"What are the responsibilities of kids?" I recently polled my children and various nieces and nephews. The following are some of their replies:
To go to school.
To be able to do whatever I want.
To eat delicious food.
To be nice.
To irritate my parents.
To make my mom spend money.
Some of these replies were said in jest (I think), but they betray an underlying desire. Most kids want to assert themselves. They long to have a voice, establish independence and be taken seriously. Such desires are normal; after all, kids are adults in practice.
In today's world, however, it seems that many kids feel increasingly entitled to items and behavior that were traditionally reserved for adults: The latest cellphone, an expensive new car, a fabulous vacation, the newest music, movies and clothes, few boundaries and lots of latitude, and immediate gratification.
Maybe I'm channeling my inner 1950s housewife when I feel that some kids need to be put in their places - mine included. Grown-ups have certain responsibilities that accompany adulthood. In turn, kids have specific obligations that are wholly appropriate to childhood. By fulfilling their duties, children are more likely to grow into responsible, unselfish and self-sufficient grown-ups.
Kids should honor their parents
It may be thousands of years old, but the commandment to "Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee" is still relevant today. (KJV Exodus 20:12) How do kids disrespect their parents? Let us count the ways: talking back, neglecting household chores, showing ingratitude and disobeying rules are just a few.
As parents, we all deal with imperfect kids. Young children aren't born understanding the commandment to honor and obey their mom and dad. As they mouth off and break rules, it's our job to discipline with consistency and lovingly teach them to respect their parents and all adults.
Children should get an education
As my kids grumble about school and homework, I like to point out that my job right now is to be a mom and take care of them. Their job is to attend school, study and do their best. We all move through different stages in life and each step carries different tasks and privileges.
When kids want to put video games, friends or other distractions ahead of their education, we can remind them that for now, school is the priority. Learning to focus and work hard now will pay off as they grow and participate in the working world of adults. It'll also help them to be accepted to college and earn a good living later on.
Sometimes we sound like broken records as we remind kids to take school seriously, but that's our role.
Kids should enjoy childhood
What's the rush to grow up? The freedoms and innocence of youth are precious times to be cherished. Life's harsh realities will set in all too soon.
Sometimes it seems that as parents, we inadvertently rush our kids through childhood. For example, we over-schedule their days, limiting down time and creative play. We compete with other parents by signing up for far too many activities. We over-emphasize a fashionable wardrobe, which soon becomes too much of a good thing. We let our kids watch adult-oriented TV shows and movies and play violent video games. Sometimes, we inadvertantly encourage them to lose their innocence prematurely.
Not that we should shelter our kids away from the world, but it doesn't hurt to buffer some realities while they're young. Unfortunately, I'm guilty too.
As we teach our kids to be obedient and respectful, work hard in school and play as kids should, we're helping them to fulfill the job description of being a kid.