This post originally appeared March 12,2013
In speaking with some Moms, I have often mentioned that one of the goals for my children is for them to be able to run the house by the time they are 12. Aside from the fact that I am inherently lazy and want them to do all my work, I do have a Scriptural basis for this objective. (Wouldn't ya just know it) When Jesus was 12, His parents left him at the Temple and He was able to fend for Himself for three whole days. (Now, don't be too hard on Mary for forgetting one of her children. I figure that by the time Jesus was 12, she probably had quite of brood of kiddos. And I can completely understand not realizing one was missing. If I were planning to leave one, though, I'd have left somebody other than Jesus. Just sayin.
Anyhow, during this time, Jesus found somewhere to stay, figured out how to get Himself something to eat, and stayed out of trouble. I know, I know - He is GOD and this would've undoubtedly made the job easier. As in He could have turned rocks into bread or Rocky Road ice cream. But work with me, here. Nothing in Scripture is there for "fluff" so I think there are lots of things to be gleaned from this passage. (Luke 2:39-51) And one such lesson just might be to give us a standard for age appropriate maturity. So what are we to do with this information?
That's the basis for my "be able to run the house by age 12" goal.
One of my friends asked me if I have a literal list to work from. I don't but that sounds like a great idea. Especially since Betsy is on the cusp of 12. I need to be sure I have my (her) bases covered.
Here are some of the things I try to accomplish with the kids - mostly life skill kind of stuff. I'd love to hear what kinds of things you train your children in,as well.
1. Housework. I grew up rather indulged, I suppose - we didn't live in the lap of luxury but we did have help with housework. (Think of the book The Help. I grew up in the South in the 60's. This was normal). Which means I didn't know a thing about housework when I left home. I survived college w/o learning much in this area, either - apologies to the roomies!) When I got married, I was shocked that the toilets got dirty and the floorsresembled a Science experiment. Gone bad. I eventually figured out that if there is a House Fairy, it must be moi. So I had to learn how to clean - including WHAT to clean (still working on that - for instance, I went more years than I shall ever admit before knowing that the back of the fridge was supposed to be cleaned routinely. oops) Fast forward a few years -- Hints from Heloise will never ask me to do a guest column but we are no longer living in filth over here. No need to be sure guests are up to date on their shots before entering our home. We are plugging along pretty well. And my children are able to vaccum, clean a kitchen and bathrooms, mop, dust, and do laundry. We have a weekly system where certain chores are done on certain days. You can do whatever works for you. This is so ingrained into our family that each child will probably report to their adult jobs and expect that on Mondays and Fridays the custodial staff will be cleaning toilets!
We worked up to this gradually, of course. They began emptying trash cans and unloading the silverware caddy at age 2. Great activity for sorting skills! Moved up to dusting and putting clothes away (admittedly, I have low standards for what they look like most days!) By 9 or so, they should be able to do their own laundry (sorting, washing, drying, and putting away) and by 10, my youngest began doing the laundry for all of us.
2. Cooking. Ibid from the housework saga. I went from my home to the sorority house to apartment life where "cooking" meant a microwaved baked potato. I can't blame this on my Mom - she is a fabulous cook but my only interst in culinary things was to consume them. This changed when I got married. My husband thought food on the table was a reasonable expectation. So I learned...am learning. And I am teaching my girls and my boy to be able to cook at least some basics. This not only benefits them later in life -- this is an advantage now. If Mom is away, they won't starve. Especially if the pantry is stocked with ramen noodles! (Just to give you perspective on what children are capable of -- one day when I visited my friend Ladells, her 9 and 10 year old were making homemade bread and a lemon meringue pie from scratch. Uh yeah.)
3. BASIC yardwork. Ok, so my girls rarely cut the grass but they did and they can if they have to. Personally, I love 2 hours alone in the sun on the lawn tractor!!! M boy has pretty much assumed all the grass mowing responsibilities and they all know about picking up sticks, spreading pine straw, and some other things that Dad trains them to do. Yardwork is still not my spiritual gift....
4. Cars - this is not a "by age 12" accomplishment but I will mention it here since I don't have a "by age 16 " list. My husband makes sure they (we...) all understand about oil changes and flat tires and basic maintenance. I just know that I am to call him when certain lights come on. :)
5. Personal finance. We give allowances beginning at age 2. 10 pennies, all laid out by each tiny finger. Then deposited into 3 pickles jars marked "save", "spend", and "give". We aren't legalistic about the amount -- something just has to go into each jar. The "save" jar cannot be touched until time to buy a car. (Talk about a lesson in delayed gratification!) The "spend" jar is for whatever they want and the "give" can be for church or a parachurch ministry that they want to support. By age 10 or so, they are responsible for paying for gifts for family bdays and Christmas and by age 12, they pay for gifts for friends, most optional activities, and a portion ofthings like summer camps. Also around age 12/13, we turn over a portion of our clothes budget to them and they are responsible for their own clothes purchases. (At 15/16, they can open a checking account and we set them up with our Merrill Lynch friend to introduce them to Investing 101)
6. Personal hygiene. This may sound duh but I actually know some folks whose 12 year olds cannot take their own shower, wash their own hair or remember to use deoderant. Kids should be able to do this. So be sure they can!!!
7. Personal schedules. By at least age 10, they need to get themselves up and ready in the mornings w/o your help, As in, set their own alarm clock. If they get up to too late to style their hair and consequently have to go to church as status quo, they won't do it again. (I know it goes w/o saying that we are not to be late in order to accomodate them but I can't help myself. We are not to be late in order to accomodate their slothfulness. There. I had to say it.) Also in the area of personal schedules, my children put their activites on the master calendar in the kitchen. They know they cannot trust me to remember all they are supposed to do so thisis in their best interest. :)
8. Relational skills. They need to be able to answer the phone properly. Actually, this is required at our house by age 5. We work for the phone company, ya know!! They need to be able to issue an invitation, respond to an invitation (can I get an AMEN from anyone who has tried to plan for a party but half the folks don't know what RSVP means???), make introductions, write TY notes, (personally, I believe this is a requirement for admission through the Pearly Gates but perhaps I am overreacting...), and handle inquiries/complaints/suggestions with authorities. They need to be able to order for themselves at restaurants, check out books at the library alone, and handle purchases at checkout. They need to be able to carry on (pleasant) conversations with those above and below their peer group. (oh, and by about age 3/4, they need to know what to do if they are lost - including giving their name, and Mom's cell number.)
Brief commercial -- this aspect of training my children has been GREATLY enhanced by my friends Debra Lassiter, Cindy Haygood, and April Mclean. They run a progam called Perfectly Polished. It is stellar. Especially for those of us who are "terribly tarnished". I suggest you check it out. And tell 'em I sent you :)
How can you tell if your child has "gotten it"? One hint is when they do what they are supposed to do without being reminded. When you see that happening, celebrate by having a nice cold one. Tab, that is. And if, all on their own, they notice something that needs to be done - and then they do it without being asked - well, then you can check yourself into a nice spa for the weekend. You have arrived!!
Wow. I am reminded once again that training children is alot of work and is a job that we all need to be sure we take seriously. I have been so blessed to get to "do life" with a bunch of folks that are doing a mighty good job at it. That surely helps my parenting, ya know what I mean??
My friend that inquired about the existence of a list is uber-organized and accomplished. She will probably take these ideas and turn them into a beautiful laminated and well-laid out "Growing to Maturity" chart. She's just awesome that way. The oldest of her 5 is 9. I couldn't bring myself to tell her that I clearly recall when my firstborn turned 9. I had myself a good cry over the realization that, in the length of time I had been her Mom, she would be gone. Nope, I didn't tell my friend Christy that. Too sad. Especially since hers might do what mine did - and leave a whole year early. If I had known that then, I would surely have needed medication.