Generation Cedar

Did you know that John Quincy Adams was private secretary to the ambassador to Russia at 14 years old and Admiral Farragut commanded his first ship – a prize – when he was 12 years old?
In a culture that coddles children, impairing them for life, we are witnessing the results–a generation of grown-up children who are irresponsible, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
We are not taught–anywhere–to “grow our children up” as soon as possible. Such an idea actually lived out gets us accused of practical child abuse! We are told, instead, to create as much fun for them as possible (and don’t let them miss any opportunities their friends have) and to take care of all their needs so they don’t have to “miss out” on anything. All the while they’re missing out on the most vital of lessons: LIFE.
“Let them be children!” Yes, I believe that too…and part of the miracle of childhood is their voracious appetite for learning and growing. Our main job is to equip them with the life skills and sense of responsibility that will make them happy, productive adults. That doesn’t mean life becomes drudgery and enslavement! A working family can have a lot of fun, it’s just a matter of understanding that our children are an integral part of life, not parasites for us to carry around and feed.
How is this implemented practically?

  • Expectations. It starts with our understanding of what should be expected. We expect our 1 year old to develop enough self control to sit in her high chair without throwing food or utensils on the floor. We don’t think it’s cute (or we don’t let her know it is 😉 and after a few sessions of gentle discipline she understands what to do.

We expect our two year old to pick up after herself. We show her and remind her of her “jobs” and then continue until it becomes habit. Each child is expected to display an appropriate level of accountability.

  • Using the lingo. We use words like “responsibility” and “self-control”, and we talk to our young children about “one day when you grow up”, and what will be expected of them.

  • We embrace work as a part of life. Some adults are shocked to find out, once they live on their own, that life is mostly about working. And some are ill-equipped and not even able to sustain themselves, much less a family. Tragic is the situation where parents thought it was best to do everything for their children until they were grown!

  • Reading great literature that exalts responsibility can be a huge inspiration to our children. (Biographies of great men and women of the past, for example.) Relationships with other families who uphold this philosophy is also one of the most important pieces of the puzzle–“birds of a feather”…we become much like the people with whom we spend the most time. My children consider it very normal to work and take responsibility in the family because that is what they see the most around them.

  • Scripture. There are plenty of principles from Scripture that remind us of the importance of living and working diligently and productively.

  • Re-think “free time”. Hours of mindless video games or tv-watching are counter-productive to the idea of living responsibly. We do allow “down time”, but it is limited; and much of the “free time” is spent on hobbies that tend to productivity (Legos count 😉
  • Teaching practical life-skills. Age appropriate lessons are all but forgotten in a society where children and parents are separated most of the day. Changing lightbulbs, doorknobs, balancing a checkbook, basic home repairs, cooking–once naturally learned by observation, a whole generation of children are growing up handicapped in the basics of life.

  • Relationships. It’s more than physcial skills that make a thriving adut. Perhaps one of our toughest but most important jobs as mothers is to labor to build solid relational skills in our children. Kindness, deference, self-control, patience–these traits should never be underestimated! We have adults so ill-equipped relationally, that they are shooting each other on the highway because one driver cut the other one off!

Keep the vision in front of you…we are raising men and women who will grow up to lead the next generation. We are responsible for their ability to do so. And what we do on a small scale collectively results in either large-scale production, or destruction.

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17 Responses

  1. This is very good and helpful. I imagine there are a lot of readers who, like me, are *still* learning to be responsibe themselves and struggle with knowing how to teach it to their children. I feel like a sponge… soaking up every little bit of help I can get.
    Thank you!
    P.S. The “birds of a feather” part is the hardest one to follow ….

  2. Very good post, Kelli! Teaching (and frankly, expecting) responsibility in children is really such a lost art in so many families–though not completely lost, thank goodness! Hopefully, one of the silver linings of this recession/depression will be that we see a new surge of responsbility among children and teens (and parents!).


  3. That’s it! When we have kids, we’re moving in with you guys!!

    I’m joking! Please don’t think I’m a stalker now, lol. But it is sad that this has to be explained to anyone. When I was a child we had our chores and jobs and we were disciplined when we weren’t obedient. I admit I didn’t always enjoy those things, but they did instill a “work ethic” in me and I hope we can do the same when the Lord blesses us with little ones to train up. Unfortunately, those I went to school with who were encouraged to “be kids as long as you can be” are still that, childish. Not all of them, but more are that way than not.

  4. And I wanted to say, before it’s taken the wrong way, that I’m not putting down anyone who is trying to better themselves. You can’t help the way you were brought up, and for all the training we were given in our home I still struggle with laziness.

  5. When you aren’t encouraging me to greater things, you are affirming that I am not a freak…Thank you for all your great posts. Poeple around me look at me like I am crazy because my 8yr old girl is my sous chef, has regular chores to earn an allowance, and helps me build gazebos (among other things). She is so excited to learn these things and so proud of her accomplishments. I think one of the “qualities” this society is teaching children is self-worth…but without any real accomplishments. And while I realize that our true worth comes from God, without a sense of accomplishment from DOING something, all this “self-worth” leads to only self. But accomplishment, especially helping others, leads to more service. INHO.
    Thanks have expended my thinking to more of God

  6. I enjoyed reading your post on this issue.
    My husband and I raise our three boys to work, and to understand that one day they’ll be providers of homes. This God ordained role isn’t one to take lightly, and we’re training them to know their role spirtually too.
    We’ve read To Train Up A Child by the Pearls several times, and enjoy it each time. Yes, our children have their “play” time probably more than they should, but they have their chore time to.
    Peace, Kris Ante

  7. My husband use to take our ds with him to work on Saturdays and this helped produce an excellent work habit with him. There are days when he is lazy (arent we all) but he knows that alot is expected from him. He’s almost 14 and can do many manly jobs. He’s had good teaching from his parents.

    We’ve already explained that we will have no 30 year old unemployed, “sensitive” whiney bubble head son living off of us!

    An incomplete and sloppy job is totally unacceptable. We’ve stressed that if he should marry he cant expect to be the head of his household if his head is scattered.

  8. Thanks for this. My inlaws were impressed on a recent visit that our 2 year old says “yes ma’am” “thank you” , “please”, and picks up her toys without being asked (usually! lol!). I’ve worked really hard with her on this and it made me proud as a parent. Thanks for the encouragement!

  9. Kelly,

    I think I will have to agree with Mrs. Hester; if God ever blesses me with children, I’ll have to “move in” with you. LOL

    But seriously, this was an excellent post! I think many in my generation were not really “taught” or “prepared” for parenthood; it just sort of “happened.” I was/am one of those adults you talked about who find out that work is really WORK once you are on your own. Being an only child, I was spoiled and catered to, ALOT! Now, I have to undue all those selfish habits, sigh!

    Anyway, I just keep learning and growing . . . and I keep thinking I’m too old now to have children, but I’m reading Genesis, and Sarah had a child at 90 so maybe it’s not too late for me after all . . . (smiles)

  10. I’ve been slacking off a bit with our youngest (one year old) at the dinner table. Consistency is so hard when it’s every 5 minutes. I needed to hear this. Thanks for the encouragement/admonishment/whatever. =)
    Would you mind mentioning a couple of the books to which you were referring?
    I have a 7 year old son. We haven’t done any biographies yet but I think he’s probably old enough.

  11. This is the very reason that we don’t use the word teenager around here. My oldest, who is almost 12 looks at people with a look of confusion when they talk about her soon being a teenager.
    Then with a beautiful smile she will usually respond that she can’t wait to be a young lady.
    Here the teen years are going to be about growing men and women.
    We started that young by giving them responsibilities and making them feel like they are needed parts of our home and life.

  12. Ok Kelly,

    So can you give me some good “classic” books to read to our kids? Ages 4-14. Im assuming you do some sort of “read aloud”. If so, about how long do you read and is it every day?


  13. HC,

    Oh yeah, Sheena asked me that too.

    We have read the biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Washington,–we have one good book called “Great Americans” who have shorter stories about great men of history.

    We’ve read Mother Teresa, Gladys Alward, many missionaries–Jim Eliot, etc.

    We also read from a series called “Lamplighters” (I think that’s the one) with inspirational stories about responsible girlhood and boyhood.

    We love “Ten Boys Who Didn’t Give In”–all true stories. And sometimes we read, though very grim, “Trials and Tribulations”, short stories about real martyrs. If I think of some others, I’ll mention them.

    We usually read a chapter at a time, sometimes one in the morning from one book, and another at night, but not always both.

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