Taking the Initiative to Teach our Children to Take Initiative

A week or so ago, a remarkable thing happened in our home. It all began when I started our 24 Family Ways lesson for the day on taking initiative (doing what needs to be done without needing to be asked).

I asked the kids if they could remember a time when they took initiative in something. Crickets. Not like I was surprised. They ARE only 8 1/2, 7 and nearly 5. What mom would expect kids in that age range to see something that needs to be done and just plain do it?

Here though is where the problem lies. When we don’t expect our children to be capable of doing something, we often neglect to teach it. So that when they reach an age that we SHOULD expect them to be able to do it, they aren’t.

Make sense?

For example, we wouldn’t expect our 1 year old to be able to put her clothes back into the drawer on her own (though she sure does a fantastic job of taking them OUT of the drawer!). Yet when she reaches the age of 5, we’re frustrated because she still doesn’t know how to put her clothes away. So we teach and model and practice, over and over, until it is (somewhat) accomplished.

The same goes with pretty much any life skill or character quality we desire our children to have. Wisdom in making wise choices needs to be taught, modeled and practiced. Folding socks and underwear and putting them away needs to be taught, modeled and practiced. Seeing or knowing what needs to be done needs to be taught, modeled and practiced.

messy rooms

It was a revelation to me, and perhaps it was because last week was our first full week back to school since Christmas break that everyone was so eager and cooperative.

We role-played a bit, looking around and pointing out things that were out of place that we could put away (and there was a LOT!). We discussed what daily things we were responsible for and how we could take initiative in completing them – IE if you have a schedule for your school work and you finish a subject, continue on to the next one!

reading alone

I realized I hadn’t done a very good job in teaching, helping and encouraging my children to be proactive in our home. I would consider Acts of Service to be one of my love languages, so it’s frustrating to me when other people don’t “see” the same things that need to be done as I do. However, it was proven to me that with a few tools, some loving encouragement, and willing, eager hearts, it is entirely possible to rectify!

We made up a firm schedule for our chores that needed to be done on certain days each week and put it up where the kids could be reminded (it’s always been set, just not visible). Each child came up with a list of things they could do around the house without having to be told or reminded. For the rest, I gently pointed out things throughout the day that could be picked up or put away, helping them “see” what I saw.

hard workers

And you know what? It worked. Amazingly well! They’re far from perfect (as am I, learning grace day by day!), but I was so proud to see them seeing things that needed to be done, and continuing on in what they were responsible for without needing reminders.

Never underestimate the capabilities of your children! If there is a skill or character quality you would like them to learn or exemplify, start by teaching and training them now. You’ll be blessed by the results and glad you began when you did.

I highly recommend Clay and Sally Clarkson’s Our 24 Family Ways. It is an incredible character and bible study devotional for all ages.

For a younger crowd, we have used and really like the Character studies from Confessions of a Homeschooler. I would also recommend We Choose Virtues (you can read my review here).

What character quality or skill do you want to teach your children this year?