Life Skills

I have two underlying philosophies when it comes to how I parent my kids. If you ever meet me, you may hear me say this: “If I do everything right, in the end, my kids will leave me.” It is a truism. If we can help raise our kids to be well rounded young adults then, in the end, my whole purpose is to get them to leave and be independent adults.

My other parenting philosophy is that I only have until my children hit puberty to teach them anything. As soon as they reach puberty, physiologically they are no longer my child but my peer, my equal as an adult. I know what you are saying, in the eyes of society, a 13-year-old boy or girl is no more an adult than a five-year-old. But I believe that once they hit puberty, there is not just a physical change that goes on, but also a mental and emotional change. If we look back anthropologically, puberty was when a child became an adult.

I have often felt that a lot of the friction that occurs between parents and teens arises out of this conflict. “Teens think they know everything” “They don’t listen to me anymore” are common refrains I have heard. But I think those comments miss the point. Teens don’t necessarily think they know everything; they think they know enough not to be lectured by a parent that is no longer considered an authority to them, so they tune out the lectures.

And so with those two philosophies floating around in my head, I feel it is my duty as a parent to teach my child all that I think is necessary for them to survive as young adults before they hit puberty.

That doesn’t give me a lot of time. My son will be seven this year, and my daughter will be 5. That gives me about ten years with my son, and 12 with my daughter before my role goes from parent-teacher to parent-adviser. And do you know what you can do with an adviser, you can ignore them.

I can still remember the day I said to myself; I’m done with the University Cafe. I need home cooked food or I’m going to be sick. Unfortunately, while I had spent hours watching my mom cooking, I had done very little cooking myself. I had a similar situation with dealing with money. While I had been earning and spending money for years before I left home, and I had seen my parents run the house and pay bills, I can’t say I understood many of the rules. I didn’t know the long term ramifications of late credit card payments. I didn’t think about how paying for a small item on credit would mean I was spending way more when you add in the interest. I had no idea how a credit score under 500 would affect me once I needed a car loan or a mortgage, or for that matter that I had a credit score and I was systematically ruining mine.

That is not to say I blame my parents. They did a fantastic job of raising my older sister and me. They were much more open with their financial highs and lows then many parents of that generation were. They were happy to encourage me in my fascination with earning or saving. They were a positive influence every way you could ask. But like all parents, I hope to add another dimension that my parents did not give me.

Because of my challenges as a young adult, I’m hyper-focused on teaching my children life skills like money management, laundry and cooking. I know from experience that it is not sufficient to merely demonstrate the behaviours, although that is important. It is critical to engage actively and include my kids into the activities that I want them to master before they become young adults. Luckily most children are eager to do what their parents do. So I hope to take advantage of that.

This is why I’ve started an allowance with my son so that he can begin using money. I hope that it will eventually lead to him taking on the responsibilities of managing a budget, such as a clothing budget. I plan on introducing the concepts of credit and debt to him once he has a solid grasp of earning, spending and saving. But this is also why I cook with my kids, with the hope that eventually they will be cooking full meals, from the purchasing of the materials, the prep, cooking and clean up. And this is why I try to get my kids involved in the home maintenance projects around the house. Because if you are good with money, a frying pan, a screwdriver and a hammer, I feel like you can make it in the “real world.”

As my kids grow, I hope to engage them in even more projects around the house and have them take charge of budgets, such as clothes or school supplies.

Let me know in the comments some of the ways you have engaged your kids in life skills. Do your kids do the laundry? Are your kids cooking for you? I would love to get more ideas that are engaging, productive and fun.

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