It’s back to school time, and there is no shortage of advice on how to make that process go smoothly. Just hop onto Pinterest and search “Back to School,” and you will see a plethora of cute ideas showing you how to do things like pack gourmet lunches (complete with colorful accessories and star-shaped cheese), organize snacks into containers for each day of the week, lay out clothes for your child a week in advance, and set up homework stations that make it easier to oversee daily homework chaos.
Is this what is expected of “good” mothers these days? If so, count me out. I am happy with being mediocre.
Not only that, but I assure you that these “Back to School Hacks” will not make my life easier. They will only create a MOUNTAIN of (completely unnecessary) work for me. No, thank you.
Instead, I use only one back to school hack: I expect my kids to take responsibility for themselves and their schoolwork.
And you know what? They do it quite well and have been doing so since their early elementary years.
They get themselves up in the morning, shower, and get dressed in clothes they have laundered and chosen themselves. (Yep. They do their own laundry, too.) Then they comb their hair (sometimes with a little help), make their own breakfast (usually cereal or something equally exciting), brush their teeth, pack their lunches, snacks, water bottles, and backpacks.
While they are doing that, I am free to do whatever I want. Generally, I choose some combination of exercising, showering, eating breakfast, reading scriptures, and otherwise getting ready for the day. Then I kiss the kiddos goodbye.
In the afternoons when they get home, my kids do their homework 100% independently while I make dinner or run necessary errands. I do not sit with them or hover nearby while they work, don’t check their progress, and never get entangled in homework battles. Most of the time, I don’t even ask them what homework they have. They know what they need to do since they were the ones at school when the assignments were given, and they (generally) do it.
(And if they don’t follow through, tough beans for them. They then get the privilege of talking to their teachers about why they didn’t fulfill their responsibilities. I will not rescue them or contact the teacher on their behalf.)
It is like magic.
Would you like to know the secret to such magic? It is simple, really. Stop doing all the things and expect your kids to step up to the plate.
It has been my experience that kids will generally do what they are expected to do. And when I say expected, I mean that expectations are communicated clearly, concisely, and authoritatively. If wishy-washiness plays any part of the exchange, you can bet the kids will not be inclined to obey. They will see right through the hemming and hawing and cajoling and explaining, accurately determining that you don’t really expect them to comply, even if you say you do.
If you are serious about helping your kids take responsibility for getting themselves ready for school in the morning, thus giving yourself a whole lot more freedom, you might think about telling your little darlings something like this:…