Freedom and Responsibility for Older Children

(This post originally appeared here at The Moses Home as part of a Babywise Friendly Blog Network Day.)

I naturally have always struggled not to underestimate my kids’ abilities, and I’m always surprised by how much they actually can handle and are ready for. I have always been the parent that would notice my kids’ friends doing something and think to myself, “Oh, I guess my kid could do that too!”
My oldest is 8 now and I am just now starting to be able to stay ahead of the game and recognize her readiness for new freedoms and responsibilities. I have found that it does take intentional thought and sometimes a little trial and error.

Here are some readiness Markers to Look For:

A Happy Heart – This is a phrase we use often in our home. We work towards our kids obeying right away, all the way, with a happy heart. But a genuine content, happy heart signals to me a certain amount of maturity. If my child is in a season of complaining, grumbling, whining or being easily frustrated, then I don’t think they are exhibiting the maturity necessary that could “Buy” them certain freedoms.

Peer Standards – While every child is created differently, there are such things as developmental milestones and age-appropriate expectations. This particular readiness marker has been the most helpful for me with my oldest, because she will always be my first 8 year old, 9 year old, etc… So I think it’s important to educate myself on what peers her age are doing at each stage. Most of the time I am intentional about this, I find myself surprised and have a new goal or activity that I can implement.

Intuition – I think parental intuition is not something to take lightly. There are sometimes in my parenting that my husband or I will just KNOW or FEEL like something is right or our child is ready for something new, or the next stage. Have we been wrong before? Yes! But I will say that our intuition has been more right than wrong. This is something we pray heavily about and ask for wisdom for as we guide our kids.

Trial and Error -And that brings me to the last point. Sometimes it just takes some trial and error to see if they are ready.  When my son Shepherd was 2 and half, we really felt like he was ready to potty train. So we did the whole shebang: Potty Party, Undies, rewards, etc.. It flopped and 9 months later he was still having consistent accidents. On the other hand, when my mom told me that my oldest helped her efficiently with the dishes at her house one night, I decided to try and see if she was ready to handle that responsibility at our home, and she absolutely was! Sometimes you have to just try it and see what happens.

Here are some Freedoms and Responsibilities to consider if your older child might be ready for:

Bathing – this is one of the first things we allowed our daughter to be responsible for on her own. Turning on and off the water, washing her hair and her body thoroughly, drying off, and getting her pajamas on and brushing her teeth.

Cleaning/Chores – Like I mentioned earlier with the dishwasher, this is an area that is SO HELPFUL when they are ready for more chores and responsibilities around the house. Valerie Plowman wrote a very helpful article for A Beginner’s Guide to Childhood Chores on my bloga while back. This has some  really helpful tips for training your kids to be ready for chores.

Cooking – There are some basic cooking and food prep that I have allowed my oldest to help with. In particular when we have date night, we feed our kids early and this is simple easy food prep that my daughter can help with: making PBJs, warming chicken nuggets, dividing chips on the plates, etc… (Read about How We Do Date Night here).

Later Bedtimes – After a while of my daughter lying awake in her bed and taking longer to fall asleep, and after a chunk of time of observing a happy heart from her, we decided to extend her bedtime a little bit later than her younger brothers. We still have her read and wind down during this time (Read about how “Reading Time” has been a Sanity Saver here), but she is allowed the freedom to be awake longer. She has handled this beautifully.

Activities – We try to be pretty careful about our kids commitments and time. But as they get older, I have realized how much more they really can handle because of their maturity. This can be anything from clubs at school to Sports, Dance, Music etc…

These are the readiness markers and areas that I have experienced when it comes to freedoms and responsibilities in our family! What about you? What would you add to the list?
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What It Means To Raise Adults

I am so excited about this post. For as long as I can remember, my dad has talked about his parenting philosophy of "raising adults". Now I'm pretty biased, but I think my parents have been pretty spectacular parents. All three of us are now law abiding adults, who love Jesus with all our hearts, value the importance of family,  and are now seeking to instill the same truths in our kids that our parents taught us. I asked my dad if he would flex his writing muscles a little (ha... writing is like breathing to him!) and write out what it means to raise adults. Read and re-read this post, friends. Enjoy!

Seventh grade.  A new dimension of tribal behavior, hormones from hell, and drama.  Lots of drama.

And did I mention roller coasters?

Not the kind that make you scream bloody murder at Six Flags or Disney.  Not roller coaster emotions.  No, I’m referring to Mr. Chisholm’s annual roller coaster assignment in seventh grade science class.  The task: design a roller coaster that a marble can successfully careen down from beginning to end, and it had to last 60 seconds.

This was yet another of the typical assignments that evil, godless science teachers give their students to taunt their non-scientific parents. Just kidding about godless. Mr. Chisholm was/is a godly man I’m sure.

But I showed him. See, as a parent I had this crazy idea (brace yourself) that I had already done my homework and graduated. And if somebody gave one of my three kids homework, that it was actually homework for them to do, not for their mother or me.

So Joel was on his own.  With, of course, the advice and consent of the Senate. That would be his mom and me.

Did I mention we are not scientists?

He went to work solving the problem and assembled the thing out of cardboard and cut up aluminum cans.  I helped him haul it to school.

Ever get that sinking feeling you may have let your kid down? That maybe you just flunked the Parenting class?  I watch some pretty impressive monstrosities emerge from cars – stuff made out of wood, metal, and for all I knew, tungsten steel.

It was not a proud day for either of us.

But I had the high-horse satisfaction of knowing that at least my kid did his own work.

That… that is the stuff of raising adults.

I’ve said for years that as parents, God didn’t call us to raise kids. He called us to raise adults. People who could go into the world and make a difference, fend for themselves, and raise a new generation of adults to take my place.  Somehow in our culture we’ve gotten that backwards.  We’ve even coined new terms like “helicopter parents” ( to describe those parents who need to be needed by their offspring.

In the interest of the fact that those precious little babies of yours are going to eventually choose your nursing home, it may be a good idea to teach them to make good choices. Adult choices that they will bear the responsibility for, which may turn out well, or may not.  In the words of the Bible’s famous “love chapter,” it is vital to teach them to grow past “speaking like a child, thinking like a child, and reasoning like a child” and to learn to “put away childish things.”

So allowing for some age-appropriateness, what’s the difference between raising kids and raising adults?

1.  Talk to them as people, not playthings.

It’s cute when a toddler can learn a few words and say them over and over for approval or attention.  My grandson Archer has the cutest way of saying “No!” right now. And we all join in in mimicking him.  But as soon as he can put a sentence together, his parents will begin communicating with him the way they do with his three older siblings – as people.  Thoughtful, gifted, flawed, interesting, growing, frustrating responsible people.

The best way to communicate with kids as people is to give them opportunities to be part of adult conversations. If your child is sent to the “little kids table” every time the grown-ups are having a conversation, she will learn to fear adults and will ultimately become an age snob, caring only for her generation.

On the other hand, if you carry on conversations with her, first by listening, then by responding to her (again, age appropriately) as a human being, using the same kinds of tones and language you use with everybody else, you will help raise a new generation of grown-ups.

2. Teach them to entertain themselves.

I don’t mean with mindless hours of TV or video games. I’m referring to the ability to remove the word “bored” from their vocabulary.  Of course it’s a parent’s job to play with their kids, read to their kids, and provide a safe, fun environment for their kids. But it is NOT the parent’s job to the sole source of their entertainment – or for that matter, even the primary referee.

Let. Them. Play.  Play is the language of a child’s problem solving ability. Combined with fantasy, it is also a developing child and adolescent’s way of writing themselves into the epic stories unfolding around them at the speed of life.

3.  Carve out room for them to disagree with you.

I didn’t say defy or rebel. Disagree.

Case in point: I was raised by a long line of Auburn fans. My granddaddy went there and my uncle graduated from there. But when I was about 5 years old, for reasons that still make sense to me today, I announced I was an Alabama fan. (If you don’t understand that rivalry, just roll with it. It’s a big deal in the Heart of Dixie.) And over the years it turned into an annual family rivalry. Now my dad could have been heavy-handed about that.  After all except for 15 days a year it’s a trivial pursuit.
But that one choice led to quite a few arguments about recruiting and referees and great coaches and stupid plays and a whole lot of other stuff.  And in the process I learned to think for myself and defend my point.  To this day I will bait my kids into an argument just to exercise their ability to think for themselves before God.  It’s a lot of good, clean fun. And that ability – to think for ourselves and not just to go with the crowd – is the stuff of adulthood.

4.  Teach them to collaborate AND to stand alone.

Life is a team sport. So is work. And your precious baby needs to learn to hash it out, talk it out or yes, duke it out with other people to make things happen. They need to learn to negotiate, compromise, or speak up.  If blood is spilled or laws or bones are broken, it’s OK to intervene. Otherwise, let your little darling work it out.

That said, you’re raising adult individuals, not lemmings. And in every adult’s life, especially Christian adults, there comes a time when we have to have the courage to stand alone.  Usually this involves (or should involve) issues of truth, character, or lifestyle.

OK, so sometimes you go along and sometimes you stand alone.  Expect them to get this wrong before they get it right.  Discernment takes time to develop. Coach them. Converse with them. Don’t tell them what to think, but do give some boundaries and consequences for their choices. As they mature, they will learn when to agree and when to stand. Which leads to…

5.  Give them choices and let them live with the consequences of those choices.

One year we were on a tight Christmas budget, so we told our kids (preteens) that we had a certain amount to spend on each of them. That was the year Dr. Martens shoes were all the rage, and one of my daughters decided that even though this was more than 80% of her Christmas budget, that was what she wanted. So that’s what she got.

Who knew that whatever they tanned those sandals with was a tasty treat for one of our dogs?
Stupid dog.

She was heartbroken. Bitterly disappointed.  And the temptation was to try and find a way to replace the expensive shoes. But as disappointed as we were for her, we couldn’t, and probably wouldn’t have if we could have.

Lest you feel too sorry for her, she also decided at age 13 to raise support for a group mission trip to Russia and we let her go with people we trusted.

All this started at Christmas. Around age 4.  We give them a certain amount of money, took them to Dollar Tree, and let them shop for their siblings and grandparents. They made the choices. We just supplied the boundaries (money) and playing field (store).

As adults and parents themselves, they now make lots more choices for keeps. Sometimes they ask for advice; sometimes not. Sometimes they make choices we agree with; often they do things their own way. But any way you slice it, to be an adult is to live with a sense of responsibility for the choices you make, and I like what I see so far.

6. Demonstrate confession and forgiveness.

Lest I come across as an arrogant, I-can-do-no-wrong jackass, let me be clear: I have failed my children in epic and colossal ways, and they know it. They have also seen what confession and forgiveness looks like in the wake of those failures.  One of the greatest compliments ever paid to my children and their mother came from a child psychiatrist. She said, “Your children have a very sophisticated understanding that sometimes good people can do bad things.”

We have taught our children – sometimes by necessity – that life is an adventure in forgiving.  We continue to walk with them through their adult disappointments and hurts to this day, hopefully with the same message.

One of the little surprises of having adult children now is that all three of them are still vitally interested in us, their parents. They’re as much friends now as they are offspring, and our conversations, when not about their children, are usually about things that matter in the grander scheme of things.  I have learned that with a determined commitment to add three mature, spiritual, loving, healthy, tax-paying adults to the world, I can be forgiven for a lot of my own childish missteps along the way. 

I’m pretty excited and blessed by the results.  Hey, even the roller coaster got an A.

Andy is a husband, father, grandfather, consultant, teacher and writer. He has 36 years of experience in leading churches, owning businesses, and teaching on an undergraduate, graduate, and corporate level. All of this is a big deal, but my favorite credential is that he's my dad. You can read more from him at

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BFBN Week {Discipline}: Discipline As Discipleship

I'll be honest. The topic of discipline is one I like to avoid. It's a topic that can become heated really quickly and because of that, can become very hurtful as well. I'm speaking from someone who has been deeply hurt over this topic as well as regretfully said some hurtful things myself.

Because of the tenderness of this topic, I want to cut through the methods of parenting and go to the heart behind the parenting choices that Kyle and I make for our family. I've known Godly people whose methods are contrastingly different but the heart is still for the same goals and purposes.

For us, in our home as believers, we view discipline through the lens of discipleship. A disciple is a student, someone who is being trained to follow a particular way. Discipleship in parenting looks like "training them up in the way they should go" (Proverbs 22:6). As a Christian home, we know that "the way they should go" is the ways of Jesus and to learn and follow what the Bible says. We want to be disciple-makers, not just disciplinarians.

Discipleship looks beyond behavior to what the root and oftentimes sin behind that behavior is. This is a motive shift for a lot of parents who might discipline to produce a certain behavior in their kids. Discipleship is more concerned about the heart than the behavior because a heart right after God will produce fruit in their behavior. That's called the fruit of the spirit and we can read about that in Galations chapter 5. I talk about this more in another post I wrote, but I want to re-address this idea here. Yes, discipline is important to teach that there are negative consequences to our behavior choices. But I think we have to be very careful to not lean on rules to produce fruit and the way we should train our children to go is to connect to the source of the fruit. Rules can punish disobedience, and there is a need for that, but they cannot MAKE someone more loving, joyful, etc.. They can make people compliant but they are not what produces transformation. I don’t want to teach my kids that they can behave their way into joy.  I want to teach them to connect to the source of joy, and the joy will take care of itself.

The Bible says that "Children are a blessing and a gift from the Lord" (Psalm 127:3). Here's the thing: it doesn't say that the gift is conditional on how the blessing behaves and acts. This verse actually means that the riches of your heritage are INCREASED. This is really important because when we start viewing and remembering that our children are truly a GIFT, then our role as a parent becomes a stewardship idea. Meaning, our role is to manage well the gift(s) we have been given. It's one huge opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus. 

I think oftentimes, we as parents (myself included) are geared and maybe steered by society, to discipline to produce behavior either because we care so much about how we look to others or because it's more convenient for us. The problem with both of those ideas is that they are still focused on the behavior instead of digging to the root. And if you just address the behavior and not the root, it's not going to produce any kind of transformation. My ultimate goal as a parent, my only goal really, is lead my kids to follow after Jesus. Can I produce salvation in them? No I cannot. But I can be faithful to teach them about Jesus and His perfect word and about God's ways. We can set the precedent in our home of faithfulness to follow after Him, and we can model those ways every day for our kids.

I'm not saying we're awesome at this. As we are walking out this parenting gig, we are also walking out the ways of a child with our Heavenly Father. We are still very much being trained ourselves. And we're going to get it wrong sometimes. And when we do, we have another opportunity to model repentance for our kids, the very same thing we are asking of them when they mess up. We don't ask our kids for perfection, but for soft and teachable hearts, the same that we want to have with our good Father.

If you're interested in reading more about my heart behind parenting, you can check out these three articles that I have written previously:

I Don't Want To Teach My Kids To Be Loving

Dear Mighty Warriors

Planting Trees

This week, the ladies in the Babywise Friendly Blog Network have been discussing the topic of "discipline". Be sure and check out all of their posts linked below!

Monday: Valerie at Chronicles of a Babywise Mom
TuesdayNatasha at Let's Be Brave
Wednesday:Katrina at Mama's Organized Chaos and Shea at The Moses Home
Thursday: Kimberly at Team Cartwright and Carrie at Wiley Adventures
Friday: Emily at The Journey of Parenthood and Cole at Twinning Babywise

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BFBN Week {Discipline}: Knowing and Teaching the Final Desired Expectation

Today, on the topic of Discipline, Katrina talk about Knowing and Teaching the Final Desired Expectation. I LOVE this. I really appreciate the idea of thinking ahead. It's like the Babywise concept of start as you mean to go on. Enjoy this post and come back tomorrow when I discuss discipline as discipleship.

Discipline. What does that word mean to you?

Webster defines discipline as "The practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience."

I'd like to alter this definition slightly- "The practice of training people desired behaviors based on expectations, using a proactive approach and consequences when necessary". 

I probably wouldn't have phrased it the way Webster did to begin with, but with some simple alterations, I think my idea comes across. To me, discipline is the big picture, not just the response. It incorporates who, what, when, why, and how. In order to discipline effectively, all of these questions need to be thought through, a plan devised, and consistency provided.

In my journey to find our "discipline" method, and what works well for our family, I find myself coming back to the root of the idea: expectations. Without expectations, there would be no disciplinary action. (Click Here To Read More). 

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BFBN Week {Discipline}: Disciplining Foster Kids

Continuing with our theme for Discipline, today Natasha addresses discipline in foster care. As Tash's friend and someone who walks through life with her, I know this can be difficult because there are so many perimeters withing the foster care system that can limit your discipline options. I think Tash finds a good balance and is always on the lookout for natural consequences and creative ideas. Enjoy her post below.

When you take in children from foster care, there are A LOT of rules and restrictions.  One of those restrictions is no spanking or physical discipline (understandably so in a lot of cases) so we've had to come up with creative alternatives that actually work to keep our sanity and avoid having out-of-control kids.

Natural consequences

This is our preferred method of discipline.  Connecting the consequence to the action goes a long way with our foster kids who have likely never been taught about logical consequences.  For example, if they make a mess, they clean it up (even the 1 and 2 year olds).  I refuse to be their maid, and we want to teach them to care for and be responsible with the things they've been given.  (Click here to read more). 

Monday: Valerie at Chronicles of a Babywise Mom
TuesdayNatasha at Let's Be Brave
Wednesday:Katrina at Mama's Organized Chaos and Shea at The Moses Home
Thursday: Kimberly at Team Cartwright and Carrie at Wiley Adventures
Friday: Emily at The Journey of Parenthood and Cole at Twinning Babywise
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BFBN Week {Discipline}:How To Discipline Without Spanking

This is the week for the Babywise friendly blog network where we all pick one topic to write about and share it every day during the week. This week's topic is "Discipline". I think this is an important one because as a parent, it is a big part of our job! I have some thoughts that I'm looking forward to sharing with you on Thursday, but until we get there, I hope you'll glean some tips from my friends in the Babywise network.

Today, Valerie from Chronicles of a Babywise Mom is kicking off the week by sharing how they discipline without spanking. I really enjoyed this post from her because I think her tips actually work well whether you spank or not - especially because of her thoughts on consistency. Enjoy her post and check back every day this week for more on the topic of discipline!

I am not afraid to say that my children are very well behaved. Oh sure, they make mistakes. They do things they shouldn't. Most of the time, however, they are very respectful and very obedient. They behave well at home, school, church, and wherever else they go.

And we don't spank. 

Not at all. 

Neither my husband nor I grew up with parents who spanked, so it isn't something that comes to us naturally. One day when Brayden was a young toddler, he did something he shouldn't and I though I would try spanking. He immediately slapped me back. I kind of laughed and said, "Let's not hit each other again." 

My husband and I talked about spanking for the first time that evening. We decided to keep spanking out of our parenting toolbox. I would describe myself as neutral when it comes to spanking. I don't find it necessary and so we don't do it. I am not one to go around declaring there is one right way to parent, either, so if spanking is your thing, this post isn't for you (although this post will provide a lot of helpful discipline I guess it is for you anyway). If you want to discipline without spanking, though, please read on. (click here to read more).

Monday: Valerie at Chronicles of a Babywise Mom
Tuesday: Natasha at Let's Be Brave
Wednesday:Katrina at Mama's Organized Chaos and Shea at The Moses Home
Thursday: Kimberly at Team Cartwright and Carrie at Wiley Adventures
Friday: Emily at The Journey of Parenthood and Cole at Twinning Babywise

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