I realized early on in my parenting that I don’t do things like other parents do. I don’t think about things the same way. For example, many moms aren’t happy if their kids don’t make their beds every day. I don’t require my kids to do that. And honestly, that’s perfectly fine with me, even though that’s such a social norm of raising kids for so many. It’s supposed to create structure and positive habits for kids and help them grow. Well, that happens in other organic ways, and I choose to consider those life applications more for my two boys.

Focus on What Kids Value

Don’t get me wrong; I want to give my sons structure as they continue to grow and develop. To me, though, one size does not fit all in that arena. My kids don’t make their beds because they don’t really care about having their beds made.  Forcing them to do it will make the task more about the bed than the principle it’s based around. Or, it will only reinforce them doing things because I said so. I want to be more intentional than that as a parent.

Instead, I choose to prioritize (and make them consider) things that are important to them and base developmental activities around what they care about. Ironically, my oldest, Kingsley, DOES make his bed every day, but it’s not because I told him to. I haven’t. It’s important to him, so it gets done. That’s a part of him molding his own personality. He created that part of himself by himself, and I love that. This is what I want to nurture in my kids as a parent.

This is exactly what we do as adults. My staff and I all think very differently about keeping track of project goals and needs. Some of us like to write things down by hand. Others of us keep our smartphones glued to our palms. Still, others prefer to keep important notes on laptops and tablets. But each of us had to discover for ourselves what worked best. If I forced my staff to organize goals one way, I’d never be able to discover where they need support and where they excel. Parenting is no different, in my opinion.

What Do Children Really Need?

Putting a focus on what my children want from their perspectives has allowed me to see what they really need: empowerment. They want ownership of responsibility. While that doesn’t come by straightening bed sheets and comforters or fluffing pillows every morning, I’ve been able to uncover what tops my boys’ priority lists. My youngest appreciates his independence. He does amazing things on his own and in his own way.

That’s self-empowerment at its best. As a single mom and woman of the house, I’ve noticed my boys have taken it upon themselves to step up as “(mini)men of the house.” They don’t want mommy doing certain things. Instead, they want to make sure mommy is protected. So I allow them to go to the glass door and open it when I know it’s the photographer coming to do family photos (and I know they’re familiar with who she is). They have learned how to carefully get their own bowls and cereal in the mornings when our days are busy. Did I mandate these things? Absolutely not. But I’m glad these actions are priorities for them. They feel responsible and more confident in themselves, and I still get the focus on routine and structure I hope to see in their development.

My Non-negotiables as a Parent

So my kids don’t make their beds. That doesn’t mean I don’t have requirements of them as their parent. Of course I do. First, and most importantly, they must be kind to others, and themselves. Sharing is a must. I don’t budge on these things. They can’t bring toys on family outings if they’re not willing to let other kids play with them. I also require them to not place high value on “things.” If we buy a new toy, we have to give one away. That way items remain organized, and my kids don’t get wrapped up in having a lot of material “stuff.” They make decisions on what has value, not me. It’s another way I empower my children to take responsibility. It’s not always easy, but they know and appreciate the rules.

I also make sure they take care of their possessions and keep track of them. I encourage them to create dedicated places to keep their special necklaces, crystals and rocks, which we love collecting as a family, as well as their wallets and watches. When my sons come in from “date nights” with mommy, they know to put those belongings on their individual shelves and in their personal cabinets. They arrange things the way they prefer in their special place, and it’s their job to make sure everything is put there. I don’t keep track of their things. And yes, I had to deal with lost items a few times with each of them. But both sons learned if it was important to them, THEY had to be mindful enough to put their important possessions where they belonged. Again, it’s not making a bed, but the message of responsibility is the same.

Alternative Parenting?

I wonder how relatable this is for other parents. Maybe I’m the outlier mom. Who knows? I am sure, though, that my boys know I want them to be loving, successful men as they continue to grow. Part of that is on me as their guardian. A bigger part is having them discover for themselves purpose and priorities based on who they want to be—and nurturing that with them, not for them. If my kids don’t make their beds, it’s not going to make or break that part of their development.

I’m curious to know what other parents think, though. Let me know how you feel in the comments.

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