This is a guest post from Bolton Carley.
Summer’s here. Your kids are home. You’ve stocked up on wine, but don’t want to be the bad parent that comes off as a drunkard. Need something to keep the kids busy so you can sneak a drink or a nap? I have solutions, and it all starts with one little word: responsibility. Now, you may be thinking “Great. More work for me.” What you should be thinking is: “Yes! They won’t be living in my basement in 15 years!”
So how do you do it? Easy. Give them jobs/chores/work without them realizing they’re jobs/chores/work! It’s all in the approach. Sugar-coat it in “I can’t believe how old you’re getting!” Nothing makes kids want to do stuff more than being told they’re finally old enough to do something, or you’re not sure they’re old enough to do something but you’re willing to let them try and see how it goes. Then they’re out to prove themselves. And you have to start that mentality early!
So where do you start? You start with what you know about your child. Are they video game heads? Energizer bunnies? Food lovers? Outdoorsy types? Find your angle and go from there.
You can use this with any kid, but especially if you have a video game head, start by asking them to plan the family summer vacation. Give them dates, a budget, and the rules about how they must make stops at places for each family member’s interests. They will love research on the internet. They will be learning about money. They will be considering all family members. They will be learning the keys to planning. Tell them you expect them to find gas costs, time spent driving, hotels along the way, prices to get into venues, etc. You may be thinking your 10-year-old can’t do all that, but they can. The best part? You don’t have to do it! (And it doesn’t have to stop there, you can then put them in charge of getting everyone packed, emailing the driving directions to your phone, etc.)
Food – the best 4-letter word
Not taking a vacation? No worries. Talk food. Never met a kid who didn’t have an opinion about food! Tired of making a lunch or supper plan? Have your child do it. Have them look up recipes on the internet and plan suitable family menus for the week (if you’re worried about it being too complicated, say they have to find dishes with 4 or less ingredients). Be sure to have them set the table and prep some of the food with you and measure. (These are life skills, my friend!) Take it a step further and have them cut out the coupons or figure out the price matching to buy the food. Just be sure to explain that money is tight and food takes up a fifth of your budget, and you do it so there’s more money for their sports gear or whatever.
Explaining the reasons for what they’re doing makes kids want to be part of the team (and it means you don’t have to waste your time doing it!!!!). Or if you really want to teach them something about food, and you have room or your family likes fresh produce, have your child look up what grows best in your area, or how long it takes to grow certain vegetables and have them be in charge of a garden in your back yard from buying to planting to harvesting. Tell them you want lots of selfies of each part of the process. They will eat it up (literally and figuratively)!
The Game of Life
Need something even simpler? Have your kid plan a family game night. Put them on the task of rounding up games, getting snacks out, getting drinks ready, clearing off a table to play, inviting all the family members, etc. Sure, it sounds cheesy, but kids love to be in charge. They don’t realize they are learning organization and management skills, too, but you do.
Or do you have something you’ve been procrastinating on like 500 pictures sitting on your hard drive from last year’s vacation? Have your child put together photo albums on-line and find the discount codes for ordering them. They will love messing with the backgrounds, adding captions, etc. that you just don’t have time for. Plus, you will always have your child’s version of the trip to keep with you! (P.S. – this works with photos from each sports season, too.)
And I’m certainly not above putting kids on laundry detail. Thinking you can’t make that look like a privilege of being older? Explain to your child how you remember your mom teaching you and how she didn’t want to send you to college to turn everything pink and now you’re passing on the torch. (Approach, approach, approach!) Think of the hours it will save you if they are in charge of laundry for everyone!
Okay, so you’re thinking this will take a lot of prep on your part or you’re thinking I obviously don’t know your children if I think this is going to work. Fine. You win, but I have one last suggestion I know you’re going to like: pack them up and send them to a relative!
Ship ‘em out – way out!
That’s right. When they say they are bored for the 95th time in an hour, suggest they call grandma and grandpa or Auntie Megan and ask to visit. Now, you do need to check with your family beforehand and see if they are game before you offer up the idea, but if they are, let your kid handle it. Have them call. Tell them they need to ask what the rules will be when they get there and be willing to follow them. Have them find out what to pack and then pack. Have a little peace and quiet for yourself! If it goes well, you can keep sending them. If it goes poorly, they may at least appreciate you more! Either way, you get a little break, too, and no work for you other than perhaps a little drive. Woo-hoo!
Bottom line: the best thing you can do for you and for your child is teach them independence. You may love your child, but do you want to send them out into the world with a cell phone and penchant for calling mommy and daddy to take care of it? No. So remember: the early bird gets the worm, or at least an empty nest!
Have some more ideas that work for you or resources for these projects? Think I’m crazy? Share your thoughts with us!
Bolton Carley’s Bio:
As a self-proclaimed herder of cattle, kids, and words, Bolton Carley is a blogger, writer, photographer, and farmer’s daughter living in Bellevue, NE. Check out her humorous life lessons blog, follow her on Twitter, or for all things funny, go to her Facebook page.