Summer is around the corner, and we all anticipate good times ahead. Summer is filled with fun times, vacations, camping, swimming, sports and plenty of down time. We all need it, and anticipate the warm, lazy days of summer.
And yet, for most of us as parents, we also want to continue to nurture responsible habits and teach our children the fundamentals to be prepared for life. However, too often we wait until late adolescence to start teaching this. We then realize that our adolescent has no intention to take on responsibility, especially during the summer. They believe, and have often been taught, that summers are for fun only and that they shouldn’t do any real ‘work.’
The ‘Making it Easy’ Approach to Summer.
Many children face the summer with multiple vacations, hanging at the pool and an endless array of sleepovers and daytrips to have fun. They won’t crack a book, pick up a rake or make a bed. Mom or Dad are not only planning what seems like an endless array of entertainment, but they are also responding to ongoing requests for sleepovers, pool parties and sudden get-togethers. For others, sports practice and playing emerges as the primary activity, and family fun seems to hinge around these events.
All things considered, the focus is on making sure children get to do (mostly) what they want. The ‘making it easy’ approach is filled with ease and fun, and little responsibility. Parents seem to serve more as taxi drivers, day trip planners and ‘boredom fixers.’
So, what’s the problem you may ask? Isn’t this what everyone else is doing?
Seeking Balance: Easy vs Hard?
So somehow, in the middle of this overloaded world of opinions, marketing messages and exploding data, our sense of reasonableness has failed us. We have lost our compass along the way!
We seem to want our kids to have only ease and fun, not realizing it seems that this will come with consequences. Perhaps more problematic, we too easily seem to follow the lead of our children’s wants and desires. It’s almost as if the more we give our children what they want, the more we seem to think this is good for them. We see this trend growing, as six year olds carry IPhones and a Starbucks cup.
“Children do not know what they need. They only know what they want.’
Until a solid, responsible maturity is reached, children will tend to want what is easy, what is enjoyable, and what relieves any pressure or sense of anxiety. They will incessantly argue and fight for that easy path. (Some adults take this path as well, of course.)
Notice, if you walk this path with your kids, your children seem to get almost everything they want, while putting forth little effort. In today’s world, this translates to a very abundant life for your children, without any investment on their part.
Such choices come with two consequences, and many of you see this already. First, there is usually very little sincere gratitude for all your efforts. What happened yesterday is irrelevant. It’s now, what will do YOU do for me today mom? This is often quite poignant during the summer months, as week after week of effort on your part is met with minimal gratitude from your children.
Secondly, there is an inevitable building of the sense of entitlement. Kids often feel they have a ‘right to an abundant life’ without any effort or investment. We have trained them for this, and may again do so this summer.
The bottom line is this: If we make things too easy for our kids, life will be harder later.
The Solution: Balance Responsibility with Fun
When we review the literature on success and satisfaction in life, we find that hard work and effort must be balanced with some time to rejuvenate and enjoy. This is the common sense formula for life satisfaction. It is also a clear requisite for continued optimal functioning and good mental health.
When too much demand or responsibility is required, life is drudgery. We have no sense of ease and no opportunity to rejuvenate and re-group. The is true for adults and children.
We also see that muscle, that we fail to use, begins to atrophy. This is true for ‘brain muscle’ as well. When we learn a skill, and then ignore it for months, our skills decline. Academically, children consistently lose between 2 and 3 months of their academic skills. Why? Because we put no demand on those skills during the summer.
No Surprises Here: Preparation Comes from Preparation!
I know that sounds redundant, but let me explain. If we want our kids to be well prepared for the school year this fall, we prepare them. If we want our children to be well prepared to take responsibility in life, we give them responsibility.
Honestly, there is no secret psychological formula. Our children will benefit from working the ‘muscle’ of responsibility and effort this summer.
The balance is simple: Require some work, some effort each day. Not a lot. Just enough to keep the academic muscle strong. And don’t hesitate to require daily chores to help out around the house before the friends come over or the fun begins. It’s easy to start small, and yet the benefits are large.
You will be thankful as the years’ progress because your child learns lessons from life, that your words will fail to teach. Offer them these lessons, while still enjoying an awesome summer. Remember to follow me of Facebook and Twitter for great tips this summer.