Responsibility Training

"Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)

Our God-given role as parents is to use the 18 or so years that He has given us with our children under our care, and train them up to be fully functioning, independent, responsible adults.  In my family, we call this Responsibility Training.  As a child becomes developmentally capable (both physically and emotionally) of handling a task related to her own care, we give her the responsibility for that task, even if it means messes and tears and mistakes that require correction and redirecting along the way, as she learns to master the task required of her.  It takes a lot more work to parent this way, but in the long run, I believe you end up with a well-adjusted, high functioning child who is better prepared to face the world beyond the protection of home.

A general timeline for some aspects of Responsibility Training:
1) Sleep -- one of the first things you can give your child is the responsibility of putting herself to sleep.  We started this from the very beginning with Smooch.  Of course, those first few days, all she did was sleep (we had to wake her up to feed her), but once she started having more active 'awake' time, then we instituted the Babywise sleep training method of feeding, awake time, then sleep.  We would put her to bed, drowsy, but awake, and allow her to work out whatever she needed to in order to fall asleep, even if it meant fussing for a little while.  I explain this in more detail in "20 Minutes of Grace."

Smooch at play-
generally means a lot of messes!
2) Entertainment -- sometimes as early as 1 month but definitely by 3 months, a baby is beginning to take notice of her surroundings and interact with her environment.  We gave Smooch moments of time where Mommy & Daddy were not interacting with her, but she had toys available to look at, and eventually begin to grab for (moments at first, then extending to 5-10 minutes, then gradually to longer periods of time).  By 5-6 months, Smooch had a regular 30 minutes (or so) of Independent Play time, where I would be nearby (on the couch with a book, or in the kitchen doing dishes/ baking),  not directly interacting with her, but available to intercede if she got herself into a pickle.

3) Feeding -- once a baby starts on solid food, usually around 6 months, you can give her the responsibility of feeding herself.  By this age, she has already begun to master the skill of grabbing for things, and is beginning to fine-tune her pincer grasp (thumb & forefinger).  Picking up food is an excellent skill-building task.  With Smooch, we started on soft foods like avacado and sweet potato in small chunks that she could grasp but wouldn't choke on.  It took several days of trying before she began to figure it out, but eventually, she got it.  Allowing her to feed herself as often as possible meant that by 9 months, she was completely transitioned to table food, and we could simply give her small portions of whatever we were eating.  When the food being served did not lend itself to finger food (ie. yogurt, applesauce, etc), we certainly used utensils with her, and when she showed an interest, would allow her to grasp the spoon/ fork and put it into her own mouth.  At about 11 months, she began trying to scoop the food out of the bowl herself, and even though it makes a royal mess, I still let her try as often as she wants.  Its a learning process, and it doesn't come easy, but she's getting it.

Silly girl!  Pants don't go
on your head!
4) Dressing -- it may seem very early, but at 1 year, I am already beginning to give Smooch some responsibility in getting dressed.  She is very good at pushing her hands through the sleeves, as well as taking off her shirt when getting undressed (she does this herself).  She has begun to offer her foot for pants, socks and shoes, and is currently infatuated with trying to put on her own hats, socks, shoes, even the occasional sleeper, although the hat is the only things she's had real success at yet.  I even let her choose between 2 options for shirts or pants when we are getting dressed.  We are still in the beginning phases of this, but as she grows, I will hand it over to her more and more.  I'll do this at the sacrifice of my own 'reputation' -- "what is that mother thinking, dressing her like that?" -- even if it means she leaves the house in mismatched clothes, or her fancy party shoes that are not comfortable for walking.  Its part of the process, as she learns about the functionality and social acceptedness of fashion.

5) and beyond... I hope you begin to see the pattern here... as the child grows, you give them more responsibility.  Clearing their own plate from the dinner table, cleaning up their toys when they are finished playing, making their bed each morning, eventually leads to adding chores to the list, showing them how it is their responsibility to be an active member of the family, caring for the house and for each other.  When they are older, you can even add things like being in charge of their own laundry, and being responsible for 1 dinner a week for the family, making their own lunch for school, etc.

"Incidentally, all of this requires parental awareness of what their role actually is. Parenting is not about being in control of everything in your children's lives.

A good parent understands that there are about eighteen years in which to equip children with the knowledge and skills that will carry them through the rest of their lives.

Spending too much of this time as boss will mean that your job will never be done—an unhappy outcome for all."
(excerpt from Growing Child 'Grandma Says'

No comments:

Post a Comment