5 Questions to Help Teach Your Kids Responsibility

Some time ago I asked my Facebook friends what their greatest parenting struggles were. This post is a response to one of those responses.

Laura wrote: “Knowing when to keep the reigns tight or let them step out on their own a little is another issue we struggle with.”

As much as we don’t want to admit it, our kids are growing up. Sometimes it seems like they get taller while they sleep. Even more importantly, they are growing in maturity. Some are doing this slower than others, but they are growing up. The struggle that Laura mentions is something even parent has to struggle with. This comes down to a question of responsibility. The amount to freedom you give them has to be in direct proportion to how responsible they are. It would be great if I could come up with a list of responsibilities and the right age at which they can handle them. If I could to that, I could write a book and travel around the world doing seminars. The problem is that every child is different, every family is different. Still, I think there are some thing she can explore that can help us answer this questions. So, here are five questions to help you teach your kids responsibility.

1.) What are their current responsibilities? Before we can talk about where are going we have to know where we are starting. If your answer to this question is “none”, then you may not be looking at it correctly. Are they expected to make their bed? To keep their room clean? In my house, my son has been feeding the dogs for the past few years. He’s 16 now and his sister is 9. Recently we passed down that responsibility to our daughter. This is, off course, in addition to things like keeping her room clean. Our son also has to take out the trash and do the dishes. He also is responsible for doing his home work. He’s in some pretty advanced classes. So, he often has quite a bit of home work. These are the sorts of things that your kids are probably already responsible for. Consider these. Make a list, even if only in your mind.

2.) How are they doing with these? Back when my son was still responsible for feeding the dogs, he would often forget. I explained to him the importance of him remembering this for himself. I explained that there was nothing wrong with using tools to help him remember. So, he set an alarm on his phone to remind him. My daughter does not have a phone, but she did set an alarm on her iPad. Once you’ve listed the current responsibilities your kids have, give some thought to how well they are doing with them. My son gets home from school before either my wife or I do. So, we expect him to get started on his homework when he gets home. He does a great job with this.

3.) Talk with them about it. Ok, this is not a question. More like an instruction, but it’s still good. After you’ve outlined the responsibilities and examined how well they are doing with them, you need to talk about it. Here are some steps to consider:

  • Point out the responsibilities they currently have.
  • Tell them what they are doing well with.
  • Help them to see the areas that they could improve on.
  • Show them some tools or ideas that can help them be successful with their current responsibilities.
  • Make sure they know that they can come to you for help in fulfilling these responsibilities.

4.) Did they grow after your talk? Now that you have helped your child see areas that they can improve and have given them some tools to help them do that, re-evaluate. Did they grow after your talk? Are they doing a better job now? If so, let them know. This is huge. They want to make you happy and giving them this reassurance will go a long way towards helping them really own their responsibilities. If they haven’t grown as much as you would like, talk with them again.

5.) What are some responsibilities you can give them next? From the beginning of this process, be thinking about what you can give them next. The goal isn’t to give them all the chores you don’t like doing, but to teach them responsibility. I’ll the first to admit that I like not having to take the trash out. But, that’s not the point. Consider what you will give them next, even before you think they are ready for it. Then, as they seem to be mastering their current responsibilities start training them for the next one. Finally, when the time is right, turn it over to them.

6.) Be nice! Ok, this is not a question either and it’s number 6. Consider it a bonus. Who doesn’t like getting a bonus. Anyways, be nice. Remember that you love these frustrating smaller versions of you. Remember that the goal is to help them grow, not to break their spirit. Trust me, if you are too hard on them they will actually end up moving backwards.

I hope this helps. I’d love to hear your stories of how you used these steps to teach your kids responsibility and how that went.

Matt Norman

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3 Things I Learn From The Death of a Young Coworker  

Recently I received news that a woman I had worked with for several years passed away. Her death was unexpected. It’s always shocking to hear that someone you know has died. In this case it was even more shocking cause she was only 39 years old. In a couple months I’ll be 43. She was younger than me and now she is gone.

As is often the case in times like this I found myself reflecting on a variety of things. I thought about my own life, my career, my family, and my relationships. As I did, there were three things that really stood out. Here are 3 things I learned from the death of a young coworker.

1.) Make sure the people you love know it. One thing that we hear over and over again when anyone under the age of about 70, or maybe even 80 dies is that you never know how much time you have. There are people that you care about, people you love. Take time to make sure that they KNOW you love them. Tell them. That’s important. They need to hear it. But, don’t stop there. Your actions will speak love much louder than your words can. When you are gone, it is too late to let those people know you love them. So, make sure they know NOW.

“…we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action.” 1 John 3:18

2.) Make time to spend time with people you enjoy being around. After the passing of this young friend and coworker, many of us were left wanting to express our feelings for her and to mourn with others. The family had decided not to have open memorial service, but to keep whatever services they did  have just within the family. I completely respect this decision. However, this left many others that were effected by her death with no outlet for their feelings. This prompted one of our former coworkers to organize a dinner. Nothing fancy, or formal, just an open invitation to a local restaurant to gather and share memories. As I looked forward to this dinner, and while there, I was reminded of just how much I actually enjoyed being with many of these people. Sure, I had left the organization that we had all worked for together, but not because I didn’t want to be with these people. I actually really like these people.

I think we all have people like that in our lives. People that we got to know through work, school, or maybe even through the activities that our children are involved in. People that we genuinely enjoy being around. Chances are some of those people actually enjoy being around you as well. Social media has made it really easy to stay connected with these people. Reach out to them. Plan a time to meet at a local restaurant. Plan a BBQ at your house. Plan to meet at a local park. Whatever it is, make time to spend time with the people you enjoy being around.

3.) Make up with that loved one you’ve been struggling with. I get it, family is tough. Family has a unique ability to hurt us so much deeper than anyone else. The pain is made even worse by the fact that these people are supposed to love us. These are the people we are supposed to be able to count on more than any others. I get all that. BUT, life is simply too short to hold a grudge against a family member. Forgive them. Seek to reconcile that relationship. Try to move on and rebuild that relationship. Make the most of the time you have, because you never know how much time you have left.

I know that your efforts at forgiveness, reconciliation, and rebuilding of these relationships may not be returned or appreciated by that loved one. There is nothing you can do about that. Do your part to salvage and restore that relationship. If they were gone tomorrow you don’t want to have to deal with the weight of knowing that you didn’t do what you could to fix it. When that loved one is no longer around you want to be able to assure yourself that you did what could. You may still mourn the missed opportunities, but at least you tried.

At the end of the day, make sure the people you love know that you love them. Make time to spend time with the people you enjoying being with. Make up with that loved one you’ve been struggling with. None of us knows how much time we have left, or how much time they have left. You will never regret time spent with the people you love and enjoy being with, but you could end up regretting not having done it.

Matt Norman

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Book Review: 8 simple tools for raising great kids

One thing that just about every parent has in common is that they want to be a good one. If we are honest, most of us would admit that we could be better at it than we are. That’s why there are so many books on the subject of parenting. In fact a quick search on Amazon for the term “parenting” brings up over 180,000 results. With that in mind why would we need another parenting book? How could we even know which book to buy? I certainly will not begin to tell you which of the 180,000 plus parenting books on Amazon you should buy. But, I did want to share my thoughts on a new parenting book that I had the opportunity to read recently.
8 simple tools for raising great kids. by Todd Cartmell
Let me start with a bit of transparency. As I read the introduction to this book I read that the author was a child psychologist I immediately rolled my eyes. It has been my experience that many such parenting experts are what I would consider too soft. I had a psychology professor in college that insisted that talking to kids about what they had done wrong was the only way to handle poor behavior. There is certainly a time for talking, and there is a time for punishment. However, as I began to read into the book I found that this guy had some good thoughts to share. I certainly wouldn’t say that I agree with everything he says, but that is true of pretty much every book.
The problem with a child psychologist writing such a book is that they only see behaviors that have resulted in a negative outcome. For this reason they can assume that if a parent does a certain thing than it will always have a negative effect. That simply isn’t true. However, what the psychologist does bring to the conversation is proof, from their experience, that certain behaviors have the potential to cause a negative outcome. For this reason, as caring parents who love our children we should listen to their thoughts and, as with anything we read, take what is useful and applicable for us and set aside the rest. In so doing we must be careful that we don’t simply set aside the pieces that we don’t like or that hurt our feelings.
So, what about the book? Turns out Mr. Cartmell has some really good things to say. He breaks his advice into, well, 8 simple tools. He then breaks each of these tools into a hand full of tips. Let’s take a brief look at the first tool and the tips that go along with it. 
Tool #1 – TALKING
  • Tip #1: Your communication style with your kids is REALLY REALLY important. Not their communication style. Yours.
  • Tip #2: If you are not sure what to say, a brief pause can make all the difference between wise words and hurtful ones.
  • Tip #3: When you initiate a conversation with your kids, it shows them that at that moment, you are more interested in them than in anything else.
  • Tip #4: When you are an easy to listen to parent, your kids will be more open to the important lessons you want to teach.
  • Tip #5: When your conversations are like a friendly game of catch, everyone will want to be involved.
As is often the case, much of the wisdom shared in this book is not rocket science. In fact much of it is what many of us would come up with if we took the time to really examine our behavior and methods. But, somehow when we hear someone else say these things they impact us in a way that our own thoughts often don’t. This book is filled with that sort of wisdom. I will not go so far as to endorse every word of the book, but I will say that there is much wisdom that, if implemented, will make us a better parent. More importantly, it will improve the relationship between parent and child.
I will not tell you that this is the one parenting book that every parent should have. However, I will tell you that if you are looking for a book to help you be a better parent and improve your relationship with your children, this one should be on your list.
Matt Norman

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Preteens and Peer Pressure

Being a preteen is HARD. Anyone that says it isn’t either had a charmed life, is lying or was home schooled. Ok, I’m just kidding about the home school thing. It’s hard for them too. But, seriously, it’s just a hard time in your life.
Peer Pressure: Part of what makes middle school so hard is peer pressure. Sure this exists prior on some level in early elementary, but not to the same extent. Of course it exists in high school, but many kids have learned how to say no by that time. But, when you are 11 or 12 years old saying no to peer pressure feels impossible. I mean, what your friends link of you is important. Or at least it SEEMS important at this age.
The problem with peer pressure is that it can lead us to do things we don’t want to do. Peer pressure can lead us to do things we know are wrong. We do them because others are doing them, because our PEERS are doing them. We do them because we worry that our PEERS will think less of us if we don’t. This is why Peer pressure is a problem.
The truth about peer pressure is that it is about finding value for ourselves. We worry that we will feel less valuable if our friends make fun of us. We worry that we will feel less valuable if our friends stop hanging our with us because we won’t do the things they are doing. The truth about peer pressure is that it is about building ourselves up in the eyes of others, even if it means giving up who we really are.
Where SHOULD we find value? If peer pressure is the result of or leads to us finding our value in the opinions of others, then where should we be finding value? Here is the truth about your value as a preteen, as a person: YOU WERE CREATED IN THE IMAGE OF GOD Genesis says that Adam and Eve were created in the image of God. As descendants of these first humans we are also created in the image of God. This does not make you God, but it does mean that you have value.
A child of God: For those that have received salvation through Jesus Christ, we are also called CHILDREN OF THE ONE TRUE GOD. In a royal family the children of the king derive their position, their value from their relationship with the king. As children of God our value also comes from our relationship with the King, Jesus.
You can be a child of God too. So, I would say to the preteen that is struggling with peer pressure, You can be a child of God too. Make no mistake. Not every person is called a child of God. That is a distinction reserved for those who have trusted in Jesus for salvation. That is a distinction reserved for those who have made Jesus lord of their life. But, the good news is that this is a free gift offered by God to anyone who would receive it.
Talk with someone: At the end of the day, if you are struggling with your own self-worth, talk with someone. Talk with me. Talk with a  trusted teacher. Talk with your parents. Talk with a leader at church. Just talk with someone. You are created in the image of God. You can be a child of God, if you are not already. But, you must be willing to accept these truths.
Even adults: The truth is that many adult still struggle with finding their value in the opinions and words of others. Man of God take the same advice I have given here for preteens. Woman of God give this some thought, make it yours.
Matt Norman

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Mozart and The Devil’s Music

Years ago I remember a song called “Rock Me Amadeus.” It really had quite catchy chorus. So catchy that I often found myself singing it. I honestly had not idea who Amadeus was or what the song was about. I just knew that it had a nice rhythm to it. One day, while mindlessly singing it my dad told me that I needed to stop singing that song; that it was talking about the DEVIL. Wow! I certainly did not want to be singing a song that said, “rock me Amadeus” if Amadeus was the devil. I certainly did not want to be singing the devil’s music.

Amadeus is NOT the Devil. Turns out Amadeus is not the devil. Which means that this song was not about the devil. Rather it was talking about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. More commonly known simply as Mozart. You know, the famous composer. It was my mother that pointed out that Amadeus was probably a reference to Mozart and not the devil. On looking back at the lyrics to this song it’s actually about what a ladies man Mozart was, perhaps even a womanizer. Not a wholesome topic, but hardly a song about the devil.

He was probably thinking of Asmodeus. Is said to be a king of demons. This is probably what my dad was thinking of when he cautioned me not to sing that song. Certainly singing about be “rocked” by a king of demons would be a bad thing. His intentions were good, but he didn’t have all the information. As a result he turned an unwholesome, but probably harmless song into something much worse.

We must be informed. As Christians we often do just what my dad did. We jump to conclusions without having all the information. We then begin to speak out against things that we know little about. Just like my dad, our intensions are good. But, we need to take the time to learn about things before we make decisions about how we feel about them and, certainly, before we speak out against it. When we jump to conclusions we make ourselves look bad and we run the risk of harming the relationships that might give us the chance to show people the love of Jesus and share the gospel with them.

Matt Norman

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