Teaching Kids Self-Reliance Through Chores

Have you ever heard the word “self-reliance”? It’s one of the most important things we parents can teach our kids. It’s teaching kids to access their own wisdom and common sense so they know what makes the most sense in any given situation.

The path to self-reliance is through the heart. In the same way that we want to deal with our kids in the most effective way by stepping back and tapping into our own inner wisdom, we want our kids to be able to do the same. To know how to best deal with whatever difficulties might arise in their lives.

Besides helping our children learn everything in this Parenting From Heart Series about how to step back, clear their heads or quiet their minds to tap into their wisdom, we can also teach them self-reliance by teaching them what we take into account in reaching our own conclusions, instead of just laying our conclusions on them.

Preparing to Teach Self-Reliance

I know you’ve heard it before, but, to teach our kids anything, they will hear and react to the quality of our feeling- not our words. If they hear us being judgemental, they will only hear the judgements and will shrink away.

If they hear and feel love and understanding, they will expand and open to what comes next. If you want your teachings to take hold, your heart must be in the right place first.

Teaching works best when it arises out of deep listening. Through deep listening we hear what our kids need to learn at any given time. If we don’t listen deeply, even our best teaching won’t make a difference because they won’t be ready to hear it.

Even though kids naturally have wisdom and common sense within them, they often don’t know how to access it. They also aren’t born with knowledge about the different situations they’ll encounter in life, and what to do about them. Kids aren’t born with skills. They have to acquire and learn them.

How can we prepare a child’s mind to take in new learning? How will your child be most open to listening to you the way you would listen to him/her?

  • Create a loving, warm, caring environment so the learning can occur.
  • Model the behavior you want to see in them through their own actions.
  • Help your child gain an understanding of the issues you want them to learn about.
  • If needed, allow the child opportunities to experience the natural results of their behavior.

At some point, our kids are going to go out into the world without us. They will have a very difficult time in the real world if they aren’t truly self-reliant.

We want our kids to understand the relationship between what they’re doing, what their choices are, and their own internal fulfillment. We want them to be able to look at a situation, see what’s in their own best interest long-term, and act accordingly.

If your teachings are getting through, then chances are 1 of 3 things is out of alignment:

  1. Your rapport has dropped
  2. You’re in an unproductive frame of mind
  3. You don’t know what you’re talking about

With everything we have to teach our kids as they’re growing up, sometimes we’re too quick to teach. No matter what we teach- no matter what we say- it’s not going to be taken in, accepted, understood, and taken to heart, if we don’t communicate it from an open, responsive, loving state of mind, and if we don’t have rapport in that moment.

Many times too we end up taking the fun out of learning. If our kids don’t move fast enough for us; we get upset and take it out on them. Learning becomes no fun.

Then schools often reinforce how un-fun learning can be. Sometimes learning is even painful for a child. So kids lose their natural desire to learn.

Teaching Kids Self-Reliance Through Household Chores

Often times when kids act out in ways that we can’t fathom, it could simply be because they haven’t learned everything there is to know about a particular situation.

Consider household duties and chores.

Are kids really lazy bums? Or have they not understood how cleaning is in their best interest?

If kids understood how cleaning is really in their own best interest, they would develop natural self-reliance around cleaning. After it has taken hold in their minds, we wouldn’t have to be on their backs about cleaning because they would be doing it for themselves.

The more kids understand with their own internal logic why household chores are important, the more likely they are to do them without a struggle.

If kids see that household chores can be fun, they are more likely to do them. One of the biggest determining factors is how we as parents see those same chores ourselves. If we see them as drudgery, we will pass that on and it becomes what our kids learn from us.

Think about the last time your child wanted to help you with the cooking or with sweeping or washing the floor. How did you handle it? Did you inadvertently kill their desire to help or ruin the fun of it by continually telling them what they’re NOT doing right? Or for making a mess?

It’s never too late. You could become a team working together. How can you make it fun?

You could sit down together and ask, “What do you think has to get done around this house? We’re all in this together. We need to work out a system. How would you like to contribute?”

If your son’s room is a disaster, maybe it’s too overwhelming for them to do alone. You can help them once, and after that you can decide what you can do together to keep it that way.

If you want their room cleaned as a teenager, they won’t care if you tell them their clothes are wrinkled or ruined. They don’t pay for their clothes.

But if you said to them, “Cleaning up after yourself keeps the pace of your life sane”, this isn’t something people normally think about. When you walk into a clean, organized room it makes you feel peaceful. So keeping our environment clean provides automatic regulation to keep the pace of our lives more calm.

Also, if we want their room cleaned, is ours clean? If not, then what’s the point to them? They won’t understand what the difference is.

Do your kids understand that keeping up a household is a big responsibility?

Do they understand how much there is to do?

Do they understand how it feels to have the entire burden of work fall on one person if others don’t share the load or live up to their commitments?

Do they understand how much easier it is if everyone shares the load?

Do they understand that if they mess something up after you’ve spent hours cleaning, they will likely feel the effects of your reaction?

Instead of walking into the living room and losing your cool when you see a mess, you could simply say, “So who are you leaving that mess for to clean up?”

We could make the decisions for our kids, but they won’t be learning self-reliance. If we make the decisions without them, they’re not getting the benefit of the potential learning in making this decision.

You should also step back and observe what their patterns are. If you’ve asked them to clean up the livingroom and you still find papers and books on the floor, or some of their clothes on the sofa, it’s possible that your child doesn’t see “clean” the same way that you see “clean.”

If you want them to become self-reliant about rules and following them, then they have to see the importance of the rules for themselves. Why are rules important? What happens if there aren’t any rules? What kind of rules are appropriate and which aren’t?

If the rule is curfew and your teenage son asks you, “How late can I stay out?”

You should reply with an appropriate question like, “If you had a 14 year old son, how would you feel? What would you do?”

You put the issue back on them so it teaches them to consider what’s involved.

If after that discussion your son comes in late…. calmly say to him, “Look at the time.”

“I know I won’t do it again.”

“OK, well what will happen when you do? What would you do if it were your son?”

You want to put them in a position where if they were the parent, how would they treat their child?

Through the questioning, your child comes to understand. And once they understand, they act accordingly, and they carry it with them for the rest of their lives. Teaching self-reliance is a skill that all parents should be passing on to their kids before sending them out into the world unprepared for life.



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