Throughout our lives, we commit to many things. As parents, we need to pay close attention to what our children commit themselves to. We also need to teach our children though our example as well as though specific instructions how to commit, or pledge to something. Learning about commitment will benefit children as they journey though their lives. Here are some ideas to help you guide your children.
1. Set a regular schedule for your children. This often seems impossible with our often – chaotic pace of life, but a core of regularity is important. Some examples of this would be setting a regular time for family prayer, and a regular time for at least one family meal everyday, having a regular bedtime, and attending church services together as a family every week. Children learn to expect and count on these activities, and realize that their family commits itself to them.
2. Involve your child in deciding what activities are important for him/her to spend time with on a regular basis. Will it be scouting or gymnastics? Piano or voice? Soccer or painting? Describe, as accurately as possible, what might not be expected with participation. Do not make something sound like all fun if it really may not be for your child. Let your child know that most activities will be challenging, and indeed difficult at times, and also well worth the time and effort required. One example is music training. This requires great time and effort on the part of the child, yet yields rewards that last a lifetime.
3. Encourage follow – through when your child chooses activities. Do not let your child drop out of chosen activities prematurely. Remind him/her that he/she made the choice and needs to complete the commitment. Let your child know that you understand that the particular activity is difficult, not fun (whatever the complaint), and also that the child has made a promise to keep going for a certain period of time. Remind your child that you expect him/her to keep that commitment. As a parent, your promise needs to be to help your child follow through to ensure his/her success at fulfilling his/her own commitments.
4. Reward your child for completing commitments. Use verbal praise, give a small token gift, maybe something relating to the activity, such as new paintbrushes for completing an art class, a framed photo of the child enjoying the activity; a recording of an artist playing your child’s chosen instrument. Use your imagination and creativity to come up with something that would be meaningful to your child.
5. Help your child balance types of activities. Fun activities are as important as serious ones. Equally important is time away from expectations, time to “be a kid”, with unscheduled time at home, time to establish and grow friendships, to read, to play, to pray, and to “hang out” with the family.
As Orthodox Christians, we want our children to commit themselves to Christ and to the Church, to gain eternal salvation. Helping our children learn how to choose, regularly participate in, and follow though with activities in their daily lives today will help them commit to seeking the eternal kingdom throughout the rest of their lives.
by Judy Pappoff, Faith and Family (Feb 2002 pg 19)