When we hear the word “economy,” we usually think of money. However, the word (from the Greek oikonomia) originally meant “household management.” When it comes to the job of parenting, household management comprises many aspects, and an active strategy is essential.
Effective management of anything requires active participation from everybody with a stake in the fate of the organization. While a business manager oversees everything and issues instructions, he or she also interacts with others and trains them to do essential tasks without constant supervision. Likewise, parents should be actively training their children for participation in family endeavors and for handling family roles responsibly. Parents are also responsible for training their children to grow into more mature roles, to one day assume their own parental roles in other homes.
As a parent and household manager, you need to set an example by tending to your own responsibilities and caring for other members. It’s also vital to allow your children to take on responsibilities and not to fall into the “it’ll get done better if I personally make sure it gets done” trap. Just as many business managers undermine company effectiveness by neglecting their own work to hover over their subordinates, many parents waste extra time and energy on chores that their children are capable of doing. Remember, children grow rapidly, and so do their work abilities. When parents forget this, and continue to let children avoid all contribution—or when parents reject offers of help outright because of “you’re too little” prejudices, or repeatedly come behind and redo the work until the children figure it’s no use trying—roles and responsibilities soon become too cumbersome for the parents and meaningless to the children. Parents wind up worn out and bitter, and children miss the joy of contributing to the welfare of the larger group.
Like everyone else, children actually enjoy the sense of contribution that comes from the opportunity to fill a role within the family. By learning the value of doing a consistently rewarding task, children learn the value of interdependence. When they are given meaningful ways in which to support the family’s needs, they may grumble at times, but they nonetheless feel important and necessary. Don’t just hand out chores at random or take it on yourself to authorize who “can” or “should” do what; ask the kids what they want to do. Even if you don’t feel they’re ready, let them try anyway; better they should make a few early messes than they should be kept waiting until their interest dies from inattention.
The financial world has many variables that affect the status of what is called “economy.” Likewise, a household’s world has many different opportunities to shape family roles as the “managers” (heads of household) delegate leadership, help everyone contribute to the larger group, and understand everyone’s roles within the family. In your economy of parenting, make sure everyone becomes a regularly contributing member and learns to participate to the best of their abilities.