Being a parent who knows when and how to delegate requires understanding the nature of delegation. As challenging as it can sometimes be to deny and demand, delegating can bring its own set of challenges.
Parenting for the present and the future
Authors Cloud and Townsend in their book, Boundaries with Kids, offer us some wise advice about delegating and about parenting in general.
“Remember, parenting has to do with more than the present. You are preparing your child for the future. A person’s character is one’s destiny.” [Page 14]
Yes, sometimes it’s easier just to do something yourself than to delegate a job to a child.
Many times we don’t want to have to deal with the objections or how long it might take a child to do something that we could do much quicker. To help motivate parents to make sure they appropriately delegate responsibilities to their children, keep in mind that the job involves an ongoing journey to build character.
In Pick Up Your Socks… Other Skills Growing Children Need, Elizabeth Crary shares that the responsibility involves both obedience – doing what one is told to do by an authority – and taking responsibility, which involves the decision to accept what is expected.
She goes on to say that the components of responsibility include understanding the task, which requires clear communication between parent and child; and acceptance of the task, which includes making sure that both you and your child are clear as to what is negotiable or not.
Being clear is important
Jean Illsley Clarke, author of Growing Up Again also encourages parents to be very clear about what is negotiable and nonnegotiable so children learn when they need to be obedient and when they have some say in what is being expected.
Elizabeth Crary also shares that parents need to consider the degrees to which a child is able to motivate himself or herself. This means deciding when a child might need help with the task, when they might need reminders or supervision, or if they are capable of doing the task alone.
When delegating, parents need to consider how accepting responsibility can be within the child’s abilities so that ultimately the experience contributes to building character while simultaneously maintaining the all-important connections between parent and child.
Examples of delegating clearly
“Johnny, take care of the dog” might be a reasonable delegating statement directed at a mature, motivated child or adolescent who is capable of handling the specifics of the job.
“Johnny, before you go out to play, I need you to fill the dog’s water bowl and put one cup of dry food in his food dish. Remember, if anything spills, you can use a paper towel to clean it up.”
This level of direction could insult a mature, motivated child or adolescent but might be helpful to a child who needs more direction and even supervision to complete a task.
When parents can accept that one of their roles is to delegate responsibilities to their children and that delegation requires different degrees of specificity and supervision, they may find including this “D” on their Effective Disciplining Report Card helpful in their parenting.
Invitation to reflect:
- How often do you consider that one of your responsibilities as a parent is to delegate tasks to your children?
- How clear are you about which tasks are negotiable versus those that are nonnegotiable?
- How much support and supervision does each of your children need in order to successfully complete tasks you delegate to them?
Diane Wagenhals, Director of Institute for Professional Education and Development, Lakeside Educational Network