Wednesday, June 5, 2013

40 Day Challenge: The IMMEASURABLY MORE (Part 2)

Another one of God's unexpected blessings that resulted from our 40 day family challenge came out of the new RESPONSIBILITIES we had given the kids.  As a mom, it's easy to end your day feeling a bit overworked and overwhelmed.  In fact, the daily "to do" list for a mother often feels unending.  But I believe that God placed us together in a family so that we could function as a team.  Giving our kids new "jobs" and chores to regularly be responsible for is a way that we can strengthen their game, so that when it's time for them to coach, they'll be prepared to lead their own families on toward victory.

One of the ways I wanted God to work in the heart of our family was by instilling servanthood into my children's lives.  The bottom line: I was doing too much for them and for the household.  I needed help.  They needed to learn to be more responsible for themselves and for each other.

When we tackled this new family challenge, we didn't attach any reward to it.  We simply told the kids that we were expecting God to improve our family and our household through some of the changes we were implementing.  I am all for giving children an allowance and rewarding them for good behavior.  But when it came to their new responsibilities, we intentionally did not attach reward to the accomplishment of these tasks.  I wanted them to learn that as a family, we are a team, we help each other out, and we serve one another out of love...not out of "expecting" something in return.  I wanted them to learn to help out, just because there was a need that needed to be met.  That they should look for opportunities to meet these needs just because God desires them to have a servant's heart.  And that pleases Him.  Pleasing Him is reward in itself.

At first, the kids (or some of them) griped at these new daily chores.  One in particular kept saying, "These new rules are just too hard."  They often compared their work to each other ("But, I did _______, and so and so only did _______.")  I really didn't care.  Life is unfair, and at different times and seasons, we all have to pull our weight and occasionally do more than the person next to us.  The important thing is that the job gets done.  I stressed to the kids that we were not keeping score.  I also threatened to take group privileges away if a task wasn't completed, and left it up to them to decide how and by whom it would get done.  And I made sure they received their due praise and thanks for playing their part and helping out when needed.  Some times, when I noticed one child pulling more weight than another, we gave that child "extra minutes" or extra "cuddle time" at night.  They loved this!

What we found surprised us.  Rather quickly, and with relatively little complaining, the kids jumped on board.  Early on, I sensed that they were feeling good about the work they were doing.  Part of it could have been because they realized it was helpful to me and it put me in a good mood.  Kids want to please their parents, and when they do, it pleases them.  Also, I think it really filled them with a sense of accomplishment and purpose.  They began to take pride and delight in being helpful.  This is what surprised me the most.

But when you think about it, it really should have come as no surprise.  We were created for work.  Even before the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, God gave them work to do.  ("The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it."Genesis 2:15)  Before sin even entered the world, and life was perfect, man was a working man.  God is constantly at work in and around us, and we are created in His image...to do good works.

By giving my kids new daily responsibilities, it took more pressure off of me and my workload.  I found more time to do the things that I wanted to do.  More time for me!  In fact, while I am on this subject, let me swerve off topic a bit.  Part of my feeling "overworked and overwhelmed" was a direct result of me not taking enough time for myself.  When we started this challenge, I made a conscious effort to do more of this.  Once our homeschooling was completed and the kids had been fed lunch, I put Berlyn down for her nap daily.  During this time, my older two had to read and then do something quietly.  I reserved this time of the day for myself.  Each day I was given about an hour to myself with minimal interruption.  Some days I took care of household responsibilities such as finances or cleaning.  Other times I read or wrote, used the computer, or made a couple of phone calls.  But, it became a time where I could expect a little break and a little quiet.  It's been wonderful and refreshing!

What I also found was that because my workload was lightened a bit, I had more time to enjoy my kids.  When they pitched in, tasks were completed quicker, and it freed up more time for us to play and enjoy time together as a family.  Overall, implementing these changes in our day-to-day was a win-win for everyone, and it increased the flow and joy in our household more than I thought it would.

Because this challenge was "new" to us, we had to iron out the kinks as we went along.  If you are interested in implementing any of these ideas within your household, I'd recommend a couple of things:
1)  Plan to revisit the list of RESPONSIBILITIES on occasion.  Around day 15, we had to tighten up the reigns a bit.  The kids were "forgetting" some of their chores.  It's important to review and revisit them if you want them to stick.  Repetition is everything!
2)  I had wanted to print out the HOUSE RULES and RESPONSIBILITIES in plain sight for the kids to review should they need to, but never got around to doing it.  I'd recommend doing this...finding a place in your home to post these things only reinforces them.  (And it might even save you some words of frustration when your kids aren't abiding and following through...just point your finger to the list and let them figure it out themselves!)
3)  On our 40th day, we decided we should celebrate the completion of our challenge by doing something together as a family.  I mentioned before that I didn't want our family challenge to be "reward-based."  But, I think it's a great idea for the family to come up with a reward or plan to follow through with once the challenge has been met.  Having an incentive and something to look forward to can bring excitement to the journey and help spur you on during those more slow and difficult days.  I wish that, in the beginning, our family would have brainstormed and come up with a plan in how we would celebrate the completion of our challenge.  To be honest, we just didn't think about it until afterwards!

But we did celebrate...and here's proof!
 Day 40:
family dinner at OSAKA
followed by a visit to the local fair.
(I am not so much a "carny," but my kids most certainly are!  They love rollercoasters and rides...Brookie being the bravest and most adventurous of all.  Here, they entertained their little sister by riding the "baby coaster" with her.)

In their eyes, this was the perfect way to celebrate!
And even though our "40 days" is technically over, this challenge was designed to become a lifestyle.  We are still following through on all of the principles, ideas, and changes initially implemented.  Today marks day "60."  Not perfect or fool-proof, but we are still going strong!

"Through love serve one another."
Galatians 5:13

3 comments:

  1. I took so much from your last few entries. Thanks for your honesty, your example, and your faith! I am so happy God is working positively in your beautiful family.
    Corie

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  2. Thank you Corie. "A person finds joy in giving an apt reply. And how good is a timely word." Proverbs 15:23. I've had second thoughts this week about all I've allowed myself to share in this corner of the blogging world...wondering if it was worth the risk of judgement/condemnation from others who may not understand the journey we've been on or the details that have played into it. God knows when we need encouragement most, so your comment is much appreciated...and it just reminds me that sometimes we have to move outside our comfort level and leave the rest in God's hands. And regardless of the court of public opinion, when you are in His will, you are in the right place. And that's really what matters the most...to have an audience of One. Thank you for taking the time to share this with me today.

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