My husband and I recently decided it was time for our seven year-old daughter to start bathing herself, including drawing the bath water, washing her hair, and so on. When I popped into the bathroom one night to check on her progress, I noticed there were a few places on her head where she hadn't lathered the shampoo. Her response to my "constructive criticism" took me by surprise. She quickly let me know she didn't need any instruction, and there was really nothing in life I can teach her. If only that were true! What a relief if I no longer felt responsible for teaching her important life skills, because she already knew everything. Yeah, right.
But teach her I must, and we all must, as that is one of the tasks we are charged with as parents: raising self-reliant, capable, confident children. So how do we do that? By empowering our children, for starters; offering them opportunities to say "Look what I can do!" by teaching them how to master basic skills like:
1. Riding a bike. Who wouldn't feel empowered as they take control of the wheel, so to speak, and pedal down the street with the wind in their hair?
2. Tying shoes. Aside from saving you a lot of time, teaching your child how to tie her shoes is another small step towards independence.
3. Reading alone. This one is bittersweet because while there's nothing better than raising a little bookworm, I must admit I miss spending more time reading together.
4. Making their own sandwich/breakfast/lunch. Equip your child with easy-to-reach ingredients and child-friendly tableware, and turn your sous chef loose in the kitchen. From spreading their own peanut butter, pouring their own milk, or making toast in the toaster, children love to help out with everyday tasks.
5. Accessing computer games. It goes without saying that reasonable precautions and safeguards need to be in place before you allow your child on the computer. But what a great way for them to start learning about technology by turning the computer on, typing in a web address, maneuvering the mouse, and so on.
6. Making the bed. Apparently my mother didn't teach me this valuable skill because I never make my bed unless guests are coming over. But I would love to teach my children to straighten their covers and make the bed each morning.
In addition to empowering our children, we also need to provide encouragement, faith in our children's abilities, and a mindset of learning from our mistakes. Share stories about your own mistakes, what you wish you had done differently, and what you learned from the experience. And allow them to solve their own problems rather than rushing in to offer a solution.
Consider these wise words from two men who would never have accomplished all that they did without a healthy dose of confidence. (How scary is that?)
Whether you think you can or think you can't, you are right. ~Henry Ford
If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves. ~Thomas Alva Edison
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