Lorraine Alldredge is the mother of eleven children and the author of a new book, “So, What Can Kids Do in the Summertime? – Keys to Practical Parenting During School Vacation.” She says one simple step can set up your kids for a productive and successful summer experience.
The vacation time between kindergarten and high school, if put together, represents three years, all formative time for children. It is the only concentrated block of time parents have to teach their kids how to establish and maintain a home and a family. In Utah you have year-round school in some areas, but the idea is the same: don’t waste that valuable time together, but use it to teach life skills, to learn about each other and to do fun things together.
Many parents dread school vacation because they don’t know what to do with the kids and the kids wind up spending too much time with video games or in mischief. I recommend that parents set limits on TV time, set up a Summer Goals Program to teach their children skills for daily living, and make time for family activities.
As a mother, I felt it was important to teach my children responsibility and hard work. Kids will grow up to be adults and they need to know how to maintain a home. I set up goal sheets for each of my children listing areas that I wanted them to learn and to perfect. Those goals included cleaning skills, cooking and baking skills, music skills and many others. I had to evaluate their age and abilities to challenge them enough, but to not set them up for failure. I would then decide how many times they had to complete each task to reach the final goal. They had to master each task to my satisfaction.
Let’s take cleaning as an example. I found that it helped to give a short mini class to the kids either as a group or separately. I wrote on an index card the steps to properly clean the bathroom and posted it inside the bathroom cupboard. Each child was assigned to demonstrate two or three times that they knew how to clean the bathroom. Each time the task was completed I passed them off on their goals sheets with a check mark or a fun sticker.
Of course, working with children takes patience and love, but it helps to establish a pattern of learning and working together when they are young. After setting summer goals, I set a group reward for the end of the vacation period, something the family can do together to celebrate success with their goals. Working on anything is more fun when you are working toward a reward.
When it comes to what age is goal-setting appropriate, I encourage people to start as early as two or three. You start with simple things and build on them. My very young children often had the same goals as the older children but “with help”.
Working parents have an extra challenge, but summer goals can be a great help. If they will set several goals for each of their kids and a really fun reward that they can do together, the kids will feel that their parents care about what they are doing and they will have specific things to be accountable for. If there is a babysitter or nanny helping, they can help the kids in the parents’ place. Of course, kids need some time to unwind and socialize during school vacation, but summer goals provide structure and meaning to that time.
Lorraine Alldredge is the mother of eleven children, the last of whom graduates from college next month, and the author of a new book, So, What Can Kids Do in the Summertime? – Keys to Practical Parenting During School Vacation. Her book is available at www.sowhatcankidsdo.com, at Amazon.com and at the BYU Bookstore.
Click HERE to read an excerpt from the book.