Raising Capable Children

Children need to be more than open-minded.

Picture by Porapak Apichodilok

We have become so focused on producing enlightened children that we have forgotten the fundamentals. The goal as a parent isn't to have your child wear the most eco-friendly clothing while munching on kale wrapped asparagus or whatever healthy concoction has dominated their young lives. Our goal as parents is to produce capable adults.

It is more important that our children learn the skills necessary to function in society than that they are the star of their 2nd grade class room. This means we need to shift our efforts back to life skills. I'm sorry that you feel Timmy's self-esteem will be shut down by telling him to clean his own room, but how will he ever know to clean the earth if he doesn't start somewhere? 

We can achieve all our goals by hitting the refresh and teaching our kids to be independent. 

The most important things we can teach our children are: our messes are our own problems, things are earned and not given freely, kindness is only as important as doing the right thing. 

Let's break these fairly simple ideas down a bit farther. 

My mess, my problem. This can be taught by teaching our children to put away dishes when finished with dinner, cleaning up their own toys, or making our own apologizes. Any chance you can teach your child that their actions have consequences, be it good or bad, you are telling your child that they are responsible for what they do in life. Not only will this help them as they are finding their way into careers, finances, or just day to day living, but it will also help with the large picture things where this generation places their focus. If we teach our kids to take responsibility, this will cross over into knowing they have a specific responsibility to mankind as well. It is in each of us to make decisions every day to protect the future of our planet and our way of life. Kids who understand how their actions affect things in potentially large ways will grow up to know making eco-friendly choices are a priority. They will see how an off color joke can be hurtful to friends and perpetuate a racial divide that doesn't need to exist. So teaching your kid to clean up after themselves doesn't make you a mean mom, it makes you an important tool in the success of our world.

Things are earned. As kids grow, they experience this magical phenomenon where everything they need is provided for them seemingly from thin air. Every drink they need, food they eat, toys they play with, and literally everything else is gifted to them. I think it is vitally important we teach our children that everything has a price. Some things have a financial price, and others we pay with our time. It shouldn't be a lesson on how to get depressed quick, but rather to value the things in our life. If as an adult, you have to work an entire week to buy a TV, that TV is more than something to watch The Big Bang Theory on, it is a week of your time. It is worth all the things you could have bought, or all the things you could have done instead of working to earn it. If you place a cost value on the things in your life and realize there are no freebies, I believe you will place less importance on the physical objects and more on the experiences. Things mean more when you realize the cost. If we can teach our kids when they are young to budget their allowance and save for the toy they want, then they will appreciate its cost and therefore it more than if we merely gifted it to them. 

Kindness versus standing ground. We place a lot of value in today's society on how we treat others. I can't say I feel this isn't important, but there comes a point when we have to stop worrying about hurting other people's feelings as the expense of our beliefs. If there is a kind way to approach a topic, take it. But never let political correctness keep you from becoming immutable when it matters. I will never allow someone to tell me race defines the quality of a person, for instance. If I need to be firm at the expense of kindness to maintain that belief, then so be it. This does not mean we treat harmful words with more hate, but rather that we do not bend to the will of our opponents out of fear of hurt feelings. We need to teach our children not to be victims. It is wrong for the bully to pick on our kids, but it is also wrong for us to not teach our kids to believe in themselves enough to stand. We need to teach our children that even when it is hard or scary, that we stand up for ourselves and for those who can not. The best way to teach this is by example. Be the person you hope your child will grow to be. It is also important to not block your child from uncomfortable situations. If another child throws sand in their face, don't go to that child's mother and fight the battle for your kid. Help your kid figure out the best way to handle it on their own. Pull your child aside and let them know it is not okay for them to be treated that way, but have them confront the bully. Let them stand up for themselves — not in a violent way, but let them stand their own ground. There is a time for kindness in most everything we do as people, but there is also a time when we should be stern, clear in our objectives, and unbending in our beliefs. 

The main point is to quit raising our children to believe they will grow up in a Utopian society. They will inherit the earth to be much like it is now and will have to function within its boundaries. We need to teach them to earn what they receive in life, be kind without being a victim, and how to clean up their own messes in life. One day we won't be here to bail them out. It should be our hope that our children will be a benefit to the world, and only we can give them the tools to succeed.

Amy Jourdan
Amy Jourdan

I have an infatuation with books. I spend most of my time adventuring with my two sons. I enjoy dipping my fries into my frosty.

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Raising Capable Children