“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” – Chinese Proverb
I have been known to call my children “adults-in-training”. When you think about it, that is pretty much our job description as parents. . .training our children to be caring, responsible adults. Empathy and the desire to work do not come naturally to most children. They are qualities that need to be taught and demonstrated, over and over again. And while we might like our children to have a childhood which is free from care, it is important that they begin to learn some of the skills that they will need when they leave the nest. It is rather cruel to protect a child so much from the demands of adulthood that when they find themselves on their own, they are helpless.
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Here are some life skills that you should begin to work into the short years you have together.
Everyone needs to eat. While it is possible to eat every meal in a restaurant or through a drive-thru, preparing one’s own food not only saves money and calories but is more nutritious. Knowing how to follow a recipe, understanding how to measure properly, and learning some basic time-tested techniques are all extremely useful for knowing what to do in the kitchen.
Unless a person is able to buy a new outfit for each day of his life, clothes will need to be laundered. While this may not be rocket science, there are methods for cleaning clothes that might greatly assist in events such as attending classes or getting a job or meeting parents-in-law for the first time. Not only do clothes need to be cleaned, but they also need to be folded or hung in order to store neatly and look presentable when worn. You can give your child an advantage by teaching them how to perform these tasks before they leave home.
- Career Planning
Unless a child is born with a specific interest or set of interests that translate to a definite career path, choosing that path may not be easy. There are so many choices and so many avenues. It is often confusing and frustrating at 18 to try to consider what to do for the rest of your life. Sometimes a person makes several path changes looking for fulfillment and purpose. As a parent, it is our job to be as open-minded and as supportive as possible. I talked to a parent the other day whose son had shown a love for cars and trucks from an early age. Though she had wanted him to go to college, he chose a vocational school for auto repair. Now at 24, he owns his own auto shop and loves his work. Sometimes guidance is the best support. If a child loves to write, we can help by researching careers that involve writing.
- Financial Management
Most kids have no idea how much money it takes to live. There is a reason why the phrase “money doesn’t grow on trees” is so popular. How many children have ventured off on their own just to buy a car they can’t really afford or rack up lots of credit card debt. Parents should not assume that because children have been around money their whole lives, they know how to use it. Give children a chance to budget their own money and allow them to pay for their own things (e.g. auto insurance, entertainment, clothing, etc) when they are young. As they get older, let them in on how much things cost (e.g. rent/mortgage, food, cars, clothing, etc). Show them your budgeting methods. Teach them about the privilege and perils of credit.
You child will likely live on his or her own at some point after they leave the nest. Even if they share an apartment or a house, they have to learn to be responsible for themselves and not expect others to take care of their needs. While it may not be as important for a young adult to have a spotless residence, there are lessons of hygiene and cleanliness that should be considered. Responsible adults need to know that it is healthy to change sheets and towels regularly, wipe down bathrooms, maintain a pest-free kitchen, and so on. If ever a guest is to be received, a greater sense of hospitality should be employed.
- Communication/Social Skills
Once parents teach their children how to speak, it is easy to consider the job done. However, communication is an ongoing learning process. There are so many aspects in communication: speaking, listening, body language, tones, interpretation, etc. Don’t just get angry when a child communicates in an unacceptable way. Use that opportunity to explain how he/she could communicate better. Praise a child that has communicated in a way that is clear, honest, polite, and/or sympathetic.
Most likely, it is difficult to think of your child as a parent at this point. However, you will probably agree, that being a parent is an exceedingly challenging line of work. Parents are responsible for the health and well-being of their children and that involves a whole lot more than just supplying food and shelter. Caring for a child involves skills such as responsibility, empathy, attentiveness, intuition, and patience, just to name a few. The greatest method for teaching these skills is intentionally modeling them.
In what ways do you teach your children like skills? What methods have you found particularly beneficial? Leave a comment below.