In our culture, we moms often feel that we should provide our young children with constant entertainment, stimulation, and child-centered activity.
So we pour our energy into providing just that. But eventually, we begin to feel exhausted, weary and overwhelmed. We can’t get our housework done or pursue other interests, let alone rest, so we resort to turning on the T.V. for them or putting our children in preschool-type programs. (Nothing against preschool, but it doesn’t have to be done as an act of desperation). The burden of entertaining them becomes too much for us to handle alone.
Believe me, I know. I’ve been there.
But is this natural? Is this how societies have functioned throughout history?
When I step back and consider these questions, my answer is, no.
While playing with our children is so important for their development, and should happen every single day, this isn’t the only way to keep them “entertained.” We have to figure out ways to make our lives work efficiently, and constantly evolving activities around what I “think” my child should be interested in doesn’t necessarily do that for me. (Although some activities absolutely should evolve around their interests).
So what’s the alternative?
If you’re committed to living a simple life, you probably won’t be putting your kids in constant activities, programs, sports and playgroups. Nor will you be able to make your entire day about them at the expense of household chores, and you probably won’t want them to watch much TV.
So instead of entertaining your children, lead and train them to do life with you.
If you’re cooking or cleaning, intentionally involve them in the task. If you have a hobby, teach them simple skills that will allow them to participate and learn. Reproduce everything you know and do–every bit of a disciplined, productive life–into them.
Teach them to clean up. Establish routines for your day. Serve others together. Visit the elderly. Make a craft. Grow a garden. Sew. Bake bread. Show them how a home is run and do it with them. Decorate. Take care of the baby or younger siblings together with your older children. Involve them in home-maintenance. Teach them stuff. Enjoy their presence.
Since letting go of the burden of entertaining my children, I have found great freedom in parenting and day to day life. I enjoy the time I spend with them so much, and what I’m giving them feels grounding and real. I am more confident now then ever that I’m training them to be thankful, productive people. I want them to have fun, but also to develop skills and confidence, to be godly and others-centered. It’s these qualities, not the expectation for attention and ego-centrism, that will make them ultimately happy.
Thinking this way has lead me to include my children in things I normally wouldn’t. Of course, it’s easier and neater to paint a garage door without the help of a three-year-old, but we made some great memories today, and she had a blast. The extra effort of including her in this task was far more worthwhile than sitting her in front of a TV or even playing with her. (Although, hear me, I do believe play is important, just not necessary every waking moment as entertainment).
Q: What activities have you included your children in around the house?