What does it mean to raise productive kids, and how do we do it?
Thoughts about raising productive kids
It's back-to-school time in the United States, which makes it a good time to rethink your routine and how you are managing things. I thought I would do a back-to-school mini-series, starting with giving some thought to how we can help our kids be more productive.
Applying our definition of productivity to our kids
At The Productive Woman we define productivity not only as accomplishing things (checking things off the to-do list), but also as making a life that matters.
How do we help our kids get the things done they need to do, but also in so doing make a life that matters?
Be clear about what you want
We can start with being clear with what we want. We can ask the same questions about our kids that we ask ourselves when planning our lives. The first question is simple, but sometimes the hardest one to answer: What do you want?
What kind of person do you want your child to be? What kind of life do you want them to live?
But also what specifically would you like your child to do? What skills would you like them to learn? What habits would you like them to develop? Do you want your kids to leave home being happy, healthy, productive members of society? What would that look like to you?
This is a great place to start because knowing what outcome you want has to be the starting place for developing a plan.
Next, ask yourself is what you want realistic? Is what you want for your child possible?
If so, can you communicate what you want in a way your child can understand?
Focusing on priorities
What matters most to you in your child’s life and development? Why? What is your long-term objective? This will determine the short-term steps that you take.
Which habits do you want to create for your child, and why?
Knowing our why is so important. It’s what keeps us going in pursuing our own goals, and the same thing is true in raising our children and in helping them to become more productive.
Recognize the differences between various ages and developmental stages
As we are considering helping our children become more productive, we need to keep in mind the various ages and developmental stages. There are a ton of resources that can help you to evaluate what your child is capable of, depending on his or her age. What a toddler can do is different than what a teenager can do (obviously!). Keep those things in mind and look for resources to help you figure out what your child is capable of. (In my experience, they're capable of more than we sometimes realize.)
The bottom line is to be intentional about helping our kid develop those life skills that will make them more productive and in making a life that matters as they learn to define it.
We need to be intentional in helping them learn both developmental/life skills and practical skills that they will need in life.
Developmental skills could include:
- Planning — One writer defines planning as “the thinking skill that helps an individual develop strategies to accomplish goals. It helps a child to think about how to complete a task before attempting to begin it.” We can teach kids how to plan ahead to accomplish something they want to do. The Learning Works for Kids website offers some great tips for helping children learn planning skills.
- Organizing — There are things we can do to help our kids organize, and all these things come down to getting them involved in the process. For example, having them help sort and clean out their toys.
- Problem-solving — In order to help your children develop problem-solving skills, it comes down to not doing everything for them, but instead modeling skills for them and doing it with them. For example, if they have a conflict with someone at school you can brainstorm with them ways to solve that problem. Get them involved in thinking through it and thinking rationally about it.
- Seeing other perspectives — This matters in so many ways because our society today often lacks the skill to be able to see something through someone else’s eyes. The inability to see another person’s perspective might often be the root of bullying. It is also crucial to be successful in business. One writer suggests that in order to be successful adults our kids will need to be able to understand the needs and perspectives of bosses, co-workers, and customers. This isn't something that comes naturally to all of us, so helping our children develop this skill will give them an advantage when they go out on their own. Check out this article, which offers ideas you can use with kids of various ages to help them develop the ability to see other perspectives.
- Communication — We can help our children to develop communication skills, both listening and expressing skills. They need to learn to express what they're thinking and to listen to other people. One writer cautions, “Failing to teach proper communication skills could socially limit a child for a lifetime.” Communication skills include making eye contact, which is a real challenge for some kids. Other skills include learning to speak clearly and correctly, to take turns and not interrupt, and to pay attention to what other people are saying.
In addition to the developmental or life skills, there are also practical skills we can teach our children that will help them become productive, confident adults. For example, we can help them learn:
- How to clean house
- How to do laundry.
- Basic cooking skills.
- How to shop for groceries.
- How to study, and how to learn.
Thoughts for helping your kids be more productive
Let your children contribute to household life. When our kids were young, we taught them that everybody could and should contribute to the household. They had chores they didn’t get paid for. They got allowances, but they were for extra things like extra chores. We all contributed to the upkeep of our home. Start when they are young, while they still think it’s fun.
Let them own the process — give them options. When we had a cleaning day, I would make a list of everything that needed to get done, usually broken down by room. Then I'd let them take turns choosing. Each person (including me) would put their initials by the chores they chose. Then when all the tasks were spoken for, I would take a minute to create a separate list for each child, so they each had their own list and could cross tasks off as they were completed. This was effective and helpful to involve the kids in choosing.
In the Facebook group, Dusti mentioned, “One thing I have kept up with for over a year now is a contribution system for my kids. I’ve tried EVERY. THING. And this has worked for us. I rotate the names on Monday morning, and they keep this job for a week. #2 is always the checker. This is their family contribution. We don’t call them chores.”
Tania shared what works for her family, “One of the things I’ve found really helpful is having a scheduled family meeting every Sunday night, to discuss the week ahead and who is doing what on each day. As we have a 16- and an 18-year-old, this also helps them have some responsibility in the family team. We’ve been doing this for a couple of years now, and it helps me sort my head out, and makes sure things aren’t forgotten!”
Give them grace, and don’t insist that everything be done exactly the way you would do it. Give up on perfectionism, and keep perspective as to what’s really important. This was hard for me. In my head there is a proper way to wash dishes, and I taught my children my way, but I had to set them up and then leave the room, and let them do it how it worked best for them.
Teach them to be self-motivated, and let them experience the consequences of their choices. One writer advises, “Avoid nagging your child to get their chores done. If you nag your kids, they’re less likely to take responsibility to remember what they have to get done. Instead, provide consequences if they don’t complete their chores on time.” It works better if you make the expectations clear and let them bear the consequences if they don’t get their chores done.
Model the productivity skills you want them to develop. Let them see you writing things down, checking things off, and doing a weekly review. You could even do a weekly review with your child and tell them how it helps you in your life.
We need to communicate with our kids. Ellen J. Kullman, formerly Chair and Chief Executive Officer of DuPont, once said, “With kids, they don’t do what you want them to do when you want them to do it. . . . You’ve got to listen. You’ve got to learn how to influence.”
We can teach our kids, but if we want to influence them, we need to learn to listen and understand where they are at any given moment and then communicate with them in a way they understand.
What do you think?
I don’t have all the answers when it comes to helping kids be more productive. I know a few things that worked for me, and I’ve shared some ideas from experts. I'd love to hear your tips. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or email me.
Resources and Links:
“5 techniques adults can pass along to kids” by Michael St. Pierre, with Brian Tracy, Productive! Magazine
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