Summer will soon be upon us and that often means a more relaxed schedule and lots of fun with the kids, cooling off at the water park, taking family trips, having reunions and all that comes with summer. For some those days might also include hours of children chatting with their friends on the Internet, watching TV and playing computer games.
On the other hand, for some kids summer means their parents have them scheduled 12/7 with music lessons, summer camps and sports activities. Sometimes parents want their kids to be involved in activities to be sure they don’t spend their time getting in trouble or…heaven forbid….waste time.
The question we parents have to ask ourselves is how much of what our children will be doing this summer is either just idle pastimes or things that we have decided we want them to do.
How much of the decision of how your kids use their time this summer comes from the kids?
About half way into our children (nine in all) we discovered a very important concept: kids don’t buy into what you want them to do unless they feel some ownership for it themselves. If the goal is the parents’ goal, there tends to be resistance and resentment. However, if the kids are given some direction and feel that the goals are theirs, we have a whole new paradigm!
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Toward the end of each school year we had a fun family tradition at our house. The kids took a big piece of poster paper and started working on what they called their “Summer Deals.” We had the kids divide their paper into five parts and then asked them to write their goals in each category. The put a little circle beside each goal which they filled in gradually as the goal was accomplished. The categories were the five facets of their personalities. They had to ask themselves, “What do I want to accomplish physically this summer? Below, they would make their list: “What are my goals Mentally? Socially? Emotionally? and Spiritually?”
Their goal charts were pretty amusing and we had to help them adjust some of them. If the goal was to read 100 books for a child who was struggling to read even one, we helped them be a little more realistic. The pre-schoolers loved this as much as the older kids, but for the older kids (from eight up,) more than just the satisfaction of reaching their goals was involved.
From the time our kids were eight we taught them that if they worked they got paid. And they needed to be paid because from that time on because they were going to have to buy their own “stuff”! In the summer this meant buying their own school clothes in the fall. Their summer deals became very important! There was a monetary reward for accomplishing each goal, which was carefully negotiated before they began. They HAD to work if they wanted not only clothes, but video games and other desires of their hearts. All the “I wants”!
It was amazing how well this worked to motivate (most of) our children over the summer. They realized that they couldn’t be sitting around playing on the computer if they needed to finish their goal to read a certain number of books, to get that tennis ball over the net 25 times without a miss, to pass off a certain piano piece that week, to send a thank you note to someone who had been kind to them, or to read or memorize a scripture. It was absolute magic when they felt the ownership of their own goals for the summer.
I must admit that when fall came, I took some kids shopping at The Gap for school clothes and others to Good Will; they knew that there was no sense in whining or complaining because their shopping destination was a result of their own making. Owning their own goals made all the difference.
For a 33% discount on pre-ordering the Eyres new book called the Entitlement Trap which will be released in the fall, as well as a fun free-download to teach kids honesty go to Valuesparenting.com.