And why Your Kids Could Too
I used to struggle making lunches.
I am exhausted after a long day of teaching middle school. One job that I don’t enjoy is making lunches for three kids after I have cooked dinner and cleaned up the house. I decided when my daughter was two, I had to find a way to outsource the task of making lunches.
At ages six, four and two, my kids started making their lunches.
I am Happier
Today my kids are thirteen, eleven and nine. I love when I have the opportunity to bless them buy purchasing things to make the process of making lunch easier. I love it when there is an opportunity to make someone a sandwich or help out with finishing touches on lunch due to a late night with sports.
There is a lot of freedom in trusting that my kids will make their lunches.
The Perfect Lunch
When my daughter was two, we started by showing all three kids (she and her two older brothers) what should go into a lunch. As the youngest in the family, she was determined to keep up with her older brothers. She saw the opportunity to make lunch as a challenge that she could take on. Each lunch has certainly not been, “Perfect”. But in reality, who’s lunch is? Some days we make an amazing lunch, and some days are less than perfect. What I do know is that my two-year-old daughter felt like she mattered.
She felt as if she were being entrusted with a very important responsibility.
We began by having her physically put things in the lunch box, but helped her with any tasks that she struggled with. Permitting kids to make their lunch says that we believe in them. It says that they are worthy of responsibility and that we know they will figure out a way to pack their perfect lunch.
We also checked over the lunch that she was making, so that she didn’t open up a lunch filled with candy, chips and Oreo's.
The Right Age
As with many things in life, there isn’t a perfect age. When we wait for the “Right Age” to begin something, there is the possibility of a missed opportunity. Every child is different. Some children will require more support. However, there is always a way to find some success.
When considering a starting age, the personality and strengths of the oldest child are a big factor. If he or she takes instruction, is motivated by opportunities, and demonstrates leadership, the age may not matter as much.
If we don’t start in preschool, do we wait for elementary school, and if not by fourth grade, do we wait until they are a freshman, or even a high school senior before introducing ownership in the task?
As a parent, one of my goals is to foster independence. I love that my kids need me for so many things. I serve them in numerous ways from introducing them to sports and activities, driving them, allowing travel opportunities, to showing them how to navigate research, projects and ways of contributing to the world. For everything that I teach them, I want to give opportunities for my kids to be independent.
Similar to how we would allow our kids opportunity to handle small amounts of money growing up, they must be given a chance to take ownership of things like packing a backpack, lunch, or organizing an activity with friends.
Kids need to be able to make decisions and see results. They need to have experiences where they are in control.
Making lunch is the perfect opportunity for a child to decide what he or she wants, and how much of each item should be apart of the lunch. Our kids know what they eat. Growing up, I a girl at school, who would continue to throw away a ham and cheese sandwich every day because she did not know-how to tell her mom that ham and cheese was something she no longer wanted.
Our Purpose as Parents
Parents have been chosen to care for their children in the best way they know how. Besides loving their children unconditionally, one of the best things parents can do is to give children opportunities to grow. Opportunities look filling out a planner, picking out clothing, doing chores, and making meals.
Today my two middle-school kids remember meetings, homework, and requirements for school on their own. When there are opportunities to remind them about something I try and do that. But, I find that teaching strategies to be responsible are more useful than constantly talking to them about what needs to be done. Kids have to have opportunities to make mistakes with what parents might call, “low risk” situations.
My Kids Take Ownership
I am proud that my kids take ownership of the work that they do. They are not filled with excuses as to why things did not go well.
I Have New Responsibilities
Even though I am no longer making lunch, I have found a way to be involved in the process. I still check over the lunches from time to time to get an idea of what they are packing. At least once a week my kids will ask me to make soup, or pasta in a thermos to be added to their lunch. The simple gesture of warming up something to nourish and bless their bodies makes me happy.
When I was making lunches, I didn’t always remember to put a note in the lunchbox. Today, I try to sneak one in everyone’s lunch. I recently found a pack of notes that include a joke.
My daughter loves sharing these with her friends at lunch. It makes me smile to realize I am a part of their lunch experience.
The Note in the Lunchbox
Ten months ago I found a note in my daughter’s lunch box.
There may be resistance and issues when kids first start making lunch. Depending on the age, and how long the child has had a lunch made for him or her, there might not be the immediate desire for change.
Stick with it.
Don’t give up. All of a sudden, when least expected, a habit can form. As with most things in life, the biggest resistance happens right before a breakthrough. If you don’t start when your kids are young, it can become more difficult to make a major change. As a parent, be very positive. There is always something to compliment a child about.
They may have done a terrible job organizing lunch, but the willingness or the creativity involved into creating the lunch is worth applauding.