Habits of Mind – Friday 50: #4 Contribution
My kids surprise me on a regular basis with the way they provide proof for John C. Maxwell’s quote about contribution which is that:“every person has a longing to be significant; to make a contribution; to be a part of something noble and purposeful.”Click To Tweet
I am certainly not saying that my kids are perfect or even that they always show this habit of mind. They’re kids, like many others, who are learning to navigate their way through the world and they make a boat load of mistakes doing so. Then again, so do I.
My kids also cause me to wonder sometimes at the ways they seek to make an honest and impactful contribution to their family, community, and the world at large. It’s surprising sometimes just how much kids want to be responsible and be considered able to make a meaningful contribution and difference in their and the wider world.
Kids, like adults, crave opportunities to demonstrate that they are capable of “taking care of business” by responding appropriately and effectively to what needs to be done. It’s true that most kids love being doted on and treated like precious tiny humans, but they also desire chances to show that they are powerful in their own way and can have a positive impact.
What I have found with my own kids is that I don’t really have to teach them to want to make a contribution. What I do have to do as their dad is support them to appropriately think about, plan for, and put into action what they want to do to help, make a difference, and contribute in their own way.
Four Strategies to Encourage Contribution as a Habit in our Kids
Kids need opportunities to contribute to the common good (and be recognized for it).
Kids love knowing that they make a positive contribution to their world so it’s our job as parents to look for these opportunities for our kids to step up, support them as they do so, and celebrate their efforts and growth. Of course, how we do this as parents will vary depending on the ages of our kids and our unique circumstances, but being mindful of this approach to developing our children’s ability to contribute positively will help them develop into empowered, caring, and empathetic youth and adults.
When your kids are little this strategy could be something as simple as praising your daughter for being a good big sister or noticing how her singing brightens everyone’s day and bringing it to her attention.
As they grow older, looks for ways in which they can participate in their own self care, family well being, and community involvement. Don’t expect your kids to turn into tiny Mother Teresa’s overnight. Like any habit of mind, and way of being, it will take time for this approach to life to develop and mature in your kids.
Let your kids “do it themselves” when and where appropriate.
I can’t sugar coat it, this one is HARD for me.
My son loves to help me with most tasks. He takes huge amounts of pride in helping me wash our vehicles, cut the grass, do landscaping tasks, get our equipment together for camping, paint the deck, etc., etc.
Most of the time I could accomplish the tasks that he helps me with in a quarter of the time with less than half of the mistakes or missed steps. I have had to choke down anxious feelings and literally bite my tongue to allow him the time and space he needs to learn and take pride in making his contribution to our family.
Kids need these kinds of chances to help us out. They need us to step back and open some spaces for them to contribute. They also need to be allowed to make mistakes and not be instantly perfect with what they are trying to help with.
Will it take more time to get the grass mowed? Definitely. Will the clothes be folded a little “strangely”? Likely. Will the car have a few missed spots after they’ve helped wash it? Almost certainly. Will there be flour on the kitchen floor after the pancakes are mixed? Yep.
I need to remind myself on a consistent basis that this is a part of the process of learning for kids and to step in, take over, or redo the job the kids just finished can damage their motivation to take risks and offer their help and contribution to our family and the world in the future. This is the last thing I want for them. I want them to confidently step into those times and spaces where they feel they can make a difference and do so, mistakes and all.
Ask your child to problem solve and think critically.
There are times as a parent to provide “orders” and crystal-clear direction on the how, when, and where a task that needs to get done, gets done.
There are also times where we need to provide our kids with the opportunity to think through how something they are helping us with could get done, talk them through it, allow them to problem solve and think critically about the options before making a choice.
When they are very young, we’re going to guide this process greatly as parents. As kids mature it’s tough to step back and let your kids choose to do something in a way that you consider, “less than ideal” but our role shifts to reflecting with our kids on their choices, talking to them about how you would have approached the situation and why, and asking them about what they might do in the future. In a world of near constant change, helping your kids develop this reflective approach to problem solving and critical thinking will help them find their own best path to making powerful and positive contributions to their world as adults.
Model how to make a positive contribution and make examples concrete for your kids.
There’s a saying that “fish can’t see water”. It makes me think that sometimes as our kids swim around in the positive contributions we make as parents to their, our family’s, and our community’s well being that they can’t see these either.
This isn’t because they’re actively trying to be oblivious to the jobs we work, the hours we spend in the backyard fighting to put together the trampoline, the months we dedicated to coaching their sports team, or the body part we sold to finance their dance season. Kids, need us to point out to them examples of how we are making a difference and contributing to our world through our decisions and actions. We don’t do this as a means of creating guilt about the things we do, the choices we make, or the money we spend on our kids but as a means of making sure they learn that they too will have the opportunity to make these choices for their own families and communities one day. Let them see and understand you as the most powerful example of choosing to contribute your time and energy to making a difference in their life and the life of others.
A Friendly Challenge to Contribute to the Conversation
Eleanor Roosevelt challenged us all to:
[r]emember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one.
As parents one of our greatest contributions is to help our kids develop into adults that feel a responsibility to contribute as individuals to the greater good of their families, communities, and the world.
How do you develop a habit of contribution in your kids? Click To TweetShare your successful strategies and examples in the comments below or in our Facebook Group at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/epicdads.net/