(Photo by Selma Komisky)
Partnering With Our Kids
By Michelle Ochen
There is a common phrase that goes around our home, “If you want to be a part of the family, you need to be a part of the family.” Meaning, if you want to participate in the partnership of our family life you need to take part in the things that make up a family—you need to pitch in and do your part in the daily demands of the family. Families help one another. Families care for one another. Families work together towards a common goal. If you want to enjoy a genuine family then you need to engage in the responsibilities that make up the family life.
My children are young and I am a single mom, so the concept of needing help from my older son is just part of life. I will drain myself if I try to do everything all the time alone; nor is that the way it is supposed to be. I am not alone, I have two children and myself that make up our home, so if each of us pulls the load that we are able to pull, we can partner together and make more opportunities and energy to do fun things together. If I were to pull the full weight of things that my five-year-old is very capable of helping to pull, I would be left empty at the end of every day, too tired to even read that bedtime story, but if we together pull through the nightly tasks, we are working together as a family and giving way for more memorable time to be spent in the pages of a book or listening to an audio story together.
Partnership with our children is a choice. Many parents choose to do everything for their children, and many would even see it as sacrificial. However, I would like to propose the idea of partnership with our children as a parenting strategy and technique as it gives way to teach your child how to do more, and how to utilize their help to be a blessing to you. In times past and even currently in many cultures, children are expected to be equal partakers in the chores of the home and the daily tasks of family life. I lived within Uganda for years of my life and saw older siblings responsible for their younger siblings each day. It was not uncommon for the older sister to be feeding the baby, the middle child washing the laundry, while the mother would cook or be out making a profit for the family. Our western culture, I believe, has lost the art of the idea of partnering with our children in the daily tasks of life. While our children are gazing at a screen, they could be in the kitchen helping with the nightly chores or learning how to chop vegetables, or washing the dishes.
I want to propose a challenge in this article for any parent reading or for the future parents reading that you allow your children to be partners with you in the responsibilities of family life that are appropriate for them to take part in. Certainly, there are specific tasks that I call “mommy only jobs” and they need their time to be carefree children enjoying time to play, there must be balance. They cannot balance the checkbook or pay the bills, but there are many things within the course of family life that they are capable of doing and that they may find joy taking part in, such as bringing in the groceries from the car, cleaning off the table, setting out the plates for food, sorting laundry, etc. Being truly a part of a family means taking part in the family tasks of life.
As parents, we hold the commitment to our children in the family that no matter what we will love them and call them our own, that is our responsibility. When a child is young, they need your sacrificial care and giving without returning much more than smiles and giggles. Yet as they grow and mature their abilities to give back more are available and should be utilized to teach them their part in the partnership of family. My youngest is still in a place of needing much from me, but my eldest is able to be my helper—it is an act of love to teach him how to be that helper and teach him of his role in the family partnership. The lessons he begins to grasp now will grow up in him, preparing him to be a leader in his own family partnership one day.
What are some practical ways that you could begin today to partner with your children?