Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The role of activities in shaping a disciplined life

Thank you to those of you who shared how you instill discipline in your kids. You gave me some good ideas:) I think chores are an important part of teaching children to be responsible, and our kids have chores, too. All of our kids (except Baby Lu) have to keep their rooms picked-up and make their beds every morning. Someone usually helps my 3 year old with his bed, but he gives it the old college try.

Mr. Monk is in charge of keeping the upstairs picked-up. He also takes out the trash for me and walks his dog daily (well, almost daily). Twinkle Toes and Measle both know how to work the Shark (cordless vacuum) and Swiffer wet-jet and also both enjoy cleaning toilets (we use the Clorox toilet wand, which is a lot of fun). I also have help a couple of times a week and since our homeschooled kids aren't swamped with homework every night, they still have plenty of free time that requires careful management.

I believe activities can be used wisely to help develop self-discipline in children. I know there's a lot of controversy surrounding kids and activities today. Some complain that kids are too busy and don't have time to just be kids anymore. Others say that these activities can be blown out of proportion and be detrimental to the health and closeness of the family. I propose that there's a happy medium where kids can gain a great deal from sports or the arts, while not sacrificing family priorities.
I like for my kids to be busy. Big D and I do not like them to be "plugged in" during the week, but we do allow them Friday night movie night and to have limited "plug in" time on the weekend. Our three older kids swim on the local swim team. I love watching my kids swim. Mr. Monk works so hard. You can see his determination with every set. Mr. Monk also does Scouts. We are blessed that he can be part of a wonderful Christian homeschool pack where all the dads work and play alongside their sons. I know my son might like to have more "free time", but I think maybe there's more value in carefully selected activities.

Twinkle Toes and Measle also take music and art lessons and ice skating in the winter. Big D is extremely artistic and musical and didn't get to have many lessons as a child. He's always felt strongly that if possible we would provide these opportunities for our kids. We are blessed that my mom and dad pay for our two oldest kids to take piano and my mom even picks them up and takes them for me! We are also very fortunate that a friend comes to our home and gives Measle violin lessons once a week. The older kids also take art from a wonderful Christian woman who is a retired art teacher. Monk has often referred to her as his "other Grandmother". God has graciously provided for us in this area and we believe our kids are benefiting from it.

Big D and I have goals about what we'd like activities to accomplish in the lives of our children.

1. Cut down on the amount of free-time they have (idle hands and all...).
2. Encourage physical fitness.
3. Teach them the value of hard work and discipline.
4. Teach them to set goals and work toward achieving them.
5. Help develop skills they can use for the glory of God. (music/art in the church)
6. Give them a healthy dose of humility.

Let me add this disclaimer onto my plug for activities:

Big D and I are endeavoring to teach our children to put the Lord first. We do not participate in activities that interfere with worshipping in church Sundays or Wednesday nights. Big D and I also take very seriously our commitment to having a women's Bible study in our home on Tuesday nights, so activities cannot interfere with that, either. One time last summer I took the kids to a 3 day swim meet. They swam Friday and Saturday, but not Sunday. It was hard, because my kids are both breaststrokers and their best events were on Sunday, but they didn't plead or argue with me at all. They all wanted to come home for church. Big D and I also feel strongly that we eat home-cooked dinners together as a family most nights, so supper time is sacred. We are also striving to have family worship 5 evenings a week (Tues and Wed nights are Bible study and church). There may come a time in the future when Big D and I feel we have to drop certain activities, but right now we are happy with the balance.
I also want to share that when a friend was in re-hab a few months ago I took the kids to see her a few times and Monk decided to give her his most recent painting. She was really blessed by that and in turn praised him so much that he ended up being blessed by her. It was really neat to see that his art lessons allowed him to give one of our friends a lift and brighten her day (and her rehab room)!
What activities have you found that work well for your family? How do you guard against activities dividing the family? Do you let your kids choose their activities, or do you decide for them?

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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.