An email on a local parenting list this week got me thinking about teaching children responsibility and independence. The parent who wrote the email had been to a group camping event and her 8 year old was busy and happy helping to build the campsite and work to keep it running. It got me thinking about my experience this past spring taking our second-grade Brownie troop camping. We had planned a simple menu to make things easier on ourselves and then I went to Girl Scout camp training. In the training they reminded me that all activities should be girl-led. The girls are old enough to help with cooking, cleaning and even building the fire. So we revamped our menus so that we had jobs for everyone to contribute. The girls were responsible for cooking and cleaning, with supervision. I also spent a lot of time teaching them how about fire and match safety including how to build a fire and practicing how to safely light a match. Many of the girls were nervous about it as was I. I loved seeing the pride and excitement on their faces when they lit a match and realized that they didn’t burn themselves. One of the girls has since told me that her parents now let her light the Shabbat candles with supervision. The girls were told that they were expected to contribute and relished in it. They cleaned and cooked without a single complaint. Giving them those responsibilities showed them that we respect and trust them. As a result, they not only lived up to, but exceeded the expectations that were set for them. It is a lesson that I will carry with me always and have tried to transition into my life at home with the kids. For more on that, check out my next entry “Teaching Children Responsibility and Independence – Part 2”.