual. (Sometimes we cater too much to kids’ over-developed sense of fairness, and so we actually end up being unfair to everyone. Different kids have different needs, and that’s okay!)

  • Our 8- and 9-year-olds get 2 hours of total game time per week, and our 6-year-old gets 1 hour per week. (In the summertime, when school is out, we let the older kids have 3 hours/week, and the 6-year-old gets 2 hours.)
  • Here’s my favorite part about the plan: The kids manage their own time. (They do have to ask us first: Is this an okay time to play? Can I play for x minutes?) This freedom of choice is teaching them to manage their time, and is helping them to develop self-control and their own conscience about games.
  • We set a timer for the amount of time they request, record it on the family calendar, and they stop when the timer goes off. And when their weekly time is up, it’s up!
  • The most important part of this plan is that Kevin and I have follow-up talks with each kid. We keep an eye on our children, but we also ask how they think they are doing with games. This is a regular, ongoing conversation, especially with our son. We recently took another total break from games, and we periodically take breaks like that when we need a change.

For more on the kinds of questions parents should ask as you develop a plan for your children’s technology use, check out this article, Parents Vs. Zombies: 26 Questions Every Parent Should Ask About Kids and Technology.

Lessons Learned:

  • Video games aren’t a problem for every kid, but for some children, who tend toward obsessiveness or laziness, they are a big problem. We have to watch our children as individuals, and know them well enough to recognize when they are not handling technology well.

  • A complete break from games can be a helpful way to reset your family dynamic and give parents some time to reevaluate how you want to handle games and devices. (I love this article about the benefits of periodic technology fasts, and the parenting opportunities we miss when our kids are too plugged in.)

  • Parents must be engaged and intentional in how we introduce technology to our children, and stay engaged in monitoring it. We can’t just let technology happen to us accidentally.

  • Devices and social media will play a part in our children’s lives. They will all have to learn self-control and appropriate behavior with games and devices and social media. The more that we do as parents to equip our kids to handle technology now, the better their life will go in the future.

  • The long-term goal is to equip our kids to handle technology wisely on their own, without our constant supervision—but every child needs an age-appropriate level of vigilance and guidance.

  • From a big-picture parenting perspective, games and technology can also provide a great teaching tool for our kids’ character. They provide a way to talk to children about such biblical concepts as self-control, selflessness, discipline, gluttony, training, integrity, godly thoughts, and (eventually) purity.

  • This is not a one-and-done conversation. Parents have to continually evaluate how things are going and make decisions about what happens next: When do our kids get phones or tablets of their own? When do they join social media? What about school-related computer time? The list of decisions is endless!

To summarize: ENGAGE. THINK. PRAY. DISCUSS. MONITOR. REEVALUATE.

REPEAT. REPEAT AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN.

After all that we went through last spring, we got our son back. His brain resurrected after his incursion into the land of the Walking Dead. We hope our family’s battle against the zombies can give other families some ideas and strategies for successfully navigating the tricky terrain of technology.

 

 


If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy: 

My new book, When God Says “Wait”

When God Says Wait: Navigating Life's Detours and Delays Without Losing Your Faith, Your Friends, or Your Mind

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You might also enjoy this Facebook Live chat on technology use for elementary-aged kids: 

Kids & Technology: Bible-Based Principles for Kids 10 & Under

Two-part discussion: "How do we help our elementary-aged kids navigate technology?" and "Is it okay to take action when we're waiting on God?"

Nai-post ni Elizabeth Laing Thompson, Writer at LizzyLife noong Miyerkules, Abril 12, 2017

Parents Vs. Zombies: 26 Questions Every Parent Should Ask About Technology

5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Kid’s Technology Use Over the Holidays

5 Bible Stories Boys Love

13 Reasons Moms Never Get Haircuts

A Letter to My Boys: The Real Reason I Say No to Electronics, by Renee Robinson


13 Ways to Teach Responsibility (Part 2)


encouraging independence in children

This week on the LizzyLife blog we’re talking about ways we can help our kids develop responsibility. There are so many simple things we can do at home to plant seeds of responsibility in their hearts and in their habits. Over time, those seeds will grow, helping our kids to develop integrity, independence, and a strong work ethic. And you wanna know the best part about these 13 things? They make our life as parents easier! They take work off of us! Initially, it may take some thought and effort as we teach kids about taking responsibility for their own toys or chores or homework, but in the end it all adds up to less work for us! Can I get an “amen”?!

Missed the first seven ways to teach kids responsibility? Click here to catch up!

The Bible has so much to say about the joy of hard work, and the importance of having integrity and a strong work ethic. In Genesis 1, we even find God setting an example for us, taking joy in the work of creation. When all his hard work is done, he experiences the satisfaction of a job well done, and gives himself a rest: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).

8. Start early. 

Toddlers love to feel independent and “big.” Their confidence and happiness soar when we allow them to take responsibility for small things. Oh, how my two-year-old loves it when I give her little jobs to do. Off she toddles down the hall, little curls bobbing proudly, a girl on a mission. She especially loves putting her toys and socks and shoes away, and choosing her socks and shoes for the day. When she’s driving me nuts just before dinner time, begging me to hold her when I need both hands free to cook, I ask her to set the table for me. I hand her a bunch of forks and spoons and napkins, and she is thrilled with the job. Yeah, the table looks messy, but it gets my hands free for five minutes! She also loves to help load wet laundry into the dryer—she even puts in the dryer sheet and pushes the start button.

Plant seeds of responsibility in little hearts by encouraging toddlers to take responsibility for their toys. Crawlers and early walkers love “clean-up” games. (Clean-up-game ideas coming in next month’s LizzyLife newsletter—you can sign up in the left sidebar!) Whenever we move our kids from one room to another, we can remind them to clean up the mess they just made. Or whenever we finish doing one activity and move on to another, let’s remind them to clean up the first activity. This habit makes a huge difference once kids hit the age of three and four, if we don’t want our home to become buried under a mound of toys and crayons. And remember this: If we do all the cleaning for our kids when they’re young, but then suddenly start expecting them to clean up after themselves when they’re older, our kids may resist the change. By not expecting anything of them in their early years, we may have accidentally set ourselves up for a battle of wills. Keep this in mind: If toy clean-up is always a regular part of children’s days, then over time, cleaning up after themselves becomes part of who they are and what they do.

teaching toddlers to be helpers

9. Whenever your family has company coming over, recruit the whole family to help get the house ready.

Our kids are all involved in preparing the house when company comes over. We all made the mess, so we all clean the mess. We will all enjoy having our friends over, so we all get the house ready for our friends. This teaches kids to take ownership of their house, to be good hosts for family friends, and to take pride in doing their part to help the household run.

chores children can do

10. Simple routines help kids to remember and learn.

I’ve learned a lot by watching my kids’ teachers and how they manage their classrooms. Teachers spend a lot of time in the first few weeks of school establishing the rhythm and routine of the day, reinforcing simple steps like: Arrive in class, put your bag away, empty your homework folder, do your morning work at your desk. . . . The students quickly catch on, and the classroom runs smoothly. This has great applications for our home life as well! Routines help kids know what to do when, without constant reminders (translation: nagging) from us. For example, when my kids get home from school, they are supposed to wash the school-bus germs off their hands, hang up their book bags, empty the trash from their lunch bags, then put away their lunch bags. This takes about two minutes of their time, and then they can eat a snack or go play or whatever they want to do. Honestly, my girls still need a reminder about this routine most days, but my son has it down pat. I figure the longer we stick with the routine, the sooner they’ll all start remembering on their own!

mud room idea for kids

11. Ask older siblings to help with younger kids from time to time.

Sometimes when I’m frantically trying to get dressed to leave the house (please tell me I’m not the only one who has trouble finding five free minutes to get out of my pajamas!), I ask one of the older kids to entertain the two-year-old for a few minutes so I can shut the door and enjoy a tiny moment of that magical experience I haven’t really had for nine years: privacy. I say, “Blake, you are totally in charge of Sawyer for the next five minutes. I need you to make sure she doesn’t get into trouble, and if she’s not happy playing by herself, I need you to play or read with her so she will give me a few minutes alone.” I was nervous the first few times I asked my kids for help like this, but I pretended I wasn’t and acted like, “Sure, you can totally keep a two-year-old happy for five minutes!”—and you know what? The big kids surprised me—and themselves—by doing a wonderful job! I listened from the other room, and even peeked in on them, and it was all giggles and sweetness. You know what this does? It encourages sibling closeness by getting an older sibling to pay special attention to a little one. It encourages responsibility and a healthy sense of I-am-the-older-kid-so-I-should-look-out-for-the-little-ones. And as a fantastic bonus, it allows moms to not leave the house in their pajamas. (Obviously, you’ll have to evaluate your kids’ ages and levels of responsibility before you try this in your home!) Other ways to try this out: Ask an older sibling to help a little one find a jacket before the family heads out the door; ask an older sibling to help a younger one read out loud; ask a big kid to help a little one hunt for a lost toy. You don’t want the littles to constantly depend on older siblings, of course (see all the other points in this post, ha!), but there is a place for siblings helping one another.

12. Don’t do your kids’ homework with them.

I can hear some gasps of shock and horror, echoing across cyberspace. “But—but—but,” some are sputtering, “my kids’ teachers make it sound like I have to do my kids’ homework with them at home! If I don’t sit there and hold their hand the whole time, I’m a Bad Parent!” I disagree, and here’s why: Our kids’ homework is their homework, not ours. Our kids’ grades should be a reflection of their work, not ours. Most children are fully capable of sitting still and doing their own homework without much help, hovering, or hounding from their parents. (I totally get that there are some kids who have special needs in this area . . . hang with me and we’ll get there.)

There’s a big difference between engaging with our kids’ education by cultivating a home atmosphere of inquiry, exploration, and the love of learning (all good things!), versus doing our kids’ work for them (not a good thing). Should we encourage curiosity and learning? Of course. Should we stay aware of what our kids are studying at school? Absolutely! That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about too much hand-holding in homework—an area that should be our kids’ responsibility.


13 Ways to Teach Kids Responsibility (Part 1)


Sometimes in the day-to-day grind of laundry and dishes and diapers, we lose sight of the end goal of parenting. One of our biggest jobs is to parent ourselves out of a job. Parenting ourselves out of a job means raising responsible kids who mature into trustworthy, independent, self-sufficient adults. (My fellow hyper-sentimental parents who want our babies to stay forever cuddly in their footy pajamas can join me in a little they-grow-up-too-fast sniffle here. Okay. Let’s try to put aside our tissues and move on.)

To put it another way, our long-term responsibility as parents is to one day launch our grown children into the world as godly, responsible, independent adults!

So what does that look like in the real world? It means:

  • Children who are helpful at home and who make smart choices even when Mom and Dad aren’t watching, who grow into . . .

  • Teens who can be trusted with a car and cell phone minutes and a healthy measure of independence, who grow into . . .

  • College students who can date righteously and manage their time and their classes, and prepare themselves to get a job, who grow into . . .

  • Grown-ups who can make their way in the world confidently, competently, and with integrity.

When we teach our children to think and do for themselves, we are equipping them for life in the real world—life outside the happy, forgiving haven of our home. We are giving them a wonderful gift: the ability to make wise decisions and make their own way in the world.

So what can we do now to plant seeds of responsibility, integrity, and independence in our children’s characters?

Here are thirteen ways to start teaching children responsibility (seven today, and six in the next post):

1. When we’re teaching responsibility, let’s remember God. 

Responsibility is not just an important character trait kids need to succeed in this world; it’s a godly attribute! Whenever we bring God into our teaching, kids remember it better, because now they’re not just trying to please us—they’re trying to please God. When you teach your kids what God has to say about responsibility, try using scriptures that highlight Bible words like discipline, disciplined, self-control, work, and even remember and don’t forget. A few scriptures to start with: Colossians 3:23–24, Proverbs 6:6–10, Proverbs 24:30–34, Proverbs 13:4.

2. Encourage children to do things for themselves.

I am constantly reminding myself of this parenting principle: If children can do something for themselves, then most of the time, they should do it for themselves. Just the other day, I caught myself “helping” my two-year-old climb up into her chair at the kitchen table. There she was, one chubby leg up, doing just fine, and I intervened because it was taking too long, and it looked like such hard work. (That smacking sound you just heard was me, smacking my palm to my forehead. I know. Not my greatest parenting moment.) Because the thing is, she is proud of herself when she gets up there all by herself! By picking her up, I took away a moment of independence and confidence-building, and robbed her of a chance to develop her muscles and improve her dexterity. If she asks me for help, will I help her? Sure. She’s little. Sometimes littles want their moms to coddle them, and I’m totally up for a little coddling. (I plan to enjoy it while it lasts. Sigh.) And as for older kids . . . well, my older kids ask me about eighteen questions every thirty-seven seconds—and sometimes it seems like half of those are unnecessary requests for help. Whenever possible, let’s encourage our kids to at least try challenging things for themselves. How else will we see the light of accomplishment in their eyes when they do something they didn’t think they could do? 

3. Set your house up in such a way that kids can do things for themselves.

Simple changes make a big difference:

  • Put step stools in the bathroom to help kids reach the sink themselves.

  • Hang hooks for towels down low so children can hang up their own towels.

  • Don’t put a top sheet on kids’ beds (just use the bottom fitted sheet) so they can more easily “make” their own bed.

  • Try storing your kid-friendly cups and plates in a low drawer, so children can get their own water or snack bowl when you tell them they can have a snack.

kid-friendly ways to store kids' dishes

This is the drawer where we keep the kids’ cups and bowls. Even the two-year-old can reach them!

 

Simple changes like this save you a lot of time, and encourage children to think and act independently.

For more on preserving your sanity by equipping kids to do things for themselves, click here.

Want to read a fantastic post on organizing kid stuff in easy, kid-friendly ways? Check out my friend Julie’s fantastic post here. (Fair warning: Reading her fun Neat & Pretty blog will fill you with the urge to dash to Target and buy every cute hook and storage bin in sight, and you’ll go home dancing and singing with the joy of impending organization.)

4. Rock a Chore Chart.

Chore charts for kids

Left: Rotating chores (so they don’t get bored!) Right: Chores they keep all the time.

We started a chore chart with our three older kids last year (at the time they were 5, 7, and 8), and let me tell you: it has changed our family, and changed my life. Our kids have grown tremendously in their responsibility and attitudes. After a year of using this chart, they all do a fantastic job on their responsibilities. And I’m kind of shocked to say this, but complaints are rare! They have come to embrace the fact that chores are a part of life in our home.  The kids only spend five or ten minutes a day on their chores, and about fifteen minutes on Saturday mornings. That’s it! But the little things they do make a big difference in helping our household to run smoothly.

5. Implement rule strategies that encourage kids to monitor themselves.

I have a theory when it comes to the rules we implement at our house: Rules and strategies are there first to shape my kids’ characters, and second to make life easier for the parents, not more stressful. For example, after much drama and discussion over how to handle iPad games with our children (detailed posts on technology dilemmas coming soon—sign up for the blog posts via email in the left sidebar, so you don’t miss them!), we finally came up with a system that allows our kids extremely limited time each week. Here’s my favorite part about the strategy we chose: The burden for tracking their game time is on the kids—not on me and Kevin. When the kids want to play, they tell us they are going to use some of their time, then they set a timer, and when they are done, they write down their time on a calendar on the fridge so we can see it. When their time is up for the week, it’s up. This gives them a lot of choice in when they play, encourages integrity and accountability, teaches time management, and keeps me from turning into Mean Nagging Mommy who is always barking, “Did you write down your time? Get off those dumb games!” I call that a win-win for kids and parents!

6. Use kid-friendly clocks, and give children opportunities to manage their own time.

We spend a lot of time reminding kids, “It’s time to get dressed/clean up/wash hands/brush teeth/go to bed.” But kids love feeling like the master of their own schedule. One way to give them this experience is to put them to bed a little early, then allow them to read in bed until a certain time. When that time comes, they turn out their own light and go to sleep. This gives children a sense of independence, and the confidence that comes from feeling trusted—“Mommy trusts me to turn out my own light at the right time!” (Plus, it encourages a lifelong reading habit.) Our kids love the clock pictured below, the Teach Me Time Talking Alarm Clock and Nightlight. We bought it in a moment of desperation, when they were three, two, and one, and they kept waking each other up and getting out of bed at it’s-way-too-early-for-me-to-be-a-nice-and-holy-Mommy o’clock. It’s an investment (about $38 USD), but it’s worth it. My favorite feature: You can set it to glow green when it’s okay to get up in the morning (or from naps), which is a wonderful way to help kids who can’t tell time yet.

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7. Don’t be afraid to let children make mistakes.

Here’s the kicker: If we want to teach our kids independence, then we have to dial down our OCD for a few years. (My fellow clean-freaks feel my pain here.) If kids put their laundry in the wrong drawers, or the folded shirts get rumpled, that’s okay. At least they are learning to take charge of their own clothes. If kids do their homework the wrong way one day, even though they tried . . . that’s okay. They won’t get shut out of college when they’re eighteen because of a few homework mishaps in the third grade. And if they forget to do their homework one day because they were irresponsible, they will learn a hard lesson about hard work, responsibility, and consequences. (More on homework in the next post, 13 Ways to Teach Responsibility, Part 2 . . . why we shouldn’t do homework with our kids!)

I’ll send out more tips like this in the monthly LizzyLife parenting newsletter. You can sign up for the newsletter in the left sidebar. See you back here on Wednesday with six more ways to raise responsible kids!

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