Sixteen Days: Kids' Systems Part 2

I'm sitting here at my desk, my eyes darting from the computer screen down our driveway because at any moment my youngest will emerge from a large yellow bus after her first day of public school in four years.  Red, heart-shaped Rice Krispy treats are sitting on a plate, I brewed myself a double-shot latte, and I cannot wait for our chat party to begin.

In the meantime, I will begin my post on Sixteen Days of Getting My House in Order ~ Kids' Systems Part 2 (you can read Part 1 here) but I may have to come back and finish later. 

But first, can I share my heart with you a moment?  After my last post in which I shared our family systems for Bible Reading, Memorization, and Prayer, I felt compelled to reassure your momma's heart in two areas:  Recipes and Realities.

By Recipes, I am referring to the Recipe (lie) we moms often believe that looks something like this:

    If I can protect and shelter my child,
+  if I am always positive with him/her, 
+  if I send him to Christian schools or home school her,
+  if I can provide the best possible childhood experience
= then my child will turn out well.

Can I let you in on a little secret?  This recipe is not true.  And here's why: Your children are  not passive receivers of your parenting (shaping).  In his book Shepherding a Child's Heart, Todd Tripp explains the concept this way:

"You must be concerned with providing the most stable shaping influences, 
but you may never suppose that you are merely molding passive clay.  
Clay responds to shaping; it either accepts or rejects molding.  
Children are never passive receivers...they are, rather, active responders....
Your children are responsible for the way they respond to your parenting"  (p. 32).

This truth set me free as a mom, and I pray it sets you free, too.  Just because I am reading the Bible to my children, just because we memorize Scripture together, just because they are completing their Faith Times, and just because we are praying together does not mean they are guaranteed to be great kids.  Yes, we as parents are responsible for the planting and shaping, but the wonderful truth is that we are NOT responsible for the outcome. The outcome (choice) is up to our children, and ultimately up to God. Your child's role in this process cannot, and should not, be minimized or overlooked.

So Woohoo!  You can do a little happy dance now because, Momma, the pressure is off! It's not all up to you.

And secondly, Reality.  My kids are selfish and use ugly tones in our house sometimes.  They fight over shotgun in the car.  One of my boys continually tries to convince me that "most of society does not make their beds so is my (his mom's) standard of bed-making overachieving, and therefore necessary?"  My youngest still cries when she doesn't get her way.  Faith Time is still a discipline, but not necessarily a delight....yet.  They grumble about work and are drawn way too often to electronics.

Why am I telling you this?  Because we are most definitely still in process around here.  Still in the shaping phase...the training phase.  But the good news?  I still have time with them!  I still have many, many days to continue planting...planting...planting....and I pray that one day my children will be "like trees planted by streams of living water, that bear fruit in due season, whose leaves do not wither and fade, and whatever they do will prosper" (Psalm 1:3)  No, there is no guarantee, but I will continue claiming God's word over them because that's what faith is: "The confidence of what we hope for, and the assurance of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1)

 So on that note, let's finish this post :)

Raking is easy, but all you get is leaves;
digging is hard, but you might find diamonds.
 ~ John Piper

1. Work
I have always been a firm believer in work for shaping character.  From the time our children were small they've been active participants in the functioning of our home.  From carrying laundry to the washer and unloading silverware from the dishwasher as preschoolers, to mowing the lawn, vacuuming, and scrubbing bathrooms as they've grown.  My kids have always worked best from to-do lists and will ask me to write one up of they have several things to accomplish at once.  Like me, they find satisfaction in checking tasks off as they complete them.

The last few years I've prepared a Daily or Weekly Task List in Microsoft Excel that we post on the fridge.  (This could also be a simple Microsoft Word document by inserting a Table for your grid and filling in from there.)  Here is a picture of the Weekly Task Chart currently posted in our kitchen:

Weekly Tasks Chart

This Task Chart changes every few months:  Sometimes because of changes in season (no snow removal in June), sometimes to swap chores around, and sometimes simply because the current one isn't working for us anymore.  One thing I love about our Daily Tasks Chart is it helps us keep the little things caught up (like sweeping the stairs and wiping the stainless appliances) that seem to need constant upkeep.  Assigned daily over the course of a week, these little things don't build up into huge messes, and the house feels cleaner on a daily basis as a result.

This fall, with all three kids in school (rather than homeschool), my daughter in a rigorous after-school gymnastics program, and my boys receiving more homework in their higher grades, I've tried to keep the chores to a minimum so no one gets overwhelmed.  My daughter will unload the dishwasher every morning before school since she will miss many dish duties in the evenings due to gymnastics. When my middle son starts wrestling in November, he may not be responsible for Mirrors/Bathroom Vanities anymore since he won't be home until late.  So, we tweak the Chart to flex with our lives.  I have it saved on my computer so changes are super easy to make as needed.

My boys have decided for the first time this year they would like to do supper dishes alone one week at a time, so one does the dishes this week on his own, but the next week he's free and clear while his brother takes over this task.  In the past they've always worked together, with their sister, so this is a change for us.  Why not let them own it?

Side note:  I believe it's important when training children to work that we make our expectations very clear, and then follow through.  I post index cards inside each bathroom cupboard listing all the tasks to be completed before the bathroom is DONE.  I also have a card posted in the kitchen listing each task to be completed before the evening dishes are DONE.  Following through after your kids have "completed" tasks takes extra effort and can be exhausting, but neither of my three are immune to cutting corners or forgetting tasks occasionally.  One thing my kids hear over and over is: Do Your Work with Excellence.  This comes from Colossians 3:23 which says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though for the Lord and not for man."

On the fridge above our Daily Tasks Chart, I've posted a quote and poem pertaining to work.  I love each of them because they so accurately voice the values of heart condition and excellence (and yes, I do have my children read this aloud to me if they need reminders.)

2.  Allowance
This is one area in which I have not felt consistently strong or successful, but hope to improve this year.  When our kids first began receiving small amounts of money for their contributions around the house, we desired to teach them about the value of work and wages based on 1 Timothy 5:18 where it says, "A worker is worthy of his wages."  We were diligent to train them in splitting up the money into three areas: Saving, Giving, and Spending.  As they've grown, I'm sorry to say we've grown lax in the area of financial training except for numerous practical conversations, in-the-moment planned/impulse purchase lessons, and letting them help with our monthly budget for a homeschool project one year.  On a good note, I've witnessed generosity in each of their hearts regarding Giving, and prudence in my older two regarding Saving, and this brings me joy.  However, financial management is a discipline (both physically and spiritually) that we must continue cultivating more specifically this year.

I stopped at our bank last week and learned that children under 16 can have a bank account with an associated ATM card.  Once they turn 16, that ATM card will then become a debit card as well (they will need to go into the bank to make this change and get a new card).  My oldest already has an account from working his first job last year, and has saved quite a chunk of money.  My younger two will be receiving ATM cards within the next week.  Because I've found myself getting more and more behind on distributing allowance due to not having ready cash in my wallet, I've decided to begin transferring their allowance directly into their accounts from ours, online, with a portion going into savings and the rest into the "checking" account.  At the end of the month, they will use their ATM to withdraw their Giving and Spending amounts as needed.

This is a new system for us, but the kids seem excited about it.  They will feel grown-up to have ATM cards of their own, but it remains to be seen if they like or don't like not having cash readily handed over.  We will probably tweak as we go.

I fully expect my two boys will be working jobs outside the home next summer, and we will determine at that point if allowance will still be part of their weekly income.  Training them in small amounts of money in our home will prepare them well when greater amounts begins rolling in down the road.

3.  Family Rules
Lastly, I wanted to share with you a list of our recently revised Family Rules.  Several months ago, I came across a list of family rules on the Duggar Family website and was struck by both their simplicity and their scope.  Although most of these rules we, too, have naturally synchronized into our own parenting and home, to see them listed out was inspiring to me for a few reasons.  One: These rules are loaded with Scripture truth.  Two: I think it's important to continually have in front of you a reminder of who you hope to be, where you hope to go, and how you're going to get there.   And three:  This list could serve as a wonderful tool in the home to speak aloud regularly, so we will be speaking them aloud together weekly.  As our Pastor said last week, and I wholeheartedly agree: "Things that are repeated get DONE."

Family Rules

Since posting these rules on our fridge (the fridge is a hardworking member of our home!), we've already used it several times to talk about giving a good report of others, not criticizing or blaming, and keeping a positive attitude. The kids and I read the list over together initially and I asked for feedback, primarily because, considering their older ages, I wanted them on board.  Their feedback was that they liked the rules, it was stuff they heard a lot anyway, and they felt they could agree with all of them.  (I was a bit dubious with "I will always be enthusiastic" and may still change this as I don't know if that's a necessary requirement at all times ~ goodness ~ but I appreciate the cheerful heart aspect of it). 

Shortly after our discussion, my youngest commented, with a somewhat dejected spirit,  "I'm glad we're going to say these rules out loud because I need to work on a lot of these things!"  Couldn't you just hug her right now?  I DID hug her, and assured her that we ALL need to continually be working on these things, not just her!  Praise the Lord that it's His power in us which enables us to live lives that bring Him glory.  In our own flesh, we are bound to fail.

So now it is late, my daughter and I have long since had our chat time, and she's tucked into bed.  I was going to comment on self-discipline in this post but think I will save that for another time.  I will close with this quote, though, which puts a wonderful spin on an often negative connotation of discipline.  May it encourage you today ~

Discipline is not at your back needling you with imperatives; 
it is at your side nudging you with incentives.

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