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Why the World Will Thank You When You Teach Your Kids This

By February 24, 2016December 15th, 2020No Comments

Parenting is hard work. It’s the most difficult job there is. After all, parents are responsible for training up the next generation.

There’s a trend today that concerns me: We spend a lot of time making sure our children are entertained and having fun.

Yet I have to wonder if this creates an unrealistic expectation in our children: that life is always fun; that their latest or current whim should be met.

If we as parents, spend the majority of our time making sure our children are “happy” and “entertained” are we doing them a disservice?

Is this good parenting?
Is this indulgent parenting?
Is it important to make this distinction?

When should we begin teaching our children certain life lessons? And what should those life lessons be?

We’re all born self-centered. All an infant focuses on is his next meal, sleep, and personal comfort. While this is normal for an infant, as we mature we begin to learn that life doesn’t revolve around us. At least we should. We learn that we have to adapt and get along with those in our family in order to live a harmonious life. At least, the blessed ones of us learn this lesson quickly.

According to a recent study in Psychology Today, children’s habits are ingrained by age 9. In U.S. school grades this is third grade. Third grade! Yikes.

Often, as parents, we don’t teach our children these life lessons — not because we don’t believe our kids can do it but because it takes too much time. It’s faster to “just do it myself.”

While that is a true statement, it IS faster to do it yourself, think about it, how did you learn to be so quick at that life skill? By repeated practice! At one time you were inept. You had to learn.

Don’t rob your child of a life skill just because it is inconvenient to take the time to teach them.

When our first child became a toddler, my husband and I realized we were solely responsible for teaching this child how to survive in the world. That was quite a sobering, overwhelming reality. It was incumbent upon us to train this darling, strong-willed, egocentric human being to become a functioning adult that others would like to be around, that I would like to be around.

The worst part? There wasn’t an instruction manual!

How do you even begin this process? What is important? Who decides what’s important?

So many questions, yet we knew we had to find the answers quickly. We had to decide what was important for our children to know before they left our home.

In 401 Ways to Get Your Kids to Work at Home, the authors helped me see what household chores were reasonable for my children to do at various ages. It also helped me adapt my “training” into fun, natural times that capitalized on my children’s natural curiosity about how to do things.

Life Lesson Example #1:

When I’d be making dinner, my kids often asked questions like, “What is that? Can I help? How do you do that?” By stopping long enough to answer their questions and let them get their hands in the middle of what I was doing, within reason, they learned that helping is fun.

Life Lesson Example #2:

A child who is old enough to hold their own cup or utensils can help set the table. Use non-breakable tableware and let them help you. They’ll have fun and they are learning a life lesson. Will it be perfect? Nope Will they learn? Yes, and that is what is important.

Life Lesson Example #3:

How soon is it reasonable to teach your child to make a bed? Well, when a child is sleeping in their big boy or big girl bed, they can help you pull up the covers and “make their bed.” Is it perfect? No way. But they’ve made their bed and receive a sense of accomplishment by doing it themselves.

The key here is to not go back and remake the bed.

I confess I did that at times until I realized what I was doing to my child. If you go back and make the bed after they have “done it themselves,” you tell them they aren’t good enough or their efforts aren’t good enough.

Pulling up the covers when they get out of the bed is a good start. Then you can help them make sure the pillow is also on the bed by asking them to put their pajamas under their bed pillow as part of learning to get dressed. I also did away with fussy bedspreads. It’s much easier for a little one to make a bed with a comforter and pillow.

As they get older and show more interest in their bedding (think fun throw pillows, afghans, and such), you can teach the finer points of making their bed.

Another good time to teach bed-making skills is when you are changing the sheets. Let them help you do this normal, life lesson activity. You can show each step in the process. As they become more adept at it, let them actually do more and more of the work until eventually they are changing their own sheets. Your goal is to work yourself out of a job.

Life Lesson Example #4:

It is important that we all learn to hold a good conversation. When our kids were younger, my husband came up with a simple analogy they all understood. A conversation is like playing catch. Grab a ball and your kids and teach them how to hold a conversation.

Someone asks you a question (tosses you the ball), you hear that question and formulate a response (catch the ball), you give them an answer and follow up with a question or comment of your own (toss the ball back to the other person). The conversation continues like this (playing catch is fun).

If you catch the ball but don’t toss it back, you kill the game. That’s no fun. So whenever our kids didn’t respond with good conversation skills, all we had to do was ask, “are you going to throw the ball back?”

So, back to the question of what life lessons are important. You have to decide that.

What teenagers or young adults do you know today that you absolutely love to be around? Think about why you love being with them. Chances are they exhibit the life lessons you want to see in your children.

I suggest you make a list of what you want each child to know by the time they are 18. Once you do, break that list down into age groupings.

Here’s what our list included (in no particular order):

  • Make the bed
  • Brush teeth well
  • Floss teeth
  • Brush their hair
  • Change clothes
  • Learn to Swim
  • Change the oil in the car
  • How to fill a gas tank
  • How to balance a checkbook
  • How to make a basic meal
  • What makes a nutritious meal
  • Learn to ride a bike
  • Learn to read
  • How to hold a good conversation
  • Firm handshake
  • How to dust
  • How to clean a bathroom
  • How to vacuum or mop a floor
  • Good work ethic – have a paying job

This is not the total list, just a sample of it. Now break down into appropriate age groups:

Preschool Age:

  • Make the bed
  • Brush teeth well
  • Floss teeth
  • Brush their hair
  • Change clothes
  • Learn to ride a tricycle/bicycle

Ages 5-9:

  • Learn to Swim
  • How to make a basic meal
  • What makes a nutritious meal
  • Learn to read
  • How to hold a good conversation
  • Firm handshake
  • How to dust
  • How to clean a bathroom
  • How to vacuum or mop a floor
  • Good work ethic – through completing assigned household chores

Ages 10-18:

  • Change the oil in the car
  • How to fill a gas tank
  • How to balance a checkbook
  • How to make a basic meal
  • What makes a nutritious meal
  • Learn to ride a bike
  • Learn to read
  • How to hold a good conversation
  • Firm handshake
  • How to dust
  • How to clean a bathroom
  • How to vacuum or mop a floor
  • How to interview
  • Good work ethic – have a paying job

All life skills build on each other. Therefore, you continually  help your child refine their skill sets and in the process build their self-confidence.

Intentional training builds confidence in your child.

Children who are well prepared for life, have been taught how to work well and smarter than others, and know how to be “others focused” become responsible, giving, and compassionate adults. They become confident in their abilities. They are a joy to be around. They are balanced people. At least most of the time. Disclaimer: There is no perfect recipe for success with your children because they are their own person and will make their own decisions.

I’ve created a free resource filled with ideas about important life skills. You can download a PDF version here when you sign up for my weekly blog. Use it as thought and talking points with your spouse. I trust it will spark your thoughts about intentional parenting.

My challenge to you is to create a plan today to help your child be prepared for life.

What life lessons do you want your children to know before they leave your home? Leave a comment below.

Remember: Capture the extra-ordinary in the ordinary today.

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  • Kirsten D Samuel

    I empower Christian wives to discover they are seen, loved, and heard. These women find the freedom to be who they are beyond their partner’s struggles, and find hope that there is a life worth living.