When I was in 4th grade I got my first pig for the fair. And every year until 12th grade I would head out to a pig farm in January to select a hog to grow for the fair. I would feed and walk said hog on a daily basis, and in May I would take that pig to the fair to show and sell at the market auction. The responsibility to care for this 245 pound living being was on me. If I didn’t walk my pig often enough, then it wouldn’t show well. It wouldn’t be in the shape it needed to be to place well; and if it didn’t place well my prospects for profit were low. I loved the fair, and I loved my pigs. I didn’t always love the care that they required, but providing that care taught me to be responsible. (Total side tangent because I know some of you city folk (me now!) will be curious… my first pig was named Rudy, after Rudy Huxtable – my favorite tv character, my favorite pig was a Duroc named Chili who was as docile as a dog, and I once had a jumper: that pig not only jumped out of the trailer on the highway to be rescued by the marina employees and taken to the animal shelter, but later hopped the wash racks at the fair and cut out across the midway!)
Those pigs were work! My parents instilled a sense of responsibility in me from a young age. I didn’t have to do much when it came to cleaning, but in addition to caring for the hogs and bunnies, I certainly did a boat-load of dishes with my sister. I grew up on a grapefruit ranch, and participated in the installation of the the irrigation system. I helped weed the bank and trim the crepe myrtles on a consistent basis.
What strikes me about all of that is this: all of those tasks were huge chunks of responsibility for someone who was nine and ten – taks that really needed to be done well, but instead of letting me off easy because I might not be the best at something, I was taught how to do each time, and expected to get things right. And I stepped right up. The only job I’ve been fired from at home was the painting of a trellis. That was a paid job that rendered no pay. Sigh.
What strikes me now as a parent is that I am terrible at making my youngest two take responsibility. Yes, they are only 3 and 5, and I do have them pick up their toys and carry their shoes and belongings up to their room, but I don’t make them do much else because I know that they aren’t going to do a very good job. However, Shia wants to help sooooo much. I am learning that instead of saying, No, I got it, I can say yes to her request, and allow her to do more even if I plan on following right behind her to do a better job. In contrast, I may rely on my oldest too much. She’s only ten, but she seems so much older than that, and I expect a lot from her. She helps to clean the house, to take out the trash, to do dishes and unload the dishwasher, to wash and fold the laundry, to entertain her siblings, to go get something for me from upstairs or downstairs, etc. I want to teach her responsibility, but I want to balance that responsibility amongst them all. I think this will be easier when the younger two are old enough to make more of an impact.
I truly think this is important. As a teacher I see the changes over the last decade and a half. Students are less responsible. Parents are doing more, and kids are expecting more. Kids have to be challenged. They have to struggle. They need to do things for themselves. This starts with us as parents. And as you can tell from the paragraphs above, I’m still learning how to walk this out in my daily life.
I have been toying with the idea of a daily chore chart. On this chart each child will have a chore that must be completed each day. If I enforce the completion of this daily chore, then it will be a great balance to the tasks that need to be done in our home.
I’d love to know your tips for creating responsible kids. Share in the comments:)