It’s pretty safe to say that we all want our children to grow up to be happy, productive, successful contributors to society. We want our kids to eventually be self-sufficient and leave the nest.
Are we equipping them to do it well? Are we teaching them the real skills they will need to be independent and successful?
Of course our kids need to learn to tie their shoes and brush their teeth. They also need to learn to read and do math, but the self-sufficiency skills I’m talking about today go beyond that.
It’s pretty hard to make it out of childhood without basic grooming and interpersonal skills. Compulsory education makes readin’, ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmatic easy to pick up too.
On the other hand, there are some life skills that may go entirely untaught by both parents and teachers. Making it to adulthood without these skills will inhibit a young adult’s ability to be self-sufficient, independent, and frugal.
Here are three skills you can start teaching your kids now, no matter their ages.
This isn’t the first time (not will it be the last time) that I have stressed the importance of teaching kids about finances from a young age. Money management is something that must be taught at home because it isn’t taught in schools.
As with other skills, the teaching starts with modeling the behavior. Since much of our money management goes on in our heads (or between the devil and angel on each of our shoulders), we need to think out loud sometimes.
Our kids shouldn’t be completely shielded from our finances. There are some things you should to tell your kids about your finances in order to teach them adequately.
Our kids need to see us not just spending money, but saving our money, both for things we want and things we need. They need to see that we don’t buy everything we want and that we prioritize our spending.
Teach your children to budget their money and make plans for what they will save for. Paying tithing is important to us, so that is something we teach our children, as well.
We also are open with our kids about debt. Even school-age children can understand the concept of debt. They know about borrowing, but they’ll also need to learn how interest works, and what it means to both pay and earn it.
Before kids can learn to manage money, they need to learn about earning money. If the only money kids practice managing is money that they are given with no strings attached, they are missing an important piece of the personal finance puzzle, working to earn an honest living.
Managing money that you didn’t earn is not the same as managing windfall money (think allowance, birthday money, spending money). The dollars and cents that represent their own efforts will be much more precious and meaningful than money that was just given. Kids will be much more careful with money they worked hard to earn.
Give your kids the chance to earn money doing chores around the house. For the record, I’m also a fan of having kids do some chores just because they are part of the family. In fact, in our family, the chores for which they don’t earn money must be completed first.
There are even non-chore ways that children can earn money. In fact, if your kids are like mine, small opportunities to earn money might bring out the resourceful entrepreneur in them.
Having the chance to earn money has really increased our kids’ opportunities to learn financial lessons. When they want something, instead of asking (or begging) for it, they will think of a way to earn the money they need to buy it.
Cooking from Scratch
How many kids leave home without ever having cooked anything for themselves, let alone something healthy?
Sometimes even in a home where the parents may cook, the children never have the opportunity to learn and practice crucial kitchen skills for themselves. When they get to college, eating out (or eating something unhealthy) seems like the only option.
While it’s often faster (and cleaner) just to do the cooking ourselves, we really do our children a disservice when we don’t let them help and give them the chance to learn how to prepare food.
When my husband was growing up, one of the chores that rotated between the six children was making the family’s five loaves of bread each week. At a young age, the children learned to make bread and had plenty of opportunities for practice. Although he doesn’t use it much, my husband still has the recipe memorized.
As parents, the first step is getting in the kitchen and modeling the behavior. Our kids will learn that food can be made from ingredients, not just bought and reheated.
Over the summer, I started the Kids Cook Real Food course with my kids. I would schedule time when I was calm and prepared, not needing to have dinner on the table in half an hour. The kids loved learning from the course videos and all the hands-on practice.
The kids get so proud of the things they make themselves. They are also more willing to eat healthy or new foods if they prepared them themselves.
You might be surprised how young children can get started in the kitchen. The Kids Cook Real Foods course has three age levels (from two to teen) where different skills are taught (not just levels of the same skill).
I think it would make an excellent gift for children or grandchildren. Not only will they learn a vital life skill, it’s a gift that doesn’t take up space or create clutter.
See the Future
Imagine dropping your children off at college to live on their own for the first time. What are the skills they will need to survive? To thrive?
Surely, managing finances, earning a living, and preparing healthy foods are all essential life skills to master before leaving home. Fortunately, they’re all skills we can start teaching now.
These aren’t the only life skills your kids are unlikely to learn in school or absorb from society, but they are a great place to start.
What do you think?
- What other life skills are young adults lacking that we should be teaching our kids?
- How have you taught your kids to manage finances, work hard, or be self-sufficient in the kitchen?
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