I am a boy mom. I have three boys–6, 8, and 10 years old. They are each old enough to sweep, mop, start laundry, unload the dishwasher (I am far too picky to let them load it), and take care of pets and their own rooms, etc. Do they always do these things? No. In fact, they won’t ever do these things–even if I ask them to–unless they see me doing them also. The surest way to get my kids behind on their chores is to get behind on my own. As soon as I start to slack off even a little bit, they soon follow suit.

It is not fair to ask of others what you are unwilling to do yourself.

When penning this famous quote, Eleanor Roosevelt was referring to matters of state, but I think it can be carried into all aspects of life. Our willingness or unwillingness to do what is necessary makes a difference. In our homes, for instance, there is no question of what’s necessary. There are certain things that must be done to maintain a clean and efficient home. Household chores, school responsibilities, personal devotion, and more–these things all deserve attention by everyone in the home. How do we get our children to care though? Sometimes I think my three boys are completely blind to candy wrappers on the floor. If they can’t see a handful of them strewn from the living room to the kitchen, will they ever even notice if the floor becomes cluttered with trash, animal fur, and dirty laundry? I want them to notice the little stuff so that it doesn’t ever come to the big stuff!

Typical Responsibilities for Your Children

Household chores – keeping rooms tidy, helping with communal chores, yard maintenance, pet care

Schoolwork – homeschool tasks or homework, studying, extra-curricular activities

Personal development – prayer and devotion time, Bible memorization, scripture lessons

Letting Go

Oftentimes a parent fails to teach a child responsibility because of a fear of losing control. As parents, we like to get out the door on time so instead of waiting patiently for shoes to be tied with chubby toddler hands, we do it ourselves. We want to get dinner finished and on the table, so we don’t want the children to help us cook (and inevitably add 20 minutes or more to prep time). The problem with teaching responsibility to our youth today is that we want them to do what we say but we 1) don’t model it for them, 2) don’t give them opportunity to do things in their own way, and 3) we expect too much too soon.

What can you do at home to loosen the reins on responsibilities and give your children room to grow?

  • Consider letting them help make their own routine for the day
  • Schedule a family meeting each week to review tasks and discuss concerns and needs
  • Ask them what they’re interested in learning/doing around the house
  • Make school responsibilities a family affair (homework together at the table, extracurriculars, etc.)
  • Keep track of progress with a chore chart or other accountability system

What can you do at church to give your Sabbath School children room to learn and grow?

  • Get them involved in service as a group. Schedule a special music, children’s story, or special reading for your class to do together
  • Give incentives for the students who study their lesson or memorize their verses at home whether it’s stickers, treats, or a special party once per quarter
  • Challenge the kids to participate in local service opportunities as a family, a group, or individually

No matter if you’re at home or at church, you cannot expect the kids to take things seriously if you don’t. If your kids aren’t taking chores seriously, look in the mirror and see if you’re doing your share. If your church youth group isn’t participating as you envisioned, could it be because you yourself didn’t plan to result in a chaotic meeting that they also thought would go differently?

I have experienced seasons when my homeschool co-op class was chaotic despite good intentions, when my Adventurers told parents and grandparents they wanna stay home and watch t.v. despite snacks and songs and games, and when my Sabbath School students groan and moan about opening the Bible and finding a scripture.

At these times I have to stop and reflect on what I am doing. Children don’t come out of the womb walking, and if everyone in their life crawled on the floor, that’s all they would ever do. They walk because they see it done and it’s encouraged. Children don’t one day wake up and ask if they can do the laundry. They won’t just ask if they can take up offering at church (unless it’s modeled for them). Our children whether by birth or by God’s placement in your circle will not surprise you with sudden responsibility. I promise you that.

For ideas about getting the youth involved at your church check out this great article from Kernersville Adventist Church in North Carolina:

The Next Generation & Church Involvement