Thursday, January 9, 2014

Entering a New Era

We're entering a new era of parenting- the pre-teen era.  How does one characterize this era?  In all the ways you can probably imagine.  Our oldest is almost 11 and while I knew that all the aspects of this age would take some finesse there is one element I wasn't expecting.

During this stage begins a desire to do something worthwhile.  More often than not, it's expressed as "I'm bored," but when pressed on what this means, what comes out is that childish games and ways of play aren't cutting it as much anymore and a pre-pre-pre-adult desire to be productive is taking shape.

The challenge is that at this age there are many things a pre-teen can't do.  They can't go out and get a job. Even volunteering can be tricky unless a parent can go along. What we don't want to do is ignore this God-given desire to be useful, to have purpose, and to contribute to the world around them.  This is a good thing. Helping this desire grow seems pretty important and we want to be attentive to it.

If we lived on a full, working farm, he would have chores out the wazoo, but our little farmette's chores mid-winter are minimal.

So.  What is he doing?  In addition to normal, everyday, family chores (trash, recycling, pouring water at meal times, clearing plates, vacuuming, splitting kindling for the wood stove, etc) we've taught our pre-teen to take over the job of helping our neighbors who need assistance bring in their firewood. Since he can't manage a full wheel-barrow load yet, he makes half-full trips, stacking it by their basement window. Once in place, he knocks on their door then hands piece by piece down through the basement window into their basement (where their wood stove is).  Depending on how much they need, this can take him an hour or more once or twice a week (depending on the weather).

For now, this has added a little bulk (and a lot of purpose) to his week. We continue to look for ways through church and his mentor relationship for him to lend a hand, to contribute.  We all have purpose.  We all have God-given gifts just waiting to be tapped into.  Our hope is that we'll give our pre-teens enough opportunities to discover their gifts and kindle their desire to use their time in purposeful and helpful ways- giving of themselves at the right dose and frequency for their age.  We want them to look outward during a time when it's natural to gravitate toward always looking in.

For me, parenting is an ever-changing, ever-challenging dance between reigning in and letting go and, therefore, it's exhausting (in an exciting, rewarding, humbling, terrifying, and sometimes maddening kind of way).

I covet your ideas and suggestions.  What has worked for your family as you try to find purposeful ways for your pre-teens and teenagers to interact with the world (in or outside of the home)?  What experiences did you have growing up that allowed you to feel useful and a contributing part of society during this particular stage of life?

What a stage of life it is. Pin It

20 comments:

  1. Sounds like you are doing a wonderful job Jane! The Lord will give wisdom as you ask Him for it...SUCH a precious truth! Is he interested in learning to cook? A kitchen helper for real might be a blessing. My goal is for our boys to know how to cook basic things (unless they want to go beyond basic) before they graduate from our home to theirs. I think working for the neighbours is fabulous! And...perhaps look for an elderly widowed lady who is in need at your church who could use help with a thing or two. Those are just some things that pop into my head at the moment. But, please know that I think that you are doing well and the Lord will be Faithful to guide you as you seek Him each step of the journey. One more thing...the book "Age of Opportunity" by Paul David Tripp is a fabulous resource full of encouragement for the teen years...we have been blessed by it! Love, Camille

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  2. Such an encouraging post! You are absolutely right! We have entered this stage as well. We are trying to figure out things to do as well. So far stacking wood for a neighbor was one way, another was raising meat chickens to sell, and regular chores. I believe this list will grow and change. Right now their plans are sooo big! Too big for their briches (spelling?)! And it is a challenge as a parent to give them flapping room for those wings and still keep things on an age appropriate level. When I turned 13 my parents let me start working on a horse farm. I loved the hard work, the animals, the independence. It was so good for me and I am thankful they saw that and let me go ahead.:)

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  3. Yep! Teach him to cook, both indoors and out - campfire cooking might be a good starting place, especially with cast iron. The way to a godly woman's heart just might be a man who can cook...

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  4. Jane you are one smart girl! It took me a few years before I learned that work with purpose (not busy work-they can see right through that) helps both pre-teen, teen and parent in so many ways. My parents had us working at a family friend's farm early and often and it was just what we needed...kept us busy, tired and we earned some of our own money also.

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  5. When I was that age I was a mother's helper. It's not a full on baby sitter as the parent was home. But it was a pre-babysitter gig where I helped with the kids so the mom could say have her hands free to make dinner or get other things done. Maybe 2 hours at a time. So the pay isn't that of a babysitter (which of course varies from area to area) but it's still a little spending cash and a great way to learn to be responsible, without having to be super responsible for little lives. When I grew up it was fairly common for moms to hire mother's helpers in the late afternoon a few times a week with the intention of getting things done (like dinner and laundry).

    I also fed a neighbors cat/took in mail when she would go out of town. I don't think I got paid but she always let me use her pool so it was the least I could do. Plus it felt good to do something nice for a good neighbor friend.

    KK @ Preppy Pink Crocodile

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  6. I have been struggling with these same thoughts and feelings. Our winter chores are pretty small and don't take up enough of my son's energy. I have been trying to come up with some options for him and I like the firewood idea. We unfortunately don't have a wood burning fireplace, but my parents do and he could easily fill up their woodbox every few days. Even my 7 year old daughter confided in me that she doesn't know quite what to do with herself. She feels too big to play with toys anymore, but not big enough to move on to big girl things. These in-between stages are so hard!

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  7. Our son did a lot of yard work such as leaf raking and mowing starting about that age. Where you live perhaps he could help with snow shoveling? Our daughters both were mothers helpers for new moms who needed help with child care of older children and simple household tasks. All of these jobs helped instill a good work ethic and taught them skills that they are now using in adult life.

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  8. Your heart is sensitive to your son and the Lord...perfect. ;-) "Age of Opportunity" is a great resource. Could I also recommend Diana Waring's great book, "Reaping The Harvest". God bless you. :-)

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  9. My brother shovels snow for several shut ins from church. Granted, this takes time and effort on my parent's part as well, since they have to drive him there, but they are usually happy to give him an opportunity to help others- and get some "good-old-fashioned hard work" as well! :)

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  10. what a wonderful post and so many helpful ideas in the comments! Our daughter is 8, so this will come for us in a few years. I do recall that I helped my uncle and aunt on their farm for a few summers when I was a young teen or pre-teen. I also started babysitting.

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  11. We have an almost 12 year old and are facing similar challenges. We're looking into a 7 day outward bound backpacking/rock climbing trip for my son this summer. I 'm hopeful that such an experience will give him confidence in his own abilities, and boost his motivation level overall.
    And we recently started working together in a soup kitchen once a month. So far it has been a great way to spend time together and to work side by side.

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  12. We are at the same place. My daughter does a paper route and enjoys her spending money as well as pays for the chicken food with that money. She has expressed interest in lawn mowing, babysitting, and volunteering at the local humane society. I don't know if you all do music lessons, but Clara sings in a community children's choir and plays in orchestra. These extras have really given her a sense of self.

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  13. I think now is a perfect time to teach him a craft such a whittling or crochet that can be done in the warmth of your home of cold days but offers a sense of accomplishment. I also recommend having him ready.to the younger ones at least a few times a week.

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  14. My boys are men now with beautiful families of their own but when they we 11 I taught them how to look after themselves - cooking, sewing on buttons and minor repairs, washing clothes, cleaning, and my husband taught them outside things such as mowing the lawn, maintaining the lawn mower, clearing the roof gutters, cleaning out the water tanks, changing tyres and spark plugs etc. They also started a little business in our small town - looking after animals and birds while owners where away and walking dogs when they were too busy.

    I found there were two crucial years - 13 and 17. At 13 we gave them more freedoms along with their responsibilities and at 17 we watched more closely for alcohol and drugs. I'm talking about 20 years ago so maybe you'd need to watch for those signs from13 now. My friends with children older than mine told me the teen years were a nightmare but I didn't think they were too bad. Sure, we had a few blowups and problems along the way but if you've got a firm foundation there and your children know they're loved, really loved, they'll come and talk to you when they need to. Mine did, although sometimes it was too late. You have to be flexible in the teen years but always remember your values. I think the main thing is to provide good role modelling - all the time. If you don't want them to smoke or drink, don't do that yourself. If you want them to be kind and polite, you have to show that in all that you do.

    While there were periods when we grew apart during their teen years, overall we grew closer and that is still there today. Good luck. I hope you can turn that boredom into something more productive.

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  15. When my daughter was 11 she was able to take a babysitting course that was offered by a local hospital. This was done through her Girl Scout Troop and it helped prepare her for being both a mother's helper and a babysitter. She also had a "special placement" in Sunday School early on where she repeated a grade to serve as the teacher's helper (which took her out of a difficult and dangerous social situation), and served to prepare her heart and to grow her skills in ministry to young children. (this was definitely a situation where over time it became obvious that God had a plan for her life and was working on it from an early age) We had her attend children's bereavement classes through Hospice when my grandmother died. (Little did we know that, once again, God was preparing her for what lie ahead) Within a year she lost a friend to pneumonia and the skills she'd been taught enabled her to encourage and support her friends and classmates through that difficult time.
    She also took over the chore of doing the family grocery shopping for a couple of years when she was in 6th and 7th grade. I'd had an injury and was able to drive, but not to be on my feet for any length of time or to lift anything over a pound. The skills she developed that year, reading the sales circulars, clipping coupons and planning meals around seasonal specials have served her in good stead as years have passed.
    Every one of our children is different, but if we are discerning and seek God's leading he will direct our paths and give us wisdom as parents to direct our children.

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  16. Besides helping a little around the house and eventually babysitting, when I was in middle school my church invited me & several other kids my age to take turns helping out with the toddlers in the nursery during the service. There were adults present & in charge, but we felt useful (and so grown up) and very much more engaged as part of the church and not just tagging along with our parents. And it made becoming more involved on the service side of church seem like a natural and almost inevitable part of of growing up. It also seemed a lot more rewarding than just attending and being entertained by youth group leaders' antics or whatever. I don't think I was necessarily unusual in that-- I think as adults we underestimate what adolescents are capable and willing to do.

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  17. My daughter is 9, and this type of thing has started to come up for us too. We've given her more responsibility for animals, and let her plan and prepare dinner as part of her homeschool home ec lessons. She also volunteers in the nursery during our church's bi-monthly women's meetings and loves it.

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  18. I think you're absolutely on the right track. I blogged in the past about my experiences with my oldest son. He really began to wander in the months it took me to figure out that he needed some concrete direction. (My daughter somehow figured it out, and filled her time on her own. She's just like that.) Adding in meaningful chores, meaningful learning, and meaningful projects made a huge difference for Mathaus. The focus here is on "meaningful." Anything that is simply a filler can be sniffed out a mile away by these kids, and they are right to balk at the personal expense. It's really not just about keeping them "busy" but about leading them to their God-given purpose. We've been trained that this really doesn't happen until 18 or 20, but I can tell you that I think the longing for it begins much earlier. Allowing Mathaus access to real work that produces a product (woodworking, computer projects, etc.) has been huge for him. Giving him the chance to self-start in many areas has also allowed him to grab onto this new era of maturity.

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  19. I'm stuck on the couch tonight with the flu, and I found your blog while blog hopping. Thank you for providing such an interesting, comforting read. Your bees are fascinating!

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  20. Scouting has been a life changer for my boys! My 13 year old will sometimes spend 4 or 5 hours a week doing service, encouraging other boys, and going on campouts to improve his "man skills." I don't know of a better training for boys!

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