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Bumping up the Expectations - Issue 125
October 31, 2009
Hi there! ....

This week the kids had the opportunity to work with Peter picking and packing mangoes. They are at it again today. There are all sorts of learning going on in such a situation: working hard, business, systems, co-operation, perseverance to list a few. Great stuff!

This week Jessica has also worked on a magazine project that I am responsible for. It has been great to see her step into the typesetting/layout/graphic areas of this project. It has left me free to be able to continue with lessons with Nomi and Daniel, especially reading lessons for Daniel.

Nomi has taken up ironing. The three oldest all do their own ironing but doing my ironing, now, that is something you get paid for!! Nomi is saving up for some audio stories.

I had a wonderful Friday this week – we decided to stay home and just do what needed to be done. While the kids worked on various projects I managed to spend most of the day creating with paper and digital scrapbooking. The house just hummed along with productivity. I wish we could have more days like that!

Live life with your kids!



Bumping up Expectations

One of the challenges we face as parents when we have more than one child is to keep each individual child challenged and growing in all that we train them in – be it chores, their school work, their unique talents or in their moral understanding. It is so much easier to lump the children together (especially if they are close in age) and expect the same of them. Though this may work for a season, in the long run we need to train each individual child.

Though our children may look like they are doing well, coasting is as effective as sliding backwards. We need to assess the situation, take stock on how our children are going with their relationships, responsibilities, personal growth, talents, and school work. We want our children to be always growing in their skills and understanding.

  • Are their actions age appropriate? Or even more importantly are they appropriate for what your child can achieve?
  • Do they have the skill down pat? Do they have the moral understanding to match? (Often skill comes first and then the moral understanding, but we need to teach the moral as diligently as we teach the practical.)
  • Can they do the whole task? Or have you broken it down to small parts and only taught the first part. (e.g. they can clean the bathroom bench, but you haven’t taught them to clean the toilet yet, so the whole skill of keeping the bathroom clean is not yet complete.)

Once you assess an area where more needs to be done, then it is up to us as parents to put in the training. Training consists of us showing them what is right, teaching and instructing, helping them to practice, and then, only then, can we expect them to show change in their life.

Let’s recap that training sequence:

  • Show - live by example
  • Teach and Instruct
  • Practice
  • Expect

So how to bump up the levels of responsibility in your home?

It is so much easier to rely on the oldest child because they can do it – but we need to be training each of our children. Ever since Daniel was born I have been challenged with the idea that it is my responsibility to train each child. My older ones can help me with my younger ones, but ultimately it is my responsibility. I heard Greg Harris talk about this once. He started by sharing how much more responsible and able first-borns tend to be. He asked himself why this is so. His observations where that when our first-borns are toddlers and preschoolers and cry, we come running and we help them deal with the “crisis” – we teach them to handle disappointment, frustration, and hurt. But by the time our fourth comes along and they cry we send big brother to go and help them. Big brother then helps them deal with disappointment, frustration and hurt. Big brother can only help to the level of his maturity and therefore the youngest are being trained to a lower level of maturity and expectation. First-borns also tend to have a higher level of vocabulary, and this is attributed to the amount of time the first-born has in adult conversation and attention. This is all very challenging.

Here are a few keys that I have found help me bump up my younger ones:

  • Do the training myself – make time for it to happen. I need to remember that training is more than just instructions. It takes time and attention. When the child hits the instruction and practice stages it takes my time.
  • When I have a task that needs doing I ask the youngest able child, instead of always relying on the oldest
  • When I am about to do a task myself I ask who needs to be trained in this task, or who needs the practice, and I have them working along side of me

It is challenging though to balance everyone’s training; for though the oldest may not be the best person to train the youngest they are still along the pathway to maturity. How do we keep training so many different levels of need in our family?

  • Break down a skill into progressive steps and know where each child is at in that progression. Instruct, practice and expect each child to their level of development. If we don’t grow our children’s abilities they get frustrated and this in itself brings a whole pile of behavioural challenges. Our children thrive on responsibility (if they have been taught!)
  • Understand that heart issues (moral understanding, character training) are also progressive. Each child will express a different level of the same character trait. You can work on the same trait in different situations throughout your day eg you can work on self control when you are at the dinner table, grocery shopping, visiting friends or watching a video but expect each child to respond differently. (e.g. if working on determination, a younger child will be working on ‘not giving up’ while an older child may be working on ‘setting goals’.)
  • We need to instruct our younger children, and question our older ones. Once our children understand what is expected of them they no longer need our lecture or reminder, instead we need to question them which tells us they understand but also gives them an opportunity to verbally commit to doing the right thing.

Our responsibility as a parent is to continue to teach and train each of our children, to increase their level of ability and responsibility. We cannot let the older ones get staid by holding them back to the level of the younger ones, neither can we stunt the younger ones by always relying on the older ones. This is not an easy task as a parent, but if we are intentional about it we will get in the habit of seeing each child’s needs and working on them.




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Until next week

Belinda Letchford
Living life with her kids in Australia!


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