Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Nothing Comes Free

It seems I keep finding myself in casual conversations about whether or not I've taken my kids back to school shopping yet, or what they get, or how much, etc.

Then just the other day, my cousin from Arizona asked me about something she knew my family did from talking with her sister. I honestly don't know if it was from a passing comment on my blog or a comment from a phone conversation. But she asked if I would explain what my children's 'Summer Goals' were. She hasn't been the first to ask recently, so I thought I'd give a brief explanation.

Mike and I have never been quick to simply 'give' our children 'things'. (By things I mean tangible belongings, privileges, or a chore-free life.) I do have to give credit to Mike for setting this tone early on in our parenting. I remember clearly a day when Megan was just four years old and she was asked to do a fairly simple task in exchange for having a privilege of going somewhere special with me that evening. She did not do the task, but I allowed her to go with me after having her promise she would do it when we got home.

When we returned home, Mike was laying in bed in the next room. He kept quiet as I fought and pleaded with Megan to do the task as she had promised. I can't even remember if she eventually did it or not, but I do remember going to bed feeling frustrated and furious that she hadn't done as she said. Mike very kindly and tactfully said, "The reward was given first, what incentive did she have at all to do it?"

I've never forgotten that little lesson which set the major groundwork for our parenting style that continues today: You work and then you play and nothing in life is free.

(Oh dear, do we sound like slave-drivers already? We aren't, but sure we'll admit we have high expectations.) Life isn't fair, life isn't easy, and life isn't free, and we believe it is OKAY for children to learn those lessons young.

As I mentioned last month here, with Luke's horse lessons, we try our best to have our children take some ownership in what they do and what they get.

Mike and I balance each other well. Where I would say, "Kids, we're heading to the pool today." Mike will say, "We have the opportunity to go to the pool today. How will you earn it?"

Although with all our 'work for what you have/get' efforts, it seems the last few summers as a new school year approached, there was a natural inclination towards new shoes, new outfits, and new backpacks that somehow seemed to be dire needs to just be purchased with little thought. (Well except last Summer and bless Luke's heart in order to get new cowboy boots that exceeded the shoe budget amount, he faithfully did something like fifty homework sheets in a two week period!!)

I'm rambling.
Back to my cousin's request.

Though goals are nothing new to my children for working towards earning privileges or things, we decided to really enforce it this year for back to school clothes. It is based off of this idea here.

Generally, Mike and I have five areas we focus on with our children. Whether with goals, in conversations, or activities to participate in, etc., Mike and I try to be aware of the Financial, Spiritual, Physical, Mental, and Social well-being and progress of our children. One slow Sunday early in the summer, we sat our three oldest children down and with some guidance and suggestions from us, we asked them to make a couple of goals in each area and what they may want as rewards at the end. Each of them then decorated and designed their own posters displaying their 'Summer Goals.'
(We wanted to hang them in a prominent place in our home where they would be seen daily--our kitchen seemed the most logical--but to protect our children's privacy (and progress) from the 20-25 church members that parade through our home each Sunday for choir practice, they are in a more secluded location.)

Here's a little closer look at some of the specifics:

We do plenty of chores around here just because they have to be done, and there is no 'payment' or 'reward'. But this idea is about working towards something tangible that is desired.

We take effort and persistence into the final decisions--not just the end result. And around here, working on goals doesn't end because school starts. If you want something... you have to earn it. Our children are more than welcome to show us what goals they have accomplished and see what they may be able to get in exchange for it. And of course there are times the completion of a goal is nothing more than personal satisfaction... you don't always get something for everything.


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