Last month we talked about looking at the summers as a time of real investment into our children. We must remember that we have such a limited number of summers until our children are emancipating from our homes. We can utilize summer to focus on our relationships and have fun as a family; but we also can use our summers to teach and train.
Many good things can be planted in a child’s schedule this summer. But as parents, we should carefully think about planting the best seeds in our child’s life. Instead of just “filling time,” choose to plant seeds of life skills in your children this year. The summer can give a family more flexible time than during the school year. Most children have little or no homework, so nights can be used to train a child in a skill they need to learn to be successful in life and also to give the family fun time together.
Now is the time to make these decisions. Don’t let summer pass you by. Don’t schedule “non-training” ideas into your plan. Instead, use the summer weeks to teach your children something they will need to know as an adult. So how do you choose? First, take time to ask yourself some questions: Does your child need to learn a specific discipline this summer? Is this the summer you begin your five-year-old’s allowance (that’s next month’s article)? Has time management been a challenge for your thirteen-year-old? Use the summertime for a little “summer school” on the discipline of time management. Has your family gotten out of the routine of reading the Bible together? Summer is the ideal season to return to the breakfast or dinner table with a Bible each day.
The point is, summer offers an opportunity that many parents miss. Instead of using the break in the school schedule to continue training their children, too many parents merely keep their children busy until school starts again . . . as if school were the only reason we are here and the only means of training our children for a successful adult life.
Our children went to summer camp when they were growing up, but we also went as a family on vacation each summer. Camp and vacation together had a purpose. Camp provided our children a brief opportunity to be away from us to practice emancipation. It prepared them for the time they would be dropped off at college, to help them overcome being homesick. Our family vacation was not only for entertainment but also for building our family relationships.
In addition, with our children free from their evening sports programs, summer gave us extra time to read the Bible together as a family and fun times together for family games.
The primary discipline we chose to plant in the lives of our children during the summer was the concept of personal responsibility. One of the most challenging parts of adult life is balance. There are things I want to do and things I am responsible to do . . . but often not enough time for both. The proper handling of the two is balance — an important ability in adulthood.
Summer also was the time we introduced new chores into our children’s lives. The summer before they started school, we spent time teaching them how to make their beds and clean their rooms. But it was about more than instruction, more than a bedroom. This training was also about personal responsibility. We held them accountable for following our instructions and completing the tasks.
Each summer, as they grew older, we added to their areas of responsibility until the tasks became routine. Instead of dragging out a chore, like emptying the dishwasher, they learned to get the job done, so they could move on to other things they wanted to do.
Did they complain? Only as long as they thought their complaining might get them out of doing the chore. We had to hold the line because we had to remind ourselves that the chore was not the point. It was all about teaching our children to be personally responsible.
Summer should provide your children with some scheduled reading time (challenging, but needed) and opportunities to figure out what to do with their free time. Remember, these are things they will need to work out later on the college campus.
Finally, use the summer to plant in your child a deeper relationship with God, a deeper relationship with family and a deeper understanding of how to say “yes” to the right things . . . how to get the chore done rather than procrastinate. You will never reap more than you plant.
If the crop we’re looking to harvest is godly adults who grow up to be responsible family leaders, then we need to spend the summer planting, nurturing and weeding the soil that will grow those adults. The harvest comes later, but you will hinder it if you don’t give the proper attention now. Summer is the time to train up your children in the way they should go, so that when they are older, they’ll have the tools to be godly adults (Proverbs 22:6). Don’t waste this summer. Plant the right things in your children.
Visit parentingonpurpose.org for more advice from Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts.