You can provide your children with several essential ingredients for gaining self-reliance.
- Give your children love and respect which gives your children a sense of security that allows them to explore and take risks.
- Show confidence in your children’s capabilities, thus enabling them to internalize the faith you have in them and develop an enduring sense of competence for themselves.
- Teach them that they have control over their lives.
- Provide them with guidance and then the freedom to make their own choices and decisions (and mistakes).
- Show them what their responsibilities are, that they must accept those responsibilities, and then you must hold them accountable for actions.
Your responsibilities revolve primarily around providing your children with the opportunity, means, and support to pursue their goals. The psychological means include providing love, guidance, and encouragement in their efforts. The practical means include ensuring that your children have the materials needed, proper instruction, and transportation, among other logistical concerns.
Your Children’s Responsibilities
Your child’s responsibilities involve doing what is necessary to maximize the opportunities that you give them. These responsibilities include giving their best effort, being responsible and disciplined, staying committed, and giving an achievement opportunity a realistic try, as well as, completing all tasks and exercises, getting the most out of instruction, being cooperative, and expressing appreciation and gratitude for others’ efforts.
Self-reliance is partially about instilling in your children a belief in their own capabilities. But for that belief to be grounded in reality, they need actual skills and capabilities. So, one of your central responsibilities is to teach them the skills necessary to be self-reliant. I’m referring to the cognitive, emotional, behavioral, interpersonal, and practical skills that will enable your children to “survive in the wild.” Though all of these skills are important, these days I’ve been placing a great deal of emphasis on the practical skills that are required just to function as an adult because without them, “making it” outside of your home will be impossible. Some of these skills include:
- Financial management (e.g., saving and spending wisely; creating and managing a budget; paying bills)
- Housekeeping (e.g., grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, washing clothes)
- Auto maintenance (e.g., change a flat tire, add oil and windshield fluid, jumpstart a dead battery)
- Basic home repairs (e.g., use of tools such as a hammer, screwdriver, and pliers, replacing a light bulb, resetting the fuse box, painting a room, fixing a running toilet)
One of your tasks as the parent is to teach your children about responsibility. The best way to ensure that you and your children assume the appropriate responsibilities is for each of you to know what your responsibilities are. If you and your children have a clear understanding of what is expected of each of you, then it will be easier to stay within the confines of those responsibilities.
Make a list of what you as a parent will be doing to help your children succeed.
Then, make a list with your children of what their responsibilities should be. Next, identify other individuals who will have responsibilities (and what they are) in your children’s achievement activities, such as teachers, instructors, or coaches.
There should also be consequences for not fulfilling responsibilities. The best consequences are those that remove something of importance to your children and give them the control to get it back by acting appropriately. This process provides absolute clarity to both you and your children about what your “jobs” are. It also allows for no confusion at a later point when either of you steps over the line and assume the other’s responsibilities or neglects their own.
Let Your Child Practice Making Decisions
Giving children decision-making power from an early age. With little kids, it can be as simple as asking, “Do you want to wear the blue outfit or the green one?” and being respectful of their opinions.
“You can say to them, ‘You’re the expert on you, so you know when you’re hungry or full.’ Or, maybe when deciding if a coat is necessary, say, ‘You know what it feels like to be cold. You can figure it out,’” he explained, adding that free play in preschool helps kids develop a sense of agency as well.