As I have said before, children are actually Adults-In-Training.  I have already suggested the checklist of things you should teach them by age 16….

My other suggestion can be used as early as age 3 – make an R & F Chart.

R = Responsibility

F = Freedom

This chart can be real or imagined – but the concept is the same: as children get older, they should move higher on the “chart”.

As their level of Freedom increases, so should their level of Responsibility.

The great thing is that you can discuss this with your child and decide together what those levels should look like.

The “Responsibility” tasks (we used to call them chores) should always be age-appropriate and specific – like “putting away your toys when you are done playing with them” for a small child or “mowing the lawn, helping make one meal a week, completing all homework, walking the dog once a day, and doing your own laundry (including bedding)” for a teen.

The “Freedom” items would allow children to gain more freedom as they got older…..having friends sleep over, getting to choose the colors and decor of their room, going to the mall, choosing their clothes or hair (or piercings), being allowed to stay home alone, use of games or other technology, getting an allowance or a part time job, borrowing the car (again, always age-appropriate and specific).

As they get older, they can move up on both sides of the chart…..and together you can agree on what that means.  If your child wants more freedom, you simply sit down with them and say “Okay, but that means you also get more responsibility”.  Depending on the age of the child, you can work on the chart together and come to an agreement.

It seems simple, but so many people don’t do it.

We have all seen children and youth whose “charts” were completely tipped to one side…..they have tons of freedom but no responsibilities….or tons of responsibilities around the house and little freedom.  Can you see how both types of youth might struggle in adulthood?

The exciting thing about being an adult is all the freedom that we have, but we also have responsibilities.  We need to be balanced.

We all know that in adulthood, the freedoms can be great (choose what to eat and wear, how to spend our money, where to live and work, who we have in our lives, what to do for fun) but so can the responsibilities (college or university, rent or mortgages, debt, jobs, taxes, bills, marriage, family, health, and being good law-abiding citizens).

We are happiest (and make the best choices) when we live a balanced life – when our personal “R & F Chart” is equal on both sides.

How can we prepare kids for a happy and balanced life if we don’t show them what it means?

Class dismissed.