I had quite a few ideas for October. Even though the month is over, I thought I’d share a few thoughts and ideas with you because the value of self-reliance is extremely important. Not only is it important, but it’s one that adults don’t seem to teach enough or even practice enough themselves a lot of the time.
First, I wanted to recommend a fabulous book for every parent to read. This one is truly a must for self-reliance. It’s called, “The Parenting Breakthrough” by Merilee Brown Boyak. It’s A-MAZE-ING. It’s a fast, fun read (Merilee Boyak is hilarious), and in those short couple hundred pages there is so much information there. There are lots of ideas about how to teach self-reliance to children, and how to help them understand that they have the potential to do so much.
I think self-reliance and potential go hand-in-hand. Once your child realizes he/she can do something by himself, the world has suddenly opened new doors. They have a new-found confidence and self-esteem. One of the most important things I feel you can do to teach these values to your children is to let them try things, and hold them responsible. I’m sure there will be grumbling, but a good amount of satisfaction and independence comes from a job well done.
The single most important thing you can do to teach self-reliance and potential to your children is to be an example of it yourself. There are SO MANY dependent, irresponsible adults out there who I think truly believe that they feel entitled to way too much just because their parents didn’t teach them enough self-reliance when they were young. There is a lot of pride in this world. We all know life is hard, but I’ve noticed that many people feel entitled simply for existing. And they also think their kids are entitled to all of these things and more.s
We need to teach our children now (and continue forever) that they can do hard things, and how much satisfaction comes from it. The world thrives on “passing the buck” and we need to teach our children about choices and how to avoid playing the “blame game”. We need to instead teach them to take responsibility for their actions and choices. It’s a HARD thing to do as a parent, but the rewards we can reap from this alone is a very defining factor on how independent and self-governing your children will be.
I will get off my soap box now and share with you some ideas we’ve implemented (and some we haven’t) to teach self-reliance and potential.
I found teaching this value to be somewhat challenging at times, but really fun at the same time. Seeing your children gain more independence and see their own potential is extremely rewarding and fun! I didn’t have too much trouble with the “do things yourself” part of this value since I just had a baby and have been needing my kids’ help and independence more than usual.
Something to keep in mind is to let your own pride go. Expecting your kids to do things the same as you will only be disappointing and frustrating for all. Expect enough of them, but remember you are teaching your children to be independent….they are not yet adults.
Seeing your child’s face light up when he/she realizes that they have learned something new is priceless.
SomethingI did try with my little ones was implementing chores. Lucky for me, since they are young and think Mommy is the greatest thing since chocolate milk, it was easy and fun. I picked up some wooden boards and hooks at the craft store and let them paint their own “job boards”. I colored some pictures of different jobs they needed to do and hung them on the hooks. Once a job is complete, they get to move the pictures to a different hook. They love this part. We let them earn various things such as a one-on-one date with us, or going somewhere fun. Make these things simple and doable in your life so your kids can truly enjoy their reward when the time comes.
We also have a chart called, “The Land of Obey” which we use a lot to motivate our children. When they mind, the train goes forward, when they don’t, the train moves back. When they reach certain stations they earn a small reward, and a bigger reward at the end (we’ve done anything from matchbox cars to trips to the park.).
I have one little boy who has been milking me for all it’s worth when we go places where he needs to be separated. I know he is shy, but I also know at this point he knows he’s fine and just wants to be with me. It’s been really hard, and a process that has been going on for about a year. One day, we were at the mall and he saw an “army bear” that he wanted so, so bad. I mentally put it in my Christmas list, but a few days later, I had the idea to create a sticker chart for him. Whenever he goes somewhere with a smile on his face, with NO battles whatsoever, he earns a sticker. When the chart is full, he will be the proud new owner of an “army bear”.
We have done lots of charts from kitten charts (my younger son stopped sucking his thumb for six weeks) to bedtime charts. For younger children, it’s a great way to help them learn that doing hard things brings a reward.
One tip I have is MIX IT UP! Kids like variety, and will most definitely get bored doing the same things. Mix up the methods and mix up the rewards.
Another good thing I remember from my childhood is that my parents always made me do things myself. If I wanted them to call someone for me, they didn’t. If I wanted to learn something, it was my job to figure out what, why, and how. I had to face my fears and talk to people. When I was in kindergarten my school did a fundraiser. Each child had to get donations from people and whoever got the most won a trip to Disneyland. I remember my mom driving from neighborhood to neighborhood while I went – by myself – to door after door to get donations. I was so proud of myself and my efforts and accomplishments. I didn’t win that trip to Disneyland, but I did get 2nd place in the whole school. And I’ve got to tell you, I remember being disappointed about it, but I don’t remember wishing I hadn’t tried so hard. I was happy and content with my accomplishment. That’s a good reminder for me that even a job well done can be a good reward. Because of these kind of things I am the most assertive person I know. And it’s gotten me far in life. My mom always says, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Thanks Mom and Dad.
The “repenting bench” is another thing I feel pertains to the value. It’s a concept I learned from Linda Eyre at the Power of Moms Retreat. The “repenting bench” is a bench (or the floor in front of the laundry room if you’re our kids) in which arguing siblings go together until they can take responsibility for what they did and “repent”, or apologize and ask for forgiveness. The process is ended with a hug between siblings. This concept is a really powerful tool for teaching your children to take responsibility for their own actions and reactions.
Another thing that can be a challenge is not jumping in every time you foresee an argument or an injury. Let your children learn about natural consequences. (example – letting them wear hot-weather clothes when it’s too cold or vice versa. Another example is a bee sting. My younger son teases bees relentlessly and we can never get him to stop until we remove him from the area. This month, we let him see why he shouldn’t tease bees. Poor guy hasn’t done it since.
Some of the things we wanted to try but haven’t yet are:
Learning about talents and helping them recognize and develop their own.
Having a “family talent show” where they can showcase their own talents.
A “Teach and Learn” family night once a month – everyone teaches a skill to others and also learns a skill themselves. I am really excited about this one and I’m going to be making it a monthly thing. This will help them use their talents to help others, as well as cement the concepts by having them teach others. I’ve also read that when people other than parents teach, kids can sometimes retain that better, as well as learn to be more assertive.
In the spring, I will be giving them a section of my garden to care for and help them learn the benefits and rewards of hard work, and also the consequences of laziness.
The Self-Starter Award. This is another idea from the Eyres. But I felt my kids were a little too young still for this one. (thoughts anyone?)
Well, that’s a lot of information to take in! I hope I’ve given you some insight and inspiration. The gift of self-reliance and potential is one of the most valuable gifts you can give to your children. It’s also one of the most challenging. I wish you luck on your noble endeavor and can’t wait to hear feedback about how it went and also any fresh new ideas you have to share with others regarding this value.
QUESTION: What things are you doing with your children to help them be self-reliant?
CHALLENGE: Next time you catch your children doing something on their own, let them know how proud you are of them.