At home, we don’t often hold our kids accountable for jobs and other responsibilities around the house. Let’s face it – it’s easier to not deal with the whining.
Travel is a perfect time to implement new family rules or changes – we’re all out of our comfort zone, and while we’re not in our own home with normal chores, there is still much to be done. It could be making sure that the beach toys are all brought in the afternoon, keeping all of our belongings organized, or as simple as tidying up after a meal.
When we are in Italy, we stay in someone’s house in the small village of Impruneta. Leaving a mess around is unacceptable. So, why do I allow it in our home back in the States?
While we are traveling, my kids each have specific jobs that they must do every day. Most of the time, they do them without complaint. None of us want our host to come home to a mess. It is a small space and can get cluttered rather quickly with three kids. It’s incredible how much more responsibility my kids are willing to take on while traveling, and it is much easier to enforce. It took getting into a solid routine for me to finally realize that I had been underestimating them all along. Not only were they capable of so much more, but they were happier doing it.
Our family calls their chores “Gelato Jobs.” The kids earn points that are equivalent to a set amount of Euro, which will eventually be enough to cash in at a gelateria. Talk about a great incentive! Gelato in Italy holds a serious amount of weight.
Together, we came up with a system to teach the value of spending. When we were looking for a gelateria, the kids were always aware of the price. In Florence, a more touristy and expensive place would use more of their points and the gelato quality was never as good. It didn’t take long for them to become bargain gelato shoppers, getting to know the places with the best gelato at the lowest prices.
Seeing their personal growth from taking on more responsibility was a great lesson for me, too. Isn’t it true that our children are our best teachers?
The little man is five. He took on jobs like hanging the wet laundry, helping put it away, and going with his sister to get fresh bread in the mornings. These were perfect jobs for him. He felt like he was accomplishing something and contributing to the family. This gave him a deeper sense of pride, which I could see grow every day
My nine year old daughter had a few more responsibilities. Her jobs included washing the dishes, sweeping the floors, and going to the local market for bread or anything else we needed. She also took pride in her contribution.
She surprised herself with how independent and productive she could be.
The big kid is 13. I’m not going to lie and say that he jumped at every opportunity to help. However, after about 2 weeks, he stopped complaining. Perhaps the occasional moan would spill out, but the whining mostly stopped. In my heart, I feel that he benefited the most from the added responsibility. His jobs were cleaning the loft space where the kids slept, taking the trash and recycling to the depositories in the piazza, and going down to fill all of the water bottles at the local spring.
Being 13, he had the most freedom of the three kids. Because we were staying in a small village, it was a perfect and safe place for him to spread his wings. At home, in the land of suburbia, we don’t have this luxury.
Watching his self-confidence grow was such a reward for me. For a kid that has had his fair share of struggles in the 13 years of his life, he was happier in these two months than I had ever seen him before. This is a story all in itself.
Collectively, our Gelato Jobs system was a great success. Not only did they receive points for their chores, but they also got credit for speaking Italian and for random acts of kindness.
As a parent, slow traveling with my children has been one of the greatest gifts I have given them. Our family result? Three kids that gained more respect for themselves and for the space around them, and a mom that cultivated a deeper realization for the importance of teaching responsibility and following through.
Now that we are home, the kids have considerably more responsibilities and they continue to take pride in their contributions to our home and our family.
Would you work for gelato?
Tell us your thoughts about kids, travel, and responsibility in the comments below.
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