I was so inspired by Merrilee Boyack’s BYU Education Week class on training our children to be independent. Here are some of my class notes, and you can refer to her book for many more details (especially her fabulous lists of what to teach children at every year of age). I got her permission to share this post just fyi.
John Rosemond (one of her favorite parenting psychologists and writers) said, “The ultimate goal of raising children is to help them out of our lives and into successful lives of their own…. Self-esteem is reflected in the CHILD’S belief that ‘I can do it myself.’”
So our big job as parents is to teach our children life skills, not only so they can be successful, independent people, but also so they gain a lasting confidence by believing that they can learn and do hard things.
So here’s some of Boyack’s principles of how to train our children:
- Introduce child to a task far in advance. That way the child can begin to observe others doing the task and also so you hopefully get them excited or otherwise can gauge their reaction.
- Next is the training period. Be specific, maybe even use little note cards with simple directions for a certain task (i.e. For cleaning one’s bedroom: Put away items on your bed and dressers, hang up/fold all clothes, gather all dirty clothes, make sure floor and under the bed are cleared out, etc.) Maybe even make two little pockets out of manilla folders for each child where you can place their note cards for “daily” and “weekly” chores. Be patient and realize it takes about eight presentations to learn how to do something well. Remember not to lavish too much praise.
- Then they practice and you check up on them (repeat over, and over). Then you "pass them off" when they have sufficiently learned to do the task well.
- If they can do it, try not to do it for them. Yes many times it seems quicker if you just do the clean up, but we need to teach them to work.
- Use summers to invest in training because the school year can be hectic.
- Vary WHO does the training – maybe your next door neighbor can teach your son how to tune up a bike, or grandpa can teach your daughter how to mow a lawn, or older siblings can teach younger ones how to clean a toilet, or their activity day leader can teach phone manners. After age 14, you really need to utilize OTHERS who may have greater influence than parents. For example, have a banker sit down and talk to your teenager about banking/checking accounts/credit cards.
- Tie passing off tasks to their interests. So let’s say your 11 year old wants to babysit soon. Have her first pass off all the needed skills to babysit (first aid, cpr, basic cooking, emergency phone numbers, etc). Or let's say your 15 year old wants to soon buy his own car. Have him first pass off necessary skills such as checking the oil, putting air in the tires, etc). Decide on a timetable and put it on the calendar.
- Sometimes use rewards after they master certain tasks. You could use stickers or a date with mom or dad, or a fun gift. But 90% of the time, they don’t get any "reward" – just the reward of earned self-esteem and accomplishment.