With our oldest about to leave for college it's time to make sure we've taught him--and are teaching are younger kids--some of the basics for survival outside the nest. Some of these are obvious and you teach these skills on a regular basis. Others are not so obvious, so it helps to take the long view and ask yourself, "What kind of husband or wife do I hope my child will be?" or "What kind of parent do I hope my child may be?" (OK some days there's just the fervent hope that no one ends up an ax murderer...) Jim Stenson's books on raising kids have always been helpful in pointing the way to parenting priorities, and teaching children to eventually be adults is what he says we should always keep in mind!
- Grocery Shopping -- We often need two carts to complete the weekly shopping, so it's been natural for us to take at least one child to the store. When you get home you can ask everyone to help put things away (my line is, "ALL HANDS ON DECK!" while the ice cream is melting) and when we're done putting things away all of the helpers get a small treat.
- Care of the Home/Lawn -- It's a no-brainer that each child should have some chores around the house, but ask yourself if he or she is missing some vital skill. I recently asked one of my kids to sweep before company came over and he had never noticed that one broom is for the outside (straw) and one is for the inside (nylon bristles). He did a really terrible job and had to learn the hard way that, YES, the tools you use truly do make a difference.
- Laundry -- Numero One: Never wash a new red shirt with anything else. Please do not send your child out into the world without at least that one tidbit. Second: CLEAN OUT THE LINT FILTER FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE! Third: Just because you were able to shove three weeks of laundry into the washing machine and you managed to force it shut doesn't mean that that's going to work, buster.
- How to Walk Around the Block -- Okay this is mostly for little ones, but not long ago I watched a neighbor's grandmother (who was visiting from out of town) try to take the 7 grandkids for a walk around the block. They literally didn't know how to stay out of the middle of the street, check driveways for moving cars or stick together. Sometimes the most basic skills are the hardest to remember to teach!
- How to Eat at a Restaurant -- I don't know if the shows are still on, but for a while there were some TV shows like "Supernanny" and "Nanny 911" where families who were struggling would ask for help from an outsider to discipline their children. It seemed like grocery shopping and eating out at a restaurant were two biggies that frustrated parents wished they could teach their kids. Start with basic manners at home (no electronics at the table, stay seated on your bottom until you are excused, take turns when talking, use your "indoor voice," etc) and then make sure to reinforce expectations before you enter the restaurant.
- How to Go to Church -- I honestly think families who teach their children how to attend church services and behave for an hour each week are light years ahead of their sleep-in-on-Sunday peers. When you think about it, that's 52 times per year that your child dresses nicely and is asked to behave! This is also a great example of how wanting to teach our children becomes a good exercise for us in practicing virtue.
- How to Visit the Elderly, Introduce Yourself and Make Small Talk -- For the past two years my younger children have been visiting residents at an assisted living facility each week. It has made a HUGE difference in their ability to comfortably converse with others and just be mannerly. I need to write a whole post some day on the many blessings related to these visits.
- How to Answer the Phone and Take a Message -- I just want to die every time my mother has called the house and one of my kids has done a sloppy job of answering the phone! This is just basic training and you can even write out a script. Taking messages is also an important part of babysitting (see below).
- Basics of Babysitting -- First, teach them that safety is top of the list. Second, if your child is an only child watching several children, teach them about "multitasking." I remember one family reunion of ours when there were a ga-zillion grandchildren and one babysitter. She did a great job of interacting one-on-one, but she had no idea how to use her peripheral vision to keep an eye on everyone else (or, in basketball speak, how to switch from Man-on-Man defense to Zone!).
- Basics of Cooking -- Think survival, for starters: How to boil water (Ramen noodles, anyone?); how to scramble and cook an egg; how to brown ground beef (hello, Hamburger Helper!).
Now that the list is done I realize that there are other important things we hope our kids pick up along the way, like How to Be Bored, How Not to Be the Center of Attention, How to Be Grateful.......let's save those for another post, eh?
Books by Jim Stenson on Parenting: