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Specific ProblemsMore on Older Children
Ephesians 4:26 "If you are angry, don't sin by nursing your grudge. Don't let the sun go down with you still angry-- get over it quickly;" (TLB)

Resolving conflicts

I really don't think that at the magical age of 13 or 14 or whatever, all children just have this "need" to be more independent. We all have that urge at all ages, don't we? If it seems stronger at one time than another, I'd guess there is something else going on that needs to be resolved.

With a 13 year old, for example, I'd guess: 
Maybe the parents have been too controlling or oppressive.
Maybe the child has already been given TOO MUCH freedom.
Maybe there is an outside influence coming from school, friends, church, books, TV, or music, etc.
Maybe there is a personal gripe against the parents that has never been
resolved (bitterness).
Maybe the child has never really respected the parents in the first place.
Maybe the parents haven't been respecting the child.
Maybe the parents have not instilled a love for "family" and the idea of "mutual respect", etc.

That's just some things that come to my mind when I hear about a young person with an uncooperative and aloof spirit.

By the time my kids are this age I no longer spank. If an issue comes up, we talk. Usually, if I have a complaint about their behavior or attitude, a brief lecture/talk is all that is needed. If they have a complaint about a sibling, etc, they come to me and we talk and then I talk to the sibling if needed.  Or, I encourage the complainant to make the change if needed. If they have a complaint against me (example: "I always get all the work around here......"), then I sit down with the complainant and we talk, politely and considerately, until the issue is resolved. I go to them if I think there is anything bothering them.

That last paragraph is the key. No matter what the issue is, you must talk UNTIL THE ISSUE IS RESOLVED. I guess that's one of my underlying mottos. It's sort of like "Don't let the sun go down on your anger". If the anger is your child's anger then it is still up to you to be sure the issue is resolved "in the day that you hear of it".

Now what do I mean by "resolved"? I don't mean that you settle it by forcing your will on your stubborn child. I don't mean that you strike a bargain. I don't mean that you give in to keep the peace. I mean, that you discuss the issue until you are both in agreement on what is the good and right course of action and attitudes to have. You both must do right and you both must agree. No quitting until the issue is resolved.


Seven year old won't repent

Question: Hello, I'm new, will try to post an intro later. We have 4 at home, out of 6. The 4 at home are a boy 11, girl 9, boy nearly 7, girl 4. The problem is with the 7 yo boy. He has been very jealous of the 11 year old boy for some time. The older boy naturally is able to do more things, etc. One example--our oldest son, before the 7 year old was born, gave all his legos to the middle son. The youngest son only sees that the middle son has more legos than he does. We explained that the oldest gave them to him before we even knew he was born--it doesn't matter. The 11 year old naturally eats more--he is in a growth spurt--the 7 yo only sees that he gets more food--The 11 yo had the top bunk--again, a problem. 

He has developed very bad behavior as a result. He will suddenly scream (very shrill) when angry. He will accuse the 11 yo of things he did not do. Once he is angry, he is very out of control, screams, yells, is rude to me, runs away from me, etc.

It is hard to detail everything. The other 5 children are very obedient, rarely have had to spank any of them past the toddler age. This one is still being spanked almost daily--again, he only sees that the 11 year old is not being spanked and he is, and this makes things worse. We explain that the 11 yo does not do anything to get spanked and the 7 yo does. It does not compute with him.

Yet, he is often very sweet, loving and otherwise obedient. However, when he is not, I am often spending nearly an hour with him. I'm trying to make certain to spend time "tying strings" with him.

Any ideas for how to get through to him that the 11 yo is not our favorite? No one else thinks he is, not even the 11 yo. The 11 yo is very patient with his brother, does not try to get back at him, despite all he is put through. 

Also, how to deal with the yelling and out of control behavior. He seems to care less about spanking, or any type of punishment. He yells loudly during the spanking, but it seems to be more anger than anything. He is never repentant. The spankings hurt, I know, because I've accidentally hit myself with the rod and it is bad--I've give up if I were at the receiving end. We use the Pearls recommended rod--a thin plastic plumbing line that is very flexible.

This is all I have time to post--any help is appreciated, and prayers, especially!

Answer: It sounds like overall you are doing very well with your children and this son is a unique problem. 

I think I would cut back on the spankings. It's not that I think no 7yo should ever be spanked, it is because you appear to know what you are doing (as evidenced by your other children not needing to be spanked much after toddlerhood), yet still he is not responding. You say that he is "never repentant". If the spanking is not bringing repentance (even though you are doing it correctly - and most people aren't) then I think you should stop and try something else. He is an angry child already and he's just going to add spanking to his list of perceived injustices and become more bitter and angry.

You need to do something that will get to his heart and his conscience. Maybe something that is slow and time-consuming. Do not think in terms of "punishment". As long as he thinks that he can act up and just receive a "punishment" without really changing his mind, then he's going to keep it up. The real idea behind spanking and most other discipline is to get repentance - a change in spirit that leads to a change in action. This change is the most important thing and it sounds like it's not happening with this child. 

What happens when you talk to him? The Bible says not to let the sun go down on your anger. I take that to mean that you MUST resolve differences and bitterness and anger immediately - "in the day you hear of it". Your son is not doing this (as you know). I think you need to work on this area.

I think I would move to a type of tomato staking combined with talking and grieving. The next time he acts up, separate him from his brother. Have him sit quietly on a chair near you. This is not a "Time Out". Classic "Time Outs" assume that the child can't help his angry outburst and just needs time to calm himself down. That is wrong and not the purpose here anyway. What we are aiming at is "reflection". Somehow you have got to get this child thinking aobut what he has done wrong. 

Do not send him to his room for this. Without supervision he will just be nursing his grudge and becoming more bitter.

Okay now, once you have him sitting down, just have him sit there being quiet for a while. Then I'd make calm, serious attempts to talk to him. Don't try to "talk him into" better behavior. Don't plead with him or whine at him. Have a serious, sober attitude. Dwell on your disappointment with his attitude. Dwell on the concepts of what he is doing wrong. Dwell on his wrong thoughts. Ask thought provoking questions: "Do you know why you are sitting here? Do you think it is acceptable to get angry like that? Would you like it if Dad got angry like that? How do you think you should act when something happens that you don't like?". Focus on his attitude toward his brother: "Do you think you have the right attitude toward your brother? Do you think the things you are saying about him are true? Do you think it is right to expect everything your brother has? Do you think you deserve every he has even though you are 4 years younger? What do you think God thinks about a brother who is selfish and angry at his brother all the time? What do you think I should do about your attitude? What do you think you need to do about your attitude?"

I hope you get the idea here. Don't whine at him. Act disappointed and sober and serious. Watch for any sign of repentance. Drag this out and don't let him get distracted. He should not be talking to anyone or playing. Just have him sit at the table and be bored. After you talk a bit, just make him sit them some more. Try to avoid getting too involved in other things yourself. You can clean the kitchen and take care of necessary things, but leave the impression that you are thinking (grieving) about the situation with him all the time. After a while come back and sit down and talk some more with him. Don't expect in-depth responses from him, just a change in attitude. Look for him to realize that he is wrong. If you don't get that, then keep him sitting there until you do. 

Now once you get this at least to a small extent, then you can move to a sort of tomato staking. Keep him will you as your assistant 100% of the time. (Or sitting at the table ALONE, doing his schoolwork with your supervision.) Explain to him that he has to earn the privilege of being allowed to play with his siblings. Explain that if he can not love all his siblings equally then he can not have the privilege of playing with any of them. Say these things with a quiet, sober and disappointed attitude. If you get angry you will just be giving him an excuse to feel he is in the right.

Personally, I would keep this up until there was a really change in his attitude, whether it took days or weeks. I'd keep looking at his heart and working at the root issue. If it works then slowly release him but go right back to it at the first hint of a problem. 

I want you to know that I don't have experience with this type of child to this extent, although many children go through the same thing occasionally, so I am giving you my best guesses based on what I "think" I would do. You know him best, so don't be afraid to use your own good judgment. Forget the "punishment" and focus on getting to his heart.

Here is one of the verse I remind my children of at times like this: 

Prov 6:16-20
16 For there are six things the Lord hates-- no, seven: haughtiness, lying, murdering, plotting evil, eagerness to do wrong, a false witness, sowing discord among brothers.

I try to instill in them a love for their siblings and also humility, which should prevent sibling rivalry. If this is a chronic problems with your son, the solution will probably take a long time as well. Don't give up.

P.S. I don't want to overlook the "tying heartstrings" issue. Keep that up, it is tremendously important.

Teens with bad attitudes

Question: I finished reading the articles on this site and realize I need to retrain my older children but I do believe they are too old for spanking. I just am at a loss as to what to do exactly. They are 15,13, and 12 years old.

My biggest issues with these are attitude. The oldest has a long face, feet dragging whenever she is told to do something. When I am speaking to her about something she has done wrong, she gets this look on her face and will answer in a monotone that is pure attitude. The next two fight constantly and will back talk or mumble when told to do something. I will speak to them and have them do extra work, but I just feel this isn't working. I appreciate any advice you can give me.

Answer: Ugh. Retraining older kids. I've never had to do that, so I'm only telling you what I "think" I would do. 

Since I've been at this childrearing thing for awhile with a method that's working, I would first suggest trying to aim at that working model. First I'd change the things that are fairly easy to change and are VERY important. Outside influences come to mind first. If your children are hanging around with other kids who are muttering against their parents behind their backs, then your kids are going to be justifying it to themselves too. If they are watching bad, or so-called good tvs shows where the kids are allowed to talk back to the parents, then they are going to think that's "normal" and feel they have a right to do it to you too. Remove those influences and replace them with more of you. Not just more entertainment, but more time including them in your adult life doing the things that you do and helping learn how to make the decisions you make.

Secondly, there is an underlying problem here that has to do with what your children believe. Obviously, if they aren't treating you with respect, then they DON'T RESPECT YOU. They believe that they are just as important as you are. How did it get that way? What went wrong? Have you been tolerating a little "huffing" here and some "backtalk" there? That's got to change. I don't mean to just get totally angry and dictatorial with them, but you MUST draw a line in the sand and make it VERY clear to them that they may NOT EVER cross that line. Certainly, talking back crosses the line. A bad attitude crosses that line.

Another, less obvious underlying problem with older kids, seems to be that they haven't transitioned into adult type thinking yet. They think like self-centered children, not like adults focused on the needs of OTHERS outside of themselves. A better attitude does NOT just happen. Don't just wait for them to start being unselfish all on their own. EXPECT them to start acting unselfish from the time they are two! Certainly again, you need to get serious with this when you find you have a self-centered, selfish pre-teen you are dealing with. Declare a zero-tolerance policy on selfishness and do whatever it takes to get the point across. Don't whine at your children. If they think they have "rights", dispel that notion immediately and make it clear to them that they have NO rights unless you give them rights, and you will give them rights AS THEY EARN THEM BY ACTING LIKE ADULTS.

Now it's really hard for me to list the "how to's" of what I'm getting at here, without a few examples to work with. You need to change your own expectations of your children. You have to view them more as adults in the sense that you EXPECT them to act and think more like mature unselfish godly adults. If you expect more from them, you will be more likely to be appalled at less, and act accordingly. Give them more responsibility, but expect them to handle that responsibility capably, and make sure they do.

One last thing for now. Along with expecting more from them, remember to express your pleasure with them when they DO act as they should. Please note that sometimes these kinds of bad attitudes in older children can result from too little praise and too much sternness. Too many rules and not enough lovingkindness. You don't have to lower your standards, in fact you can raise them, but DO reward and encourage most of the time. Never criticize, just correct as needed, then go back to being encouraging and ENJOY EACH OTHER.

In conclusion, sit them down and have a talk with them and go over your expectations of them (to act like the are made in the image of God). Then give them responsibilities and be very strict about how they handle them: Compliment them when they do well (just as you would another adult), and have a no-tolerance policy regarding slip-ups. If they act like children tomato stake them immediately. Treat them like adults when they act like adults.

Turning Around an Older Child:

I have never had this problem myself, but I have heard from quite a few parents who have. I have been especially pleased to hear testimonies from parents who DID turn around an older child with success.

In brief, these successes all (so far) seem to have resulted from something similar to my "tomato staking" concept. Forget spanking an older child unless you are sure it is needed, but DO tomato stake, especially in a mentoring way. Keep your troubled older child with you all the time and make him or her your assistant, helper, friend, and apprentice. The closer the child is kept to you, the less punitive you will have to be, and the better you will be able to train and teach and love.

Greatly limiting or eliminating outside influences is a BIG part of the picture with an older child. In regard to the socialization issue, I would follow the same ideas I've expressed elsewhere on the main website, only adjusting for age. I would keep an older problem child with me and AWAY from other children. If you don't homeschool, I definitely think you should. I can not emphasize that enough. If you need guidance or extra help with this, seek it out a way to have it done at home, perhaps with a tutor, etc.

I would not allow a problem older child to go off with any "group" of other children even if it is a church group. I would discourage him from going off alone with "friends". If he has friends already and would resent giving them up, then I might invite the entire family over and do family things where you can closely supervise. Do this as often as needed at first. You want your child to enjoy life as part of a family, not be resentful of the fact that you've "deprived" him of all his friends. You want to work toward him realizing that his family members are his best friends.

This is all part of tomato staking and it can certainly be done with an older child. It is about the only effective thing I know of that can be done. Expect it to be rough for awhile, but if you remember that this is not a punishment time, but a nurturing and readjusting time, things should turn around eventually. There is much to be optimistic about if you do this

If you keep your older child close, you might not have to do too much serious disciplining. If possible, don't allow things to escalate to the spanking point. Instead, head them off by stopping and sitting down and talking and lecturing. Keep him busy with more chores as needed, but do as much as you can WITH him. Remember that you are not just trying for acceptable behavior on the outside, but you are trying to win his heart on the inside. The best way to do that is to get to know each other intimately. He needs to learn to trust you to consistently have his best interests in mind and you need to learn to read his heart so you will know what his needs are and what it will take to get through to him.

Is there any hope?

Question: Two of my children are hardly children at all. They are 15 and 17 and home-schooled. Pretty much the only place they go is with me on errands and to church and church activities 4-6 times a week. They have close ties with people at the church and are involved in outreach programs. 

They have no opportunity to get into things like drugs, alcohol, smoking, cussing, etc. There are no bad influences in their lives since the neighborhood kids are so extremely misbehaved that we just stay clear of them. They have no real ability to leave home any time soon so I still have some time left.

They are very respectful in any adult's presence, but when my back is turned, they do whatever they want regardless of the house rules or consequences they don't seem to care about. Both kids are dishonest, rebellious, and defiant but always passively and never in my view. 

I know it's late, but they are bad examples to my younger set (4 and 8) and I can't give up hope for them to get an honest bone in their body. But is spanking still appropriate for them? I have considered it, but am not sure if it's the right thing to do. I usually try consequences such as so many chores for breaking some house rule. They really don't seem to care though. 

They both have always seemed to lack consciences and natural love for others. They'll walk all over each other without a twinge of guilt. And the lies, I just don't understand because I made it a point to never ever lie to them about anything. I didn't even try to tell them there was a Santa. I never told them that the cookies were all gone when they really weren't or anything like that. I wanted honesty to be instilled in them. How could this happen?  More importantly, what now? Is there any hope?

Answer from my friend Katie:
Absolutely there is hope for your teens. I did foster care for teen girls on probation for 5 years. When we got them in we would cut off all outside ties and their lives centered around us and our house. NO, NONE, NOT ANY outside activities until they are the charming, happy, obedient, helpful and loving children you want them to be. Then you start working on them. You love them silly. You spend every waking minute with them, chatting with them, cooking with them, cleaning with them. You tell them a million times a day how much you like them and are so glad that they are your kids. You hug them and pat them on the back and do their hair and paint nails. Do a crafty thing with them. Do you scrapbook? My girls loved that. We had a great time looking over pictures as we went through them. Then I would make a page for their scrapbook and journal all kinds of nice stuff in there "My favorite 16yo taking care of the kids while I got the dishes done." or "Rachelle is Jenna's favorite big sister." Ok, she was her only big sister, but whatever. 

This is called tying strings. And it is super easy with teens I think. I mean the little ones and i have very little in common as far as interests. But teens, they like all the same things I like and they are old enough to participate.

I do want to mention that it is interesting that they learned to lie even though no one ever taught them! Hahaha!   Can we say SIN NATURE??? They all do it, everyone has the inclination to lie when it might benefit them. Now we just have to help you stomp it out in your home. It can be done! If you have specific questions ask away!!

A message board exchange

Question: I have read recently (I know, stay away from the psycho babble) that teenagers are just sassy once in awhile. And advice was given on how to discipline a teenager and what privileges to remove, etc. And here I was thinking that come the teen years my life will be cake!! I mean, the 8yo are pretty easy as it is. I rarely have to remove privileges from even them. A gentle reminder is all they need (most of the time).

How is life with your teens, E? Do you find yourself having to remove privileges? Do you have times when they smart off to you? Really I think the teen years are the true test of whether you have done your job right. Your experiences??

Answer: I don't have any teens. NO WAIT, now that I think about it, I guess I do! Let's see... I have a 14yo, a 17yo, a 21yo, and a 23yo. That's 4 teens or used-to-be teens. The reason it doesn't occur to me that I have teens is because my teens don't match the picture painted by everyone else of typical teens.

I've NEVER ONCE had one of my teens "smart off" to me. AWK! I can not ever remember removing a privilege from any of my teens as a punishment for anything. Actually, I don't remember ever punishing/correcting any of my teens with anything more than the briefest of verbal rebukes. Maybe a lecture to a younger teen now and then. I have NEVER gotten into anything that I would call an "argument" with any of my teens. I can only recall perhaps TWO "discussions" that involved a little passion, and both were situations where one teen was having a problem with another teen and called me in to help settle things. In neither case was the teen upset with me.

I am really NOT JOKING or exaggerating when I tell you all that if you train your toddlers right, and keep your standards up, etc, you won't have these problems. Even my 11yo (who is my most challenging child) would never "smart off" to me. He will occasionally forget himself and begin defensively and stubbornly arguing with me, protesting some verbal correction I was giving him (...."but mom, I WAS trying to play nice, but he's not playing fair....."). My 8yo also would NEVER smart mouth me. Neither would the 6yo, 5yo or 3yo now that I think about it. 

The biggest problem I have with anyone over 6yo in this house, is minor squabbling between siblings. That's virtually always a problem with the middle kids not quite "getting" the fact that although they are "over" the younger ones, they are still "under" the older ones and must respect and obey them. The middle ones tend to believe that they are "over" the little ones, but "equal to" the older ones. So I have deal with that for awhile.

I'll be quick to say that my teens aren't perfect (almost but not quite ), but anything that comes up is easily dealt with by virtue of talks and discussions. I don't believe this would be possible if I had not trained and disciplined them firmly and consistently when they were little. It was then that I instilled respect for me in them, and now they listen to me because they respect me.

Email from my son:

Shortly after the above exchange was posted on my website message board, I received this email from my 19yo son:

"Mom, I heard a rumor that you posted something on your board about having FOUR teenagers and you listed the ages and left out your FAVORITE and MOST IMPORTANT teenager? Could this be? MY mother??"

OH DEAR! I guess I did forget that I have 5 teenagers! Here's the email I sent this son back:

"AWK! Well, if you read the thread, at first I thought I had NO teenagers. The reason I thought I had no teenagers is because my teenagers don't act like "normal" teenagers. So, since I left out my FAVORITE teenager, it must be because he is the LEAST like a "normal" teenager. I must have just mistaken him for another adult. Love, Your FAVORITE mother"

(P.S. I tell all my children they are my "favorite". )

"It's MY room."

Question: My oldest son, 12, is quite mature and generally willing to do what he is asked. The problem is this: When we ask him to do something I know he doesn't really want to do, he will take FOREVER to complete it. For example: He can straighten his room in about 10 minutes if he has something else he wants to get to. Most days, he just doesn't think it is important and it can take as much as an hour! I'm just talking about the routine morning stuff-spread up the bed, pick up dirty clothes, put trash in the trash can, stuff like that.  We have had all the talks I can stand about this. It basically comes down to he doesn't like it and thinks he shouldn't have to do it. ("It's my room!") We generally give them more work for any attitude just like described above but he is technically doing the work.  Any suggestions? 

Answer: where did he get the idea that it is totally "his" room? At our house, the whole house belongs to the ones paying the bills, not the kids. They have our permission to USE certain rooms and to keep their things in certain rooms and to sleep in certain rooms, but they do not have our permission to treat their rooms as if they were the sole owners. They must keep "their" bedrooms up to MY (the owner) standards! If they don't like that plan, then they can sleep on the couch and keep their toys in boxes in the basement. Of course it has never come to this, but I'm trying to illustrate the underlying concept that is the real problem to some extent at least. You child doesn't believe that you have the RIGHT to make him clean up HIS room. YOU DO, and you just have to make sure he realizes that too.

Once he understands that he does NOT have complete freedom to live like a pig in YOUR house, then you can work on the laziness. It helps to dangle a motivational carrot. Tell him that he can do "x" (something he wants to do) when his room is cleaned. (Or that he "cannot" do "x" until his room is cleaned.) Sometimes you can set a reasonable time limit for him to finish and decide ahead of time on a consequence if he doesn't (more work - maybe cleaning your room too). Sometimes it helps to stand over him a few days in a row and give annoying commands for every little detail like: "Pick up that shoe. Now pick up that book. Now pick up that pillow....." In fact, that might be a good consequence for not finishing in the normal 10 minutes. Let him work alone for 15 minutes, then stand over him telling him to do every little thing under intense pressure from you. (You should not help at all, and you should make sure you make him clean the room much better than you usually require - this will motivate him to want to get the job done before you show up.)

Teen complains about helping

Question: Any ideas on what to do with my 15yodd, who complains when she is asked to help? She's really a good girl, I don't have any "big" problems with her, but it just irritates me to no end that she complains so often when she's asked to do something. 

For example, yesterday morning I needed to get some more presents wrapped and I asked her to make a breakfast cake so I could do the wrapping. The breakfast cake is a very simple recipe that we do a lot around here, she's made it a hundred times, so it's not a big deal. She moaned, rolled her eyes around, and said with great annoyance, "OK." I give her a little lecture about her attitude, about how I really need her help, blah, blah, blah. About 2 hours later I tell her that I want to sort through my 5yo's room so I can weed out some old toys to make room for the new ones, and I ask her to watch the baby (2yo) for me while I work. Same response as before. And of course, she gets the same tired lecture as before, which I think goes in one ear and out the other.

How should I handle this? In the past, my dh has had her write essays on her attitude, on helping around the house, on being respectful. She is NOT a rebellious child, it's just this little attitude she gets when she's asked to help with something. I've been at a loss before and have had her write lines "I will be respectful to Mom & Dad" or whatever 100 times. Obviously I need something different. HELP! 

Answer: I really have never had that much of a problem in this area. Certainly never any obvious eye-ball rolling or outright complaining from my teens and older. However, there have been times when I've heard a "sigh" and just know that they weren't too keen on helping me at that moment. 

In our case, when I examined the whole picture, I felt that the main reason this was happening now and then, was that as my children got older they had begun to make their own reasonable plans for their day, and it wasn't that they didn't want to help, it was that I was thwarting their own previously thought out plans for that time period. Sometimes they were even planning to do my chores, but had just planned on doing them in a different order or time frame.

Now even though their plans might have been very good, I didn't think that their plans should stop me from ever asking them to do anything for me, so I needed to work out some way of handling this. 

Soooooooo, what I try to do now, if I think there might be any hesitation on their part, is to ASK my older children (this includes my 16yo dd and my 20yo dd) what THEIR plans are, before I tell them what my plans are for them. Then we rearrange our mutual schedules together and accordingly. I also try to give them some advanced warning that I might need them when I might need them. 

For example, over the last week or so, I have kept them all updated on how "our" Christmas plans/chores are going. I don't make it sound like it's all MY job to do the cards, buy the gifts, wrap the gifts, plan the meal, shop, cook the meal, clean up, etc. Instead, I include them all from the get go. Then I say "Here's what we need to get done in the next 2 days, what are your plans, and when can you fit this in?" They KNOW they have to do it, and they have to commit to doing it, but I've shown them the courtesy of letting them work in some of their own plans too. 

Further example: This morning I got up late and found that my 16yo dd had picked up the house and set both the tables for the big family Christmas get-together this evening. She has also gotten out serving bowls, finished all the laundry, and wrapped the last few gifts, etc. Then, when she saw me, she also asked me what else needed to be done. Well I could have told her to start cutting the celery and onions for the stuffing and on and on and kept her busy all day, but instead, I thanked her for what she had already gone out of her way to do (usually this stuff is always done at the very last minute and I always complain about it), then I asked her to do one smallish chore, and I also told her that after that I wouldn't need her for awhile, but I'd need her later on. 

Now she had never displayed a bad attitude, but it turned out that she DID have tentative plans, and she was VERY happy to hear that I would not be making a work horse out of her all day, and she would have time to slip out and exchange Christmas gifts with her best friend. Afterward she was very happy to come back and help me with everything else for hours! It is now midnight and she has been helping without complaint until just now when the last dish was washed.

I hope I'm making the point I'm trying to make here. I guess that in our house, things have changed a bit by the time they are 15yo and 16yo, and I have started respecting them and treating them more like adults. I try to be considerate of them, especially if I see that they are making an effort to help and please.

Question: Wow, E, that sounds great! I've never experienced that...

So you would start doing this round about ages 15 and 16, assuming the child is showing good maturity then?

Answer: I really don't have any set age that I start this at. I just go by the amount of maturity each child is displaying. In fact, I don't think I've really sat down and analyzed it until now. I do know that I watch for signs of maturity and try to encourage them when I see them. 

If I look at my children right now, I DON'T let the 11yo make his own plans. He is one of the biggest whiners, and in his case, if he whines about something I've asked him to do, he gets a lecture and whatever else is needed to change his attitude (maybe more work or loss of a privilege - basically I just keep the pressure on until he gets the point and changes his attitude - usually a talk is needed along with any corrective measures). He may "ask" me if he can do something he would like to do (like go visit Oma up the street), but he is not allowed to "plan" to do that. He does have the freedom to do his schoolwork in any order he wishes as long as he gets it done before dad comes homes. When he starts displaying good sense and maturity in this area, then perhaps I will look for other small ways to allow him more freedom and responsibility.

Now, I also have a 13yo at the moment, and he HAS shown some sense of responsibility in areas like getting his schoolwork and chores done without me standing over him and reminding him. He is still always required to ask me if he can do something special (he was allowed to go mountain biking with his older cousin this morning), but I try to say "yes" if he has been showing responsibility in other areas. On the other hand, if he forgets to put the garbage out (like he did this week), he gets a verbal correction from me (a short lecture, or scolding, etc, depending on his reaction), and he has to fix the problem (by loading up the truck with the garbage and talking his older brother into driving him to the dumpster, etc.) With this son, most of my consideration for his plans/wishes revolve around whether he can delay some schoolwork in order to go to dh's office for the day, or work with his brothers on some other important (or even fun) project. I allow those privileges IF he has been responsible in other areas.

My next oldest child is the 16yo and I already gave an example of her.

Next is my 18yo and I virtually NEVER have to organize his day or assign him chores. He is the first one up in the morning, showers, shaves, dresses nice, does whatever he knows he has to do, and goes to dh's office to work. Occasionally I have to tell him the dry cleaning basket is full (it's his job to take it to the cleaners) but that's about it. He does everything else he's supposed to do without a single word from me and never a bad attitude. He does extras as well. I frequently find myself thanking him for doing this or that job that has been annoying me, but that I've never really assigned to anyone. If I have something I want him to do, I just ask as I would any other adult. 

My 20yo is similar except that she is home all day, not working, so we interact more. She is VERY organized by nature so she ALWAYS has lots of her own plans. I really need to touch bases with her almost every morning and ask her what her plans are. Then I tell her what I need her to do for me (her main job is to run errands for me - and I usually have a few almost every day). I try to give her advanced notice about my errands so that she can work them in with hers. 

My 22yo is much less organized, but his talents are in other areas, so I have to factor that into the equation. He perhaps needs me to encourage him to develop a more organized plan for the week, or he won't get as much done as he'd like. With him, I give him my requests and a time frame (I'd like you to fix my cd player, I don't need it done today, but I'd like it done before next Tuesday. When do you think you can work on it? How can I help you organize your other stuff so you can get to this?)

So, it's not that I do this or that at any specific age, I go with the individual maturity of each child.

(c) Copyright 2007 L. Elizabeth Krueger.  All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.