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Contributing Kids Become Capable Kids

Contributed by Melanie Miller, M.Ed.

Summer vacation is just around the corner, which could mean scheduling childcare, visits from Grandma and Grandpa, day camps and maybe even a summer camping trip for the family. It can all feel overwhelming during a time of year when we’re supposed to enjoy a little fun and relaxation.

This summer try something different. Summer is for families, so why not allow the whole family to be a part of the season’s planning?

Our children need to feel a sense of significance and can gain this by contributing to the greater good of the family. By contributing, children gain an increased sense of self-worth; they begin to share with others, what they have learned, in positive ways.

Sit down after dinner one night, with the whole family, and begin a conversation of what to plan for summer. Start with each person offering a favorite summer memory that involved one other person in the family. Sharing fun memories sets a positive tone for the meeting.

List all the facets of summer that need to be considered. For example; summer camps, family camping trip, relatives visiting in July, swim lessons etc. Choose one event to work on. For this article, I’ll use the example of planning a weekend camping trip.

Remember, that this meeting is not for the parents to tell the kids what they will be doing and how they will be behaving. This is for families to practice cooperation and encourage their children to be a part of the cooperative process.

1. Divide the workload. Adults don’t need to do it all. Children can begin to feel capable and significant when they contribute to their family and do a job that was once only done by parents. Kids can take an inventory of camping supplies and make a list of what needs to be bought or borrowed. The family can work together to plan the meals; including who will cook and who will clean up. With the guidance of an adult or older sibling, pre-school aged kids can even pack their own backpack. School aged kids can go on-line to check out area campsites, hiking trails and activities.

2. Have a budget. Share the budget with the family. Work as a team to decide how to spend the budget….how much for food, camping fees, camping supplies etc.

3. Check in with each other every three to four days. Once again sit down after dinner. Find out how each person’s contribution is going. Allow for mistakes. If something isn’t going well, brainstorm some solutions. Keep in mind that this is a process, there will need to be some give and take and understanding…. and lots of cooperation and opportunities for learning.

And a final thought: A child who can connect with others (their family), can take care of oneself (pack their own bags for camping), feels valued by others (contributes to the planning of the camping trip) and has courage, has a greater opportunity to grow up responsible, productive, cooperative, self-reliant, resilient, resourceful, contributing, and happy. (Kottman 1999)

Enjoy the summer and enjoy “growing” contributing kids that feel capable.

Would you like more tips? Sound Discipline works with a great group of parenting educators and parenting coaches. We post talks, workshops and classes on our events calendar. Some are free!

Sound Discipline is a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Your donations make a big difference and help us produce newsletters like this. You can donate or check out the parenting class schedule at our website