First, let me remind you of a quote by Elder David A. Bednar from a previous General Conference. He said,
As children of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the capacity and power of independent action. Endowed with agency, we are agents, and we primarily are to act and not merely be acted upon—especially as we “seek learning … by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118). . . . Are you and I helping our children become agents who act and seek learning by study and by faith, or have we trained our children to wait to be taught and acted upon? Are we as parents primarily giving our children the equivalent of spiritual fish to eat, or are we consistently helping them to act, to learn for themselves, and to stand steadfast and immovable? (emphasis added)
Since hearing these words over a year ago I have been trying to figure out a way to help my children learn to act for themselves (in more ways than just gospel study). I haven't been able to find a balance that works with my need for structure and my want for them to feel they have freedoms. Nagging them sure was against the principle and letting them have free choice to "do whatever you want" didn't seem to work either. So, I sat down last weekend and drew up a new plan with energy and excitement.
This week we started with CHORES and it's amazing how the CHOICE of CHORES made my kids much more wiling to do them. Agency works! :- )
Here's what we do (mostly taken from the Home Companion, tweaked a little for our needs):
Going room by room I made a list of ALL the chores I like to get done around the house, little and big (I even included laundry). Then I wrote each chore on jumbo popsicle sticks. Now each morning I choose which chores I need done that day. After breakfast they take turns choosing a job until they each have their three.
Our new schedule now consists of an hour(+/-) with Mom for learning, reading, & projects together and then the kids are set free for the rest of the day to work on their jobs and own studies (more on the studies changes in the next post). They are not allowed to play until these things are done.
That's it. SIMPLE but SO MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE than I even anticipated. One day I caught my 9 yo talking to herself. "What do we have to do today? Oh, yeah, I get to choose myself." And then she skipped off to do her chores. There's no more arguing or nagging from mom to get the jobs done by a certain time. The consequences are no longer in my hands, it's all up to them. FREEDOM WORKS! They really are acting for themselves and not being acted upon. And what's really cool is that our house has been really clean this week. :-)
I did not include my 4yo in the stick pulling process. He was so sad I told him that when he learns to clean his room by himself I will include him in the rotation. Nothing like more chores as motivation, right?! It worked! He's been eager (this week) to clean his room. We'll see how long that lasts. :-)
I've also incorporated this same type of agency-based system in our goal setting and studies plan. After trying it out more fully this next week, I'll keep you posted. :-)
Other talks on Agency-Based teaching:
What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?
General Conference talk by Matthew O. Richardson, October 2011 (Teaching by the Spirit)
Agency and Control by President Boyd K. Packer