One of the most important jobs parents have is preparing their children for the day when they will leave home and enter the “real world.” When the time comes, will your children know how to handle the little things like doing laundry, preparing meals, or scheduling needed appointments? And what about the bigger things like managing a home, building relationships, and tackling problems? When you think about it, being a “grown-up” is a lot of work. So how do you make sure that your kids know what to do when the time comes?
GETTING KIDS READY: TEACH LIFE SKILLS
One of the best ways parents prepare their children for adulthood is by acting as their teacher and role model to help them learn the many skills they will need. These skills can include everything from basic household tasks like vacuuming and cooking to handling more complex responsibilities like managing a budget or a difficult social situation. Your job, if done correctly, lays the groundwork so that your children will have what it takes and know what is needed to be an independent adult, including how to do all those chores!
PARENTS AS TEACHERS
As a parent, you have many opportunities throughout any day to influence and teach your children. Sometimes that can happen deliberately, like when you show them how to tie their shoes; or it can happen unintentionally, as your children observe you doing things, like paying a cashier at a store for something you just purchased.
The following ways describe how parents can most effectively influence and teach their children:
- Model appropriate behaviors for children. What you do and how you behave as an adult tends to be the biggest influence on how your children act. They are watching and learning from you every day. You can use this fact to help instruct your children. For example, if you want to teach your children the importance of treating people kindly, let them see you write a thank you note for a gift; if you want to teach them to ask for help when they need it, you can give them specific ways they can help you when you are feeling overwhelmed. Your children learn best how to do things by watching what you do.
- Discuss with children the how’s and why’s of different tasks and skills. Children are more likely to perform certain tasks and chores when they clearly understand what it is they should be doing and why. For example, if one of your goals is to teach your children how to cook, it helps to explain to them all the steps involved and encourage them to ask questions. With younger children, keep it simple. They can do small jobs, like gathering ingredients and washing vegetables. With older ones, you can teach them how to plan menus, show them how to shop for a variety of foods, and teach them the steps involved with storing food, cooking, and cleaning up. While you work, discuss why doing all those things is important – Is it so that they will become self-sufficient? Or is it so that they can create balanced meals to keep their bodies healthy? The clearer you are about why you want your children to learn something or acquire a certain skill, the more likely it will be that they will see the relevance of doing so and thus be more receptive to the lessons.
- Talk to your children! In addition to sharing information, talking helps to build relationships. It is through connections that people learn to trust each other and grow. The more your children feel secure in their relationship with you, the more readily they will learn from you. As you spend time together, share with them your experiences, feelings, and values related to the skills being taught. Invite your children to share with you their feelings and thoughts, and help them to identify their pride and sense of accomplishment when they learn something new or finish a task. These internal feelings then become the self-motivating factors that drive your children to continue to learn.
- Work with children until the teaching becomes part of their normal routine. Children need and deserve your help, especially when they are struggling to learn a new skill. And they will continue to need your help as they grow and develop. Often parents think that they need to say something only once and their children will get it. But that is frequently not the case. It takes patience on the part of parents to teach and re-teach a skill.
- Sometimes your job involves stepping back and letting your kids make their own decisions. It can be hard to stand by as they learn from their mistakes, accept the consequences of their choices, and figure out new tactics. But this, too, is part of working with your kids!
Raising children is a process that takes years. The reality is that over the 18 or more years your children live with you they will need you to remind them, teach them, and support them as they grow and mature.
Making sure your children have essential life skills can feel like an enormous task. This is because you play a key role in providing them with many opportunities to learn about how the world works, in allowing them to make decisions, and in encouraging them to learn from their mistakes. But with patience, understanding, and a few “tricks of the trade,” you will surely teach your children the way to success!By Deanna Bosley, Certified Parenting Educator
For more information about teaching children to be responsible and complete life tasks, check out the following books. Purchasing from Amazon.com through our website supports the work we do to help parents do the best job they can to raise their children.
If you found this article helpful, click here to make a donation to The Center for Parenting Education. Your support will enable us to continue to provide quality information free of charge.