If you’re looking to raise a child to be a fully-functional adult, there’s definitely a lot to think about. You might love your kids, but sometimes you have to let them hurt themselves, feel the consequences of their actions, and experience failure. As a parent you will ultimately be there to help them when they’re in need, but you also can’t be their personal “catcher in the rye.”
If you want your children to be ready for the real world when their time comes to leave the nest:
1. Limit their access to pleasure
Yes, childhood is the most carefree time in a person’s life, but that doesn’t mean it has to be all fun and games. Put a time limit on the computer, phone, or video games, so your children don’t end up wasting time that could have been spent bettering their lives. I’m not saying that children should be doing hard labor, but they should definitely have responsibilities to take care of before they dive into the world of Minecraft for the evening. Give them age appropriate chores, and make sure they complete their homework to the best of their ability before you let them off the hook.
2. Don’t cover for them or coddle them
Having worked in school settings, I’ve seen way too many parents complain to teachers after their kid comes home with a failing grade. Newsflash: It’s not the teacher’s fault (unless the entire class is failing, which is highly doubtful). Instead of taking your kid’s side when it comes to their responsibilities, make sure you look at what they could be doing better (and what you could be doing better, for that matter).
Nobody’s perfect, and that’s okay. But by pretending your child is God’s gift to the world, you set them up for true failure later in life.
3. Make them honest about their shortcomings
Parents need to teach their children to take responsibility when they falter, but this doesn’t mean they should just accept failure, either. Too many children think “I’m not a math person,” and in turn don’t work hard to improve their math skills. Don’t let this happen to your children. Teach them the importance of working hard to overcome weaknesses. It’s one thing to do well in something you’re naturally good at, but it’s a much greater accomplishment to succeed in an area you once failed in. Teach your kids that hard work will always pay off in one way or another.
4. Set allowance strictly
When I was a child, my mother had a system in which a certain amount of my allowance would go toward short-term savings (for smaller toys and games), long-term savings (like a new video game), and serious savings (to be put into a real savings account). That system worked too well for me, as I am now money-conscious to a fault. Teaching your kids to have realistic appreciation for money from a young age is incredibly important. Don’t waver from whatever system you work with, so your children don’t grow up thinking money just shoots out of the ATM whenever you need it.
5. Teach the value of hard work
That allowance shouldn’t come easy. Make sure they know that money is earned by services rendered. Yes, they might hate mowing the lawn in the summer, or shoveling the driveway in the winter, but the sooner they realize they have to work to earn cash, the better off they’ll be. They’ll also enjoy their games and toys much more when they’ve earned them. They will treat their possessions with respect, remembering how hard they had to work to be able to afford them.
6. Be consistent with rules
As a parent, it’s definitely easier to let rules slide “just this once” here and there, especially when you’re busy with work and other obligations. But all this does is create a slippery slope in which your children will constantly be looking for ways to bend the rules. By being inconsistent, children learn that there are times they’ll be able to get away with something. Make sure they know: The rules are the rules, period. And make sure your spouse follows through, as well. Otherwise, your household turns into a 90’s sitcom where the parents start fighting because one was more lenient than the other!
7. Teach them to be thankful and grateful
Children can be taught to be giving, hospitable individuals from a very young age. Many children who are deemed wise beyond their years simply have parents who have raised them to be caring and giving people. Model courteousness by saying please and thank you to other adults when they hold the door, or helping them write thank you notes to friends who attended their birthday party. Have them pick out toys they no longer use and bring them to shelters for less fortunate children. Children will grow to be conscientious adults if they learn to have perspective from a young age.
8. Don’t always be their best friend
You love your children unconditionally, but you are the adult who has their best interest in mind. By trying to be their friend, you open up a can of worms that is impossible to close. You should definitely let your young child bring out the kid in you, but don’t be “that parent” who lets their kid watch horror movies or play Call of Duty until midnight on a school night (or ever, for that matter). Be there for them at all times, but don’t just let them have their way because you want to be “cool.”
No parent is cool; you should know this by now!
Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm7.staticflickr.com