Love in Action: Teach Your Children

Teach Your Children
Learning how to hook up the trailer.

As parents, it is our duty to feed, clothe, and house our children.  It is our duty to wipe dirty bottoms, runny noses, messy faces, and spilled milk.  But our duties as parents go beyond merely ensuring the survival of our offspring.

Love in Action Day 12

Whether or not today’s action comes naturally to you, you can make it part of your daily life.  Eventually it will be as natural as breathing.  Well, almost.  Plus, these small actions today will make your life far simpler in the long run.  If your oldest are toddlers, you’re just going to have to trust me on this.

Teach your children.

There are two types of teaching: passive and active.

When you teach passively, your natural behavior and actions speak to the children. They will learn by example and imitation.  Here’s proof: Who among us hasn’t woken one day to the sorrow of seeing our own faults and shortcomings mirrored in our children?  Uh-huh. It is important to be the person you want your child to become, to represent the character traits and faith you would like realized in your own children.  A life of example is often the best teacher.  Nevertheless, passive teaching is not enough.

What we are dealing with today is active teaching.

In active teaching, parents intentionally take time to pass on a skill set or knowledge to their children.

Love in Action: Teach Your Kids
Learning to care selflessly for others is a priceless gift.

The rather backward trend in America today is to raise children who are active in dance, track, soccer, basketball, swimming, clubs, football, softball, and debate.  However, those same children grow up, get married, and have no idea how to run a home, form a budget, fix a drawer, cook a meal, or plan a trip.  They know nothing about gardening, child care, or home and auto maintenance.  Their idea of relationships is a popularity contest.  Basically, they are still kids who will be raising kids of their own to be overgrown kids.

When you fail to teach your children the skills they will need for life, you are placing them on a very difficult road.  Worse, you are failing them. Eventually, they will need to learn these things themselves.  If you don’t teach them, they will have to play teacher and student simultaneously.

It is extremely difficult to teach yourself how to manage a home and tend children when you are in the midst of managing a home and tending children. It is downright discouraging to try to learn how to budget when you are already thousands of dollars in debt.  It is a monumental task to figure out how to lovingly manage conflict if issues were avoided rather than dealt with in your childhood or if contrary children were sent away rather than trained.   

Teach your children how to cook, clean, budget, fix things, maintain a home, maintain a car, change a tire, do laundry properly, write letters, plant a garden, change a diaper.  Teach them how to greet a stranger, greet a friend, answer the phone, treat a lady, treat a man, deal with peer pressure, handle conflict, and ask for forgiveness.  And for heaven’s sake, teach them some table manners!

Love in Action: Teach Your Children
Fixing a drawer with a screwdriver, three hands, and a foot.

Whatever it is that you do in a day, involve and teach your children.

Don’t shoo your two-year-old out of the kitchen when you are batch cooking.  Give her a safe knife and some mushrooms to cut. By the time boys and girls are ten, they should be able to prepare an entire meal, with supervision.  Don’t leave them and your future grandchildren at the mercy of Burger King.

Don’t think girls don’t need to know how to change a tire. When you have a flat, call them all out.  Eventually, have them change it for you. Someday they will have a flat.  Do you want them at the mercy of whoever is driving by at the time?  No way!

When something needs fixing, let the three-year-old help with his plastic hammer.  Call in your teens and ask for their ideas on how it should be done.  Work together!  Raise handy men and capable women.

In the same way, practice legitimate budgeting.  Discuss relationship building.  Talk about family bonds and share stories from your childhood.  Teach manners, chivalry, and respect.  Talk over issues at work, in the neighborhood, or at church in a non-gossipy manner, so the children can learn to think and respond rationally.  Work together through family challenges so when (not if) they encounter them in their own families, they will be prepared.

Don’t expect your children to raise themselves in their thirties.

And as the potential future mother-in-law of seven, I beg you

Please don’t expect their future husbands or wives to do your parenting job.

Seriously.  I’m on my knees here, people.

Love in Action: Teach Your Kids
Give them the skills and they will make their world beautiful.

If you’re still not convinced, here’s an overheard conversation between two of my children hard at work managing the home, one of whom is still learning humility:

Child 1, needing humility training: Aren’t we awesome?!

Child 2, humility school graduate: No, our parents are awesome for training us.

Someday they will thank you.

How do you teach your children the life skills they will need?  What skills do parents often overlook?

Helpful Tools: My eldest was four when my grandmother gave me the book Life Skills for Kids: Equipping Your Child for the Real World.  It lists what skills your child should be capable of at certain ages (all children are different–we all know that, right?!), as well as a systematic approach to teaching them what they will someday need to know.

In Life Skills for Kids I read that a teenager should be able to manage a home.  I despaired, thinking my daughter would never learn to tie her shoes much less not burn down the house in 9 years.  Now she is 15 and our second is 13.  They can manage a home–cooking, cleaning, doing minor repairs, doing laundry, handling minor finances, performing business duties, managing pet care, some gardening, menu planning, some budgeting, tending younger children or the sick, correspondence, computer work, and more–learning by our sides every step of the way.  I am not bragging–I am offering a vision.  People, train them!  Please!  (Yup, I’m still begging. It’s that important,)

Buy Life Skills for Kids (the book, not the actual skills) here.