Mothers have such privilege and responsibility that comes with raising children. Part of our job, along with teaching them life skills and loving them to pieces, is to help shape and mold their characters. There are so many positive and important character traits that will naturally come as we teach them throughout the time they’re under our roofs. However, some traits will have to be worked on much harder than others, and I believe the ability to “do what needs to be done” is one of those.
I’ve already written on how to raise starter-finishers and this is a similar principle. Most of us were born wanting to find the easy way out. Why eat peas when we can feed them to the dog? Why clean the house if it’ll only get dirty again? Why learn math if I’ll never use it in a real job? Sometimes it’s important as parents that we teach our children lessons they aren’t too keen to learn themselves. Being an adult who is able to do what needs to be done is a great thing. Though it may seem like a basic quality everyone has, I assure you, it is not. The older I get the more I realize there are many people who are simply not very dependable or reliable and who will look for opportunities to not have to put in the extra effort. I, personally, don’t want my children to turn out this way.
So, what does it actually mean to “do what needs to be done” and how can we help instil this in our kids? Read on.
(1) Problem-solving skills.
Have you ever been anywhere when people are rushing around busy being productive and others are just standing around sidewalk supervising? I think that being a person who can get in there and do what needs doing is someone who is good at problem-solving. It’s easy to identify a problem. It then gets even easier to sit around and complain about it. Brainstorming and finding potential solutions isn’t as easy.
When our children run into situations where they are at a loss of what to do or need some guidance, these are perfect opportunities for us to help them develop their problem-solving skills. Let your children talk things out. Without telling your kids what to do, ask them questions that can draw out their own ideas. They will learn to think through things and come to their own conclusions. Kids (and adults alike) need to have confidence in their own decision-making and problem-solving skills. If they don’t, they’ll feel insecure and inferior when they hit the real world.
(2) Endurance, consistency, and being a starter-finisher.
It is very easy to start something. It can be exciting and fun to begin a project or assignment, but when the initial high wears off it takes endurance to carry it out to completion. Kids don’t naturally possess this quality to a great extent. They start doing one activity, three minutes later, they want to move on. I don’t let my children activity jump like the gym circuit at Curves. If they ask to do something then they can flat sure sit and do it for longer than 45 mississippis. I make every effort to teach my children, and help them myself, how to finish what they start.
Finish cleaning the room before we move to another one. Finish the game we were playing before moving on. Finish a chore. Children will only learn endurance, consistency and the importance of finishing what they start if we parents consistently require this of them. I don’t mean doggedly stand over them and yell “finish, minion”, but we must model these qualities for them and expect it in the responsibilities and chores they are given.
(3) Active and observant.
There are some people who just seem to notice others’ needs. I’m thinking of a particular man at my church who is so thoughtful and who, may a time, can be seen helping others. He notices when there aren’t enough chairs or someone is struggling to carry a heavy item. He’s a kind man and he is observant. Being able to do what needs to be done requires us to be able to see what needs to be done.
Seeing what needs to be done means that we aren’t just sitting around thinking about ourselves. I admit that I struggle with this at times. If someone asks for help I’ll jump and run, but it may take me a while to notice. I want my children to be able to say “I noticed Mr. so-and-so’s yard looks like it could use mowing, I know he’s been sick so maybe I could go do it for him.” Bosses don’t want to stand over your shoulder and tell you every single thing that needs doing. They want you to look around, see it, and do it.
(4) No excuses or blame-shifting.
There is little that bugs me more than someone who has lots of excuses and reasons why they don’t do what they need to do. When I fall short or mess up, I simply say “I should have done that and I didn’t. I’m sorry. I’ll fix it.” Really, what else needs to be said? Some people are always ready with an “I didn’t feel good” or “I was busy” and “time got away with me” to the point where it seems life conspires against them to do what they need to do.
I think it’s important we listen to our children’s explanations and learn to differentiate thoroughly and accurately between legitimate reasons and excuses and justifications. If you had all week to do Chore X then not “feeling well” the afternoon the chore should be finished doesn’t cut it. I think we need to hold and keep our children accountable from a young age for the things they are responsible to finish. I don’t mean giving them huge heavy loads. I simply mean consistently requiring them to do the things that are agreed upon, and not being taken in by excuses.
(5) Not to be confused with being a doormat.
As I speak about seeing what needs to be done and doing it, I don’t mean to become a doormat or a martyr to everything and everyone. It’s easy to do and do and do and do and then begin to think no one else can do it but us and if we don’t do it, then it might not get done. This may even be true. I believe that wisdom and balance are key in all areas, and part of knowing what needs to be done is also stepping back and realizing when it isn’t OUR job to get it all done. That can be harder for some than the doing, particularly us Type A women.
So I don’t advocate making our children slaves or robbing them of their childhood. Far from it. I believe that childhood will bring many opportunities – and at their own level – for us to teach them how to be people who can do what needs to be done. My 2 year old currently has about three chores. She “makes” her bed every morning, which means she stacks her pillows and toys at the end of her bed, she holds the dustpan as I sweep and throws it in the trash, and she picks up the toys after herself. See? I’m no mean mama! However, with those things I do require her to push through. Slow and steady wins the race, mama!
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