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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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