Before we start, you’re going to need two things:
First off, you need an idea of your goals; where you’re going with this. I’d suggest having a good browse through the list we came up with in the Essential Life Skills – What Do Our Children Need to Know? article. You can also check out stuff on the internet or grab yourself some relevant books from the library. All of these will help refresh your memory about what essential life skills are and what might be useful for your children.
Secondly, you need to be prepared to invest a little effort. Teaching any new life skill isn’t a five minute jobby and you need to be prepared to spend time coaching your child before they “get” that they CANDo it!
If you’re prepared, then you’re ready to begin:
- Be Selective
It takes a whole childhood to learn how to become a responsible adult. Take a really objective look at where your child is in his/her development and determine which areas will have the most meaningful impact on them now. We started by working on teaching our children to “take responsibility” through household activities or “accountability” for want of a better word. They were becoming more independent, playing alone at friend’s houses, going to school, etc. and we felt if they learned how to be accountable in the home, they’d be more likely to behave responsibly outside of it. We also thought this would:
- boost their self-confidence, trustworthiness and self-esteem life skills, and;
- provide opportunities to teach some practical home life skills that would sort out what had become “little niggles” for us:
- putting away at the end of the day
- hanging the towel on the rail in the bathroom, and;
- the age old dirty washing in the basket saga.
We held a family meeting and came up with daily goals for them, a small list of household activities, rewards and consequences. I’m actually putting together some stuff on the goals, rewards and consequence we came up with which I’ll share with you over the next couple of weeks.
- Do It Yourself
Go through each of their goals on the list and complete all the activities for them (BUT WITH THEM). Make the effort to discuss each step and explain why it’s done so, ask them if they agree or can think of better ways, etc. You need to go through each and every step yourself to ensure they understand exactly what is expected of them. Don’t assume that just because you think something is easy, they know how to do it.
- Do It Together
Have your child complete each of the goals on their list with you.
- Step Back and Observe and Them Do It
Have your child complete each of their goals while you “observe” – silently if possible with just a few words of encouragement (this part is soooo hard!). Don’t be tempted to “rescue” them and do it yourself, have the patience to sit and watch even if you know you could do it quicker yourself. The idea is for them to gain confidence by thinking things through themselves. To “take responsibility” for completing each step because THEY know it needs to be done (not because you forgot to tell them to do it).
- Let Them Do It
Once they’re showing capability and confidence, back off completely and let them do it.
- Check Ups
Make a regular check to ensure they are continuing to do things as taught. If things start slipping, consider whether a consequence is required or if you need to pop back to step 4.