We all say that we want to raise children who are helpful, contribute, and can function with some independent life skills.  Our family is no different.  We want to raise helpful children.  We started rallying their help pretty early.  The first joys were making the toilet turn blue with cleaner and then flushing.  Dishes were a thrill once they could reach from a step stool.  Then, their ambitions began to include things like painting.


april 2012 painting broom 129 april 2012 painting broom 134


It was time to promote the kids to their own bedrooms, and that required finishing off the 3rd bedroom.  The smartest idea was my wife’s: the scarf on my daughter’s head.

Well, the thing is, once you allow the kids to take on a huge project like painting, they become permanent apprentices.  This is what we want, right, so how do we discourage the helpfulness?  Most recently, the deck needed a coat of stain desperately.  Trying to head into another winter without protecting it would have been foolish beyond measure.  It needed to be done.  Within five minutes, I wondered exactly what I was thinking.

deck beginning 8.13

They, however, were beyond delighted.  As the afternoon went on, I began to feel more and more like this:



As I began to notice more and more of this:

deck 2

I have learned a few things the hard way.  A few examples:

  1. They will make a disaster mess.  Don’t plan to have your own station.  Your job is to follow them around making sure the puddles drips don’t dry
  2. They will abandon you in your time of need when they get bored.  Let them.  This is when you can run around making sure the drips don’t dry without interference
  3. The drips will still dry before you get to them
  4. Use water-based paints and stains.  If you make a mistake and bring home the wrong one, even if they are dressed, with paint-brush in hand and cute as can be, RETURN IT!
  5. Remind yourself that this is an activity they will learn from (repeat, repeat, repeat)
  6. When they step in the drying paint and make a footprint, remember that next year, you’ll have them stand next to it with their bigger foot, and you’ll tear up, because time travels too fast.

If your perfectionism prohibits you from allowing the mess, because there will be many one, it’s okay.  Spare yourselves and don’t engage your kids in the activity.  The stress isn’t worth it.  But if you can put it off to the side, the rewards are endless.  After all, in the end, isn’t it about the big picture.  Now my kids can claim once more, “I did this.”

 deck 4 april 2012 painting broom 136


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