I began to think about whether I was adequately equipping my children for life with practical life skills when:
- We had a teenage babysitter who wasn’t able to count out change when paid for her services;
- When I realized that one of my children (then age 7) was a voracious reader but did not know how to dry the dishes.
I was not prepared for adulthood. Part of the frustration I have experienced in parenting is because I was not raised to be a wife and mother. I grew up in a generation and a culture where women were groomed for careers and accomplishments in the world. After practicing law for years, I landed at home with four kids and I was clueless about parenting and domestic skills.
As my kids came alone and matured, I began to feel a burden to equip them with the skills they need for maturity, wherever they land in life.
It began with imagining each child as an adult. I did not focus on careers or jobs for the purpose of this exercise, but on independence and character qualities. As I brainstormed, I tried to be as specific as possible about these skill areas:
When I did this exercise, I came up with certain Maxims of Maturity:
- Maxim One: Responsibility begins in small things, and with good timing. Do not start too early or too late to expect things from your child. You may be grooming a child who cannot do anything for themselves or others.
- Maxim Two: Children must learn to get along with others and resolve conflict. This starts at home with parents and siblings.
- Maxim Three: Everyone lives somewhere. We need to take care of that somewhere and make it a place to nourish ourselves and others – a place to call home.
- Maxim Four: It is a great big, and sometimes uncertain, world out there and our children need to navigate it safely.
- Maxim Five: We only are given a certain amount of time. We have to use it wisely.
- Maxim Six: We all work in a physical space life. We need to manage that space. Your child’s spouse and employer will appreciate this.
- Maxim Seven: Things break and need maintenance. The more we can do on our own, the more self-reliant we will be.
- Maxim Eight: Much of life involves money. Will you learn to handle it or will it handle you?
- Maxim Nine: You only have one body. You have to take care of it.
- Maxim Ten: Your brain is a valuable thing. Learn to make it work at peak performance.
- Maxim Eleven: If you have not found a spiritual center for your life, it will ultimately be unsatisfying.
- Maxim Twelve: You must make lots of decisions in life. The more decisions you make, the better decision-maker you are.
- Maxim Thirteen: All of life involves creativity, whether you choose to be an artist or an accountant. Develop and nourish that creativity.
- Maxim Fourteen: Rejoice and be glad! This day is all we have.
We kept a Life Skills Notebook for each child to track progress in these areas. You may also add sections of your memories of mentoring as well as treasured photos. To give some ideas, our notebooks have included photos of bread baking sessions, summer lemonade stands and favorite pets who have helped us teach responsibility.
As each child became more skilled at life skills, she would add her own materials and resources she had uncovered, or information on career areas to explore based on these experiences.
The point is to plan ahead for independence. It will be here faster than you think.
See my book, Life Skills for Kids.
What life skills are you concentrating on with your children?