When my kids come out of the womb my main goal is to get them to self-sufficiency. I enjoy every moment of their newborn lives, but as soon as they can hold their own bottles – Operation Independence begins! Here are a few ways I help this independence grow.
- If they can do it, I don’t. Based on their age and ability, this includes feeding themselves, tying their shoes, making their breakfast or lunch, brushing their teeth, potty duty, zipping/buttoning jackets, and with the last baby, buckling herself in her car seat. Our rule at the time was whoever sat next to our 2-year-old was to buckle her into her car seat. One Sunday, after leaving church, we were on the highway and she shouted out, “Is somebody gonna buckle me?!” Her older sister who was next to her immediately buckled her into her seat. Thank God, we made it that far without incident. When we got home I taught her how to buckle herself in for future reference.
- Chores for everyone. If you can dump your toys on the floor, you can pick them up and put them back in the toy chest. If you can sleep in your bed, you can make it up. If you can open a snack, you can put the wrapper in the trash. If you can work a cellphone or tablet you can work a Samsung VRT Washer and Dryer. Simple as that. By the age of 9 my kids chores range from loading the dishwasher to doing their own laundry. And no they don’t get paid. We all have a role in this family and everyone is expected to do their part free of charge.
- Encourage their realistic talents and abilities. One thing we’ve learned not to do is waste time and money on talents and abilities we know our kids don’t possess. I’ll never forget the time our oldest daughter decided to try basketball. We were a bit surprised because she’s not athletic but we decided to support her because hey, you never know….right? Wrong. She was awful. Yes, I said it, my baby was awful and her team was awful too. On the ride home we encouraged her to think about what she loved to do and focus on that. She chose singing and acting so we paid for lessons and she blossomed. She went on to win her high school talent show two years in a row and was selected to appear in a statewide Public Service Announcement about the dangers of drinking after prom. She’s also showcased her ability during her first two years of college.
- Teach them life skills. Oh, how I miss the days of Home Economics. It was there I learned how to sew, write checks, address letters, cook, take care of a baby egg, prioritize my schedule and budget a paycheck. Sadly, this class is no longer offered, so we teach these and many more life skills at home. You just never know when they’ll need to iron because their dryer goes out or when the debit machine will go down and all they have is a check. Life skills are essential in teaching self-reliance. These lessons get our kids one step closer to leaving the nest and my husband and I one step closer to traveling the world!
- Encourage them. My son was the kid on the playground who played it safe. As a matter of fact, he’d rather not go to the playground, especially if Daddy was gonna be there encouraging him to take risks. One day, my husband started him out on the small rock climbing wall and slowly moved away. My son who was 4 at the time became terrified but my husband kept encouraging him, talking him all the way to the top where he promptly threw up his hands and yelled “I did it, Daddy!” I have to believe that if my Husband wasn’t there to encourage him, he would have never given that wall a second look. He gained new self confidence that day and has been taking “safe” risks ever since.