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Building Self Sufficiency in Children is Your Greatest Gift

It’s a rewarding parent experience watching kids learn how to do the basic things for themselves with your good guidance, like tying shoes, drying dishes, and cleaning up their bedrooms.

Of course it’s important to “let kids be kids,” but it’s equally important to teach them how to do stuff on their own. Helping your children learn skills to be self-sufficient will help them to eventually become self-sufficient adults. They will thank you later.

Here are a few reasons it’s important to raise self-sufficient children and teach important skills they’ll need throughout life.

Because it builds confidence . . .

When I was about 5 years old, my mother let me try vacuuming the living room floor for the first time in my life. I pushed the heavy, loud machine around the room with gusto. I couldn’t see over the top of the handle but was still determined to get the job done. Within a few minutes, the cord got tangled up under the vacuum and the burning smell of chewed cord permeated the room. The vacuum died an electrical death. It was my fault.

She didn’t blame me, but I don’t recall her asking me to vacuum again. Confidence shattered. But lesson learned on my mom’s part. Asking kids to lend a hand around the house lets them know they are a valued member of the family, even if it turns out to be an epic fail the first time. Eventually they’ll get it right if you show them how to do it. Kids who know that a parent is depending on their help makes them feel good about themselves and helps grow self-esteem — even if it’s a process that happens over time.

Because it builds independence . . .

If you hop in the car and drive to the grocery store, hopefully you’re teaching them essential life skills along the way, such as how to make a grocery list, buy healthy food, and budget, but take it a step further and teach them about where food comes from. We’re often disconnected from the concept of farm-to-fork, or the process in the food chain by which animals and vegetables are produced and made available for people to consume.

Learning how food gets to the table may inspire the family to plant their own garden or shop at local farmers markets. Maybe it’s even inspiring a career choice that will lead to head chef or another skilled trade. Not everyone can grow their own food and hunt for meat, but there are lessons to be taught about relying on ourselves more to get life’s necessities.

There’s also a lesson to be taught about malnourishment in poverty-stricken areas and the fact that many low income families say eating healthy is simply too expensive. More than 15 million children in the U.S. are considered “food insecure,” which means they aren’t getting the healthy food they need to thrive. More than 40 percent of American households live in poverty.

Because it teaches them how to care for others . . .

It’s important that they know how to do things on their own so they can eventually take care of themselves and their families in a way that’s beneficial to society. On the flip side, some people may become so self-involved that they act selfishly without taking into account the needs of others, according to an article on Psychology Today.

The article further states that self-sufficiency doesn’t necessarily mean becoming cold and detached. People with a strong sense of self tend to be less occupied by worries and stress, so they’re able to connect with others. Learning how to care for others isn’t innate for some, which is why it’s important to teach by example.

Because it’s an accomplishment. . .

Being able to finally do something for yourself after many tries is gratifying. Imagine the delight a child feels when he picks out his own clothes or helps make dinner for the family. Kids want to feel proud of their accomplishments even if it’s a simple as feeding the family dog and brushing teeth without prompting.

If parents do everything for their children, kids will come to depend on their parents and eventually their self-esteem will be affected, according to a recent story in the Chicago Tribune.

“A Pew Research Center study found that nearly a quarter of 25- to 34-year-olds are living with their parents or grandparents, up from 11 percent in 1980,” the article states. “And another Pew study shows that about three-quarters of adults with at least one grown child said they had financially supported that child within the last year. Half of those said they were their grown child’s primary means of support.”

Self sufficiency builds the confidence kids feel in being more independent. After all, being self sufficient is another achievement or milestone he reached. And especially after many tries, finally being able to do something himself feels gratifying.

Self-sufficiency involves reaching milestones throughout life. Parents who spare their kids from discomfort or lack the patience to teach basic skills aren’t doing their kids any favors in the long run. Everyday struggles are opportunities for growth.

Image: woodleywonderworks

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