I have five kids in school, so August is my new favorite month of the year as mom.
Sure, summer beats every other season, but let’s face it- spending my days as camp counselor is exhausting.
Summer resets us as a family, and that I love. Having more time together helps us grow closer together. It reinforces that connectedness is a high value in our family. But I also love that it is relatively short, and after two months we pivot back into individual needs, goals, and spaces.
So, August, here you are. We made it!
A New School Year is for Maturing
A new school year is a perfect time to implement new growth areas. Each year I use it to my advantage in helping my kids grow and mature into more respectful and responsible human beings.
Some kids’ personalities have a natural drive to accomplish new things, others need a gentle push. I have a few of both. I’ve been in the parenting game long enough to know I can’t control my kids, and while manipulation or bribery may work, it won’t accomplish my long-term goals.
A few phrases I say often around our home are:
- “If you want more freedoms, show more responsibility.”
- “The more I trust you, the more fun you get to have.”
- “The more maturity you show, the more privileges you earn.”
Freedom’s Are Earned
I will not do age-based freedoms. Our family dynamics don’t allow for it (some days my seven-year-old shows more maturity than my thirteen-year-old). Maturity is an individual thing. I want my kids earning their freedom, not waiting around for their sixteenth or eighteenth birthday thinking it’s their ticket to freedom.
In our home, our kids have an 8pm bedtime. In the last year we’ve started being more lenient on weekends and holidays (always a privilege). If they want to stay up later they need to show respect (disrespectful kids don’t have the privilege of hanging out with me at night) & time management (waking up and getting ready for school without assistance).
The ball is in their court. I’m not going to give my kids the freedom to stay up until 10pm, and drag them out of bed in the morning or remind them to brush teeth, put on deodorant, and every thing else they need to do before leaving the house. If they want the freedom to stay up later then they need to show the maturity to do so.
Maturing isn’t automatic. Age doesn’t guarantee maturity. Maturing is a process each of us walk through. I’m convinced the younger we start, the easier it will be in the long run.
Currently my kids do dishes, laundry, trash, toilets, sweep/mop their rooms, mow the yard (and the neighbors), and so much more with the goal of doing the job well and with a good attitude.
My goal is that every year my kids take on more responsibility, and every time they do, they will earn and receive more freedoms. I hope to send my kids to college or marry them off knowing they can take showers, do laundry, handle a real grown-up job, and manage a bank account.
Entering Middle School
We have a middle schooler this year. He rides his bike two miles crossing a major intersection and riding down a busy street. It’s a new freedom and a new responsibility, and already in just one week, I see a lot of maturity. I also see a sense of accomplishment in him.For a mom, it’s really cool to watch.
Where freedom liberates us, responsibility empowers us. I think they work best hand-in-hand.
Soon we will put a cell pone in his backpack. It’s more for us than it is for him, and will be designated the “kid” phone for this season in our family. We don’t have a home phone and want an extra phone for when kids are home alone, or if they are at an outing, etc. It’s a new freedom, but it’s also a new responsibility. Parts of it are scary; parts of it are exciting.
I’m sure there will be new issues that arise in this new season, and new things we’ll learn, but it’s part of life and part of parenting. We all stumble and fall down when we’re learning to walk. Just get back up and try again. As parents, we’re here cheering them on.