Sometime in the last 40 years, we overcomplicated parenting and I think it’s made us all a little confused.
We really only have one job as parents. It’s the same job description parents have had for over 200,000 years.
That job is to equip our kids with the skills they need to grow into capable, competent adults.
If we do it right, we gradually write ourselves out of our job.
Sure, we also need to love our children and provide them with safe, supportive homes. Because they need that to thrive.
But we also need to teach them the skills they need for survival, and sometimes that means taking the harder road.
If you drop a seed in the ground, it will probably grow.
If it gets the right amount of light and water and nutrients, if you tend it and care for it, it will blossom into something truly magnificent.
If that seed gets too much water it will wither.
As modern parents, we tend to ‘overwater’ our children.
We have the best of intentions. Of course we want ease their way in this world.
We want them to be happy.
And we’re going about it all wrong.
If you want your child to be happy, give them competence, not compliments.
Teach them Allow them to be capable and confidence will naturally flow.
There are thousands of skills a child needs to learn before they grow into adults and beyond, because we never stop learning, right up until the day we die.
But these 4 skills are ones that used to be taught by parents, but seem to be increasingly passed over in the modern era of parenting.
4 skills you should teach your kids
1. Money Management
How many kids are enter the adult world not knowing how to handle money?
Gone are the days of budgeting and saving.
Easy credit is a tantalising temptress. Everyone else is doing it, so why not us?
We empower our kids if we teach them from a young age how to budget their money.
Let them pay the lady at the checkout and take the change.
Let them spend money at the tuckshop.
Talk to your kids about your spending decisions. You don’t need too much detail, a simple ‘we can’t buy that today because I’m saving that money to pay the electricity bill.’ is a good start.
Give your children an allowance. Ask questions to guide them when making a spending decision, but let them make their own decisions on how they will spend their own money.
Let them make mistakes. Let them feel buyer’s remorse without pitching money in to save them from the pain.
When they’re older, let your kids buy the groceries with a fixed budget. It’s great practice.
Teach your kids to save. To delay gratification. Teach them about compounding interest and investing.
Teach your children how to earn money.
Teach them about debt. Show them what will happen if they only pay the minimum amount. Show them how to get out of debt if necessary.
Don’t let your child be the housemate from hell.
We’ve all lived with one. The slob who leaves half-empty takeaway containers under the lounge. Who never takes out the trash. Who never washes the dishes.
Every child should grow up with the ability to clean up after themselves. To wash and iron their own clothes, vacuum, dust, scrub the shower, wash the dishes.
We should teach our kids how to sew on a button, darn a sock, hem a skirt. How to use a hammer, sand wood, build stuff.
They should also learn how to maintain a home. How to change a washer or a fuse. How to paint a wall or clear the gutters. How to trim a tree.
How to grow a garden.
By not giving our kids chores, by always cleaning up after them, we do them (and any future housemate, including their spouse) a disservice and it sucks all the joy out of parenting too.
We’re parents, not servants.
Start young. Toddlers love helping out around the house. Make the most of the I can do it! stage.
And then, as they grow older and the novelty wears off, give your kids chores. Don’t ask for their help. As functioning members of the family, expect their help.
Yes, it’s easier to do it yourself. Yes, it takes time and a whole lot of patience.
But that’s our job.
When my dad was a kid, his grandfather asked him to paint their chain-link fence. When he finished, he was allowed to go to the pictures with his friends.
Well dad slapped that paint on in no time, proud as punch, his mind already at the movies.
And his grandfather wouldn’t let him go.
Instead, after much grumbling he spent the afternoon dabbing paint into every spot he missed, every spot the wire crossed over to form the link.
‘If you’re goina do it, you’re goina do it properly.’
It was a hard lesson learnt, but one he never forgot.
And one I’ll never forget too.
Being able to feed yourself is a pretty essential life skill to have.
And yet, it’s amazing how many kids leave home without this skill.
In order to live a healthy, full life, children need to learn how to cook real food from scratch.
You can start teaching children from about 2 years old how to cook. Begin with simple things like mixing the muffin batter or cutting a banana with a kid’s butter knife, then gradually give them more responsibility as they get older.
Kids are usually more capable at a younger age than what we give them credit for.
I want to give you a heads up about a kid’s cooking eCourse by Katie from Kitchen Stewardship, which is all about teaching your child to cook. I had the privilege of doing the course late last year and we loved it.
I did the first year of a chef’s TAFE course at high school, so I’m fairly confident with cooking. But this course taught me how to take those skills and make them easier for little kids so that they can be confident.
Because Katie is a teacher, she uses language and memory cues that are just right kid’s level. For the next few days, you can watch the knife skills for kids video for free.
If you want to teach your kids how to cook, but you’re not sure where to begin or how to do it, check out Katie’s course.
4. How to be a functioning member of the community
AKA: social skills.
We’re stuck in the middle of a ‘me’ culture (this is all age groups), where community has taken a backseat to the individual.
And as parents, we’re so busy worrying about our kids getting ahead, we may forget to teach them how to get along.
This is where all those social skills are important.
We need to teach our children manners. Manners maketh man was my primary school motto and it’s true – how we treat others says a lot about the kind of person we are.
We need to teach kids to tell the truth, to share, to take turns, to listen and make eye contact when they speak.
To smile and say hello.
To admit to their mistakes and apologise.
To not use their phone while walking through a busy shopping centre.
To cooperate. To compromise.
To stick up for themselves and the things they believe in.
To care for their environment – their immediate environment (like their room) and the larger environment. To care for animals.
They need to learn to pitch in and lend a hand.
You know what the best way to teach all these things is?
To model it yourself.
Be the person you hope your kids will become.
This feels like a lot to teach, right?
When are we going to find time to do all that between work and homework and soccer training?
The good news is, we have around 16 years to do it! And it doesn’t have to be like formal training.
Let your kids help out around the house, model the skills you want your kids to learn,and they will be confident, capable adults before you can say grandma.
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.