One of the tricks of parenting is figuring out how in the world you’re going to prepare kids to be responsible adults. Let’s face it: adulting is hard. The more we can do to prepare our little ones for it, the better off they’ll be. Here’s a simple way: teach kids to be responsible adults with the public library system.
As an adult, you’re constantly facing deadlines, stressing over money, keeping track of things, and figuring out the best way to manage your time. These things aren’t easy, but they can at least be easier for the next generation if you do what you can to prepare them while they’re young.
And there is indeed one thing we can do that’s relatively easy that will help to prepare kids to be responsible adults. It’s being involved in your public library system.
Benefits of Using the Public Library to Teach Your Kids to be Responsible Adults
If you aren’t making regular use of the public library for your kids, here are a few reasons you may want to consider it. (If you are making regular use of it, these are reasons you should keep it up!)
The key with all of these is that your child needs to be the one in charge of their library experience, not you as the parent. Your role is supportive and guiding, while theirs is learning and growing.
The more you let your kids do at an early age, the better they’ll learn personal responsibility going into adulthood. Letting your kids use the computers to reserve and then check out their own books is a great way to teach them how to use technology at an early age and in a safe environment. They’ll learn the basic mechanics of computer usage, how to manage their own website account (such as remembering a username and password), how to navigate a website for finding their book’s due dates and any late fees they owe, basic search engine usage (i.e. preparing them for using Google/Bing/etc. when they’re ready), improve typing skills, etc. There are a lot of benefits here!
Each book your child checks out from your local library must be returned by a specific date. You can teach your kids the basic concepts of meeting deadlines by teaching them what the return date means and then expecting them to track that date and let you know when the books need to be returned. Letting your kids manage the deadline also has the nice benefit of not burdening you with one more thing to do.
When the deadlines are inevitably missed, reasonable late fees are applied. And by reasonable, I mean even children can find enough money to pay the fee. Where we live, the late fee is $0.25 per day. That $0.25 per day (or whatever your local rate is) can feel like a lot to your young ones, and it should. It’s a (relatively) safe way to learn about the negative feelings of debt early in life, before they’re dealing with much larger dollar figures. In fact, this is one of the best ways I know of to prepare kids for growing up. You can teach kids to be responsible adults with the public library by allowing them to safely manage their own debt. Money management is an enormous part of adulthood, and one that every child should be well prepared for.
On a related note, if you’re still working on money management yourself, my wife and I highly recommend The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. We payed off over $80,000 in student loans in three years using these principles, and continue to use them for our retirement planning more than a decade after first learning about them. It’s really good stuff.
Keeping Track of Things
This may seem like a small one, but it’s actually pretty huge. Another benefit that comes when you teach kids to be esponsible adults with the public library is keeping track of all of their books and library cards. When you stop and think about it, we keep track of so much stuff every day. Our car keys, phones, wallets/purses, passwords to dozens of different websites, file locations for work documents, the status of the laundry, and a million other little things like those. Your kids are going to need to learn this skill as well.
When your children use the public library system, they must keep track of their library card and all of the books they check out. And if they don’t, they’ll learn the valuable principles of debt management mentioned above! It’s just another great benefit that comes when you teach kids to be responsible adults with the public library.
The last thing I’d like to mention about using the public library system to prepare kids to be responsible adults is about time management. In my other post about using the time management matrix, I wrote about Stephen Covey’s tool for assessing urgency and importance in our activities. This ties into meeting deadlines, but the basic idea is that you can teach your kids not to stress in life by addressing the important things (i.e. returning their books) before they become emergencies (i.e. the books are overdue, and now they’re paying the late fees). This principle will help them immensely as their school assignments get more challenging and deadline driven, particularly if they go to college. It’s a great way to help them think ahead and break the “now” mentality we face in our media-driven culture.
Aside from the many benefits related to early reading, the public library offers a lot of very practical lessons about adulthood for kids. So if you’re not already doing so, I encourage you to teach kids to be responsible adults wth the public library!
Do you already use the library with your kids? Have questions about using the library with your kids? Let us know in the comments section below!