Teaching Responsibility

Today I wanted to talk about setting our kids up for success. While you may enjoy doing things for your children and feel that this is an expression of love for them, you are doing them a disservice if you do not allow them to spread their wings and allow them to take more responsibility for their things and their lives. You had to potty-train them and teach them to tie their shoes, so please don’t stop when it comes to things like financial literacy or simple meal preparations. Teaching children skills like these will help them feel more independent and make living on their own less stressful, so they can get a great head start on their adult lives.

The closer my teenagers get to college, the more life-skills we are passing on to them. My husband and I each spend one weekend afternoon a month with our kids as “one on two” time. We are sure to put aside all distractions and pencil it into our busy schedules to do something with them. This way, they can see that we value time with them and that they matter. Sometimes it’s something they enjoy doing, like going on a hike. Sometimes they aren’t big fans of what we are going to do, especially when it is boring stuff like balancing a checkbook, doing laundry, or when Dad is imparting do-it-yourself wisdom. No matter what we are doing, we are imparting basic life skills they will need when they go away to college or beyond, we feel that this is important stuff that we are passing on; we want our kids to know how to handle things like changing the oil in a car before they even drive one.

We understand that there are some lessons that the kids will be more interested in learning. For example, when we went on the hike they enjoyed so much, I taught them how to follow a map and use a compass. We packed a first aid kit to carry along, and they were able to ask questions about any of the items in the kit and how to use them. I stressed the importance of letting someone know where we were going to be and why, and to carry ID with them, just in case they got lost or if there was another emergency. We also ran into a Park Ranger, who talked to the kids about paying attention to warning signs and the weather. She told them about various rescues that she has been a part of because people failed to heed warnings, and the toll it takes on her and the rest of the Park Services staff.

Today they are having one of those skill-building days. They’re learning how to add air to their bicycle tires as well as the tires on my SUV using the air compressor we have out in the garage. They are going to learn how to find out what the recommended air pressure is for the tires they’re using, how operate the compressor safely, how to use a pressure gauge, and how to inflate the tires properly using an air compressor. Also, how to clean everything up when they are done. They are also going to learn how to use a patch kit to repair a flat. I wish my parents had done this for me because the only thing I knew was how to call roadside assistance, and that was before everyone carried a cell phone everywhere! In a couple of weeks, one of the tires on my car is going to “mysteriously” go flat and I’ll ask whichever one of the kids are home to help me fix it.

At the end of the day, they will have spent quality time with their father, they will have been given some basic skills that might come in handy one day. These afternoons don’t have to be anything elaborate, and you may find that working them into your schedule is a very rewarding experience for you and your child.