The twins are now 12. Hard to believe the time has gone by so fast. The last year or so has been rough on them. In March of 2015, we moved them away from the only house they ever knew, away from the only school they ever knew, and away from most of the friends they made there.
We only moved about ten miles but it might have been a thousand as far as they were concerned. We moved to a bigger house in order to move my mom in with us after my dad passed away. The move required them changing school districts, which required making new friends. They were moving from elementary into middle school either way, but it was still a rough transition, a lot harder on them than we expected.
Because of all that, last summer we were pretty lax about both rules and responsibilities. When school started we wanted our kids to focus on school, viewing that as their job. Right or wrong, that's the decision we came to. It was a challenging year for them with some higher expectations than any of us were ready for. We made it through and saw a lot of growth in both kids in many ways.
As this summer started, we are seeing the downside of our approach last year. Both kids had fallen into a pattern of seeing any kind of work as a burden. If it isn't fun, they want nothing to do with it. My son thinks the only fun things in life our electronic. My daughter, being the social butterfly, finds fun with friends, none of which currently live in our neighborhood. That requires my wife and I to play chauffeur a lot. Phone calls, texting, and hanging out have become her main forms of communication (even to people sitting in the same room). In short, we began this summer knowing something has to change. The way our kids spend their days had to change.
So, we've made a simple change that we're seeing the benefits of:
In order to make sure our weren't sitting around the house being bored, we've started leaving them a daily list of chores to accomplish. Nothing too difficult. Things like...
- Read for a half hour.
- Pick up your room.
- Take out the recycling to the garage.
- Put away clean laundry.
- Carry dirty laundry to the basement.
- Take a shower (at least every other day. Yes, they still need to be reminded)
- Exercise (mostly riding bikes) for twenty minutes.
- Play for one hour without an electronic device.
- Help with yard work. Mow the lawn. Pull weeds.
- Clear the table from dinner and help with the dishes.
Nothing on these daily lists are too difficult to accomplish. While not all of them are fun and they don't all need to be accomplished at once, they do need to be done.
We started with a list of responsibilities. Then we gave them a set time their daily lists needed to accomplished--by the time mom gets home from work, which is usually around 3:15 PM. So each of the twins has from the time they wake up until then to complete their list. I'm typically home for lunch to check in and encourage them. There is time to play and time to work if they manage their time well. Their free time for the rest of the day is determined by what is accomplished.
What We've Seen
The twins responded well to this. They've responded much better than anticipated. Most days they accomplished what was expected of them. The work may have not have been done best, but that allowed us to further teach and encourage them. We've seen them grow in both responsibility and time management. We've seen them ask questions and we've had opportunities for deeper conversations. We are watching before our eyes what the process of maturity looks like. In doing all of this we are making positive movement in what what God has called us all to do:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1-4 ESV)
We've seen them obey. We've seen them honor. Not perfectly, but moving in a positive direction. In all this we are pointing back to God about the importance of discipline and instruction. And it's in all this that we've come to the conclusion that we aren't wasting the summer (or the time) we've been given.
Why This is Important
It's easy for more than a few days can go by (and often do) before I realize that I haven't been as proactive or as intentional as I need to be in bringing my kids up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. I tend to believe that all parents feel this way from time to time. We let other things crowd out what God has called us to. But the beauty of the gospel is that it's never too late to repent and change. It's never to late to take steps of faith in what God has called us as parents to do. It's when we come to the end of our strength, the end of our prideful rebellion, that we realize God has called to something that is beyond our ability; therefore we need His strength and perseveranceYou see, while God is using my wife and I to train our kids in responsibility and time management, He's also reminding us the importance of our own responsibility and time management. As we repent and turn back towards Him, He is faithful to gently and graciously lead us in the direction He wants us to go.