How to make self-reliant kids

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Self-reliance is a life skill that in the beginning depends on having cheerleaders on our side encouraging us to keep moving forward, take the next step until we gain the confidence to do so on our own. This fact is true for most of us no matter our age. Especially with children though we must balance our praise and encouragement with some needed help to get them over an obstacle that may be too much at this moment in time.

The tricky part that has been the most difficult for parents since the 1980’s is the part of giving too much. I am becoming more convinced with each family that I work with and talk to that it is the giving of too much that has created the reason that we need to focus so much on self-reliance, resilience, and grit in our young people today.

There are so many examples of young people that did not grow up in a situation that their parents had very much to give except for their unconditional love and building a relationship with their kids. In those kids many times we see grit and determination to do better for themselves and to make things happen. Unfortunately, once they have gained a level of success, they may not realize it was the hardships they went through and the work they did that created the person they are today. So they make the mistake of wanting to give their kids everything they did not have and, the virtue of determination, the life skill of self-reliance is not strengthened in their children.

In other families, I have seen the children handed everything they need and want and later in life, grow up not knowing how to pull themselves up from failure and make something happen. They continue to look for others to do things for them. Now just to be clear this is not a blanket statement about every kid and every family. However, not encouraging our kids to work for their goals is not going to help them be self-reliant.

Building self-reliance is key to building a stable, resilient, gritty adult. Balancing our helpfulness and generosity with our kids with honoring their dignity and strength is what creates healthy successful and happy adults. Doing too much for a child does not allow them to strengthen this life skill or their resilience that they need in the adult world.

What is self-reliance and how can our kids learn it

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Self-reliance is the goal of parents for their children so that when they get older and out on their own they can function and accomplish the day to day tasks of life. There are several virtues needed to attain this life skill of self-reliance. Our child will be building their confidence, independence, dependability, patience, flexibility, and trust – self-trust.

When our child is very young, just a baby, they depend on us for everything. We feed them, dress them, and get them from one place to another. Later they learn to crawl and walk, start using eating utensils and dressing while becoming self-reliant. They start making choices about what they will wear, who they want to be friends with and make judgments about what is right and wrong, fair or unfair. While we are excited to see them grow up it can be difficult too. As they take on these new areas of life, they are building their self-reliance.

From the parents perspective helping our children grow their self-reliance requires us also to be confident, patient, flexible and trusting. The number one rule in building self-reliance is not to do for a child what they can do for themselves. What we know as an adult is that every new thing we try may not come quickly at first. With practice though, a few mess ups and coaching we can improve.

When helping our child develop their self-reliance, we will give them the same opportunities without judgment to try new things, practice, mess up while we coach them through the process. Setting our expectations at a developmentally appropriate scale and allowing mistakes and imperfections as learning experiences will build their confidence. Even while the child is learning to make judgment calls, we can coach them through the process of decision making and allow them to deal with the consequences that come up so they learn to make choices that will be the best for them.

Building self-reliance can be a bit messy while in the middle of the process. However, the result of seeing our child making choices that are best for them, taking care of household chores on their own, getting up in the morning by themselves and other things without prompting from us the parents is worth celebrating. Self-reliance is about depending on ourselves and trusting our choices. Parenting is about educating, guiding, correcting in a way, so our children grow up with self-reliance.

Loyalty to aging parents sets example for our children

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Loyalty is about our commitment to a person, place or a cause that we stick up for and stay with through thick and thin, good times and bad. When a person is loyal to us, we know we can depend on them to be there for us, that their promises will be kept. We have faith in them, and we trust them to help us when things are not going well.

All of us have people in our lives that we know will be there for us when we are sick, worried, upset or even scared. Unfortunately, we also have most likely experienced the loss of relationships due to a lack of loyalty, which leads us to believe they are not trustworthy. In any event, loyalty is what we find first and most of the time in the family though even that can change over time.

Loyalty inside the family is where most of us learn our lessons about loyalty and so helping our children appreciate that we are a team that must stick together to get our mission accomplished and supports each other even in the worst of times. I often think about this generation today that finds themselves between their parents and their children and how to balance those loyalties when they become time-consuming.

Caring for aging parents while raising our children is a problematic situation that needs balance along with understanding and empathy. What I do know is the way we talk about dealing with our parents as they get older and need our loyalty more than ever before in their life with and front of our children will be one of the ways they learn to view loyalty. I often think about dealing with elderly parents and the example it sets for our children. I believe that later in life, the way we viewed and carried out these responsibilities will be how our children treat us as we age.

We learn about loyalty and what it looks like much the same as we learn how our family views and values other virtues. Setting that example may determine how our children respond to difficult circumstances in the future.

Stop Shaming Procrastination – Develop your virtues

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Setting goals makes us feel hopeful and excited about what is to come. Imagine how we are going to feel when we complete what we set out to accomplish. It may be a physical change we want to make in ourselves, or we want to learn something new. So many times though, goals are not reached as we hoped or expected and we allow obstacles to get in the way of completion.

I believe that one of the biggest things that get in our way of reaching our goals is procrastination. That little matter of putting off getting started or taking the first steps toward achieving what we have hoped to complete. We all know what it feels like, most of us have most likely procrastinated on something and then find yourself disappointed or in a mad rush to get the project done.

Unfortunately, our kids see us deal with this annoyance of procrastination, and soon they are procrastinating themselves and many times it is the parents that deal with many of the consequences of their putting off a major project.

While there are books about procrastination – both the why and what to do about it – we still find that it can be a challenging practice to overcome. I thought maybe there is another approach. Perhaps we can look inside ourselves and see what we can call on or develop more of so that we get the job done promptly without the stress of waiting until the last possible moment.

What virtue would you call on when you know that you are procrastinating? Accountability, Decisiveness, Determination, Diligence, Excellence, Initiative, Orderliness, Purposefulness, Self-Discipline? Maybe there is a different one for you?

All of us have those virtues listed above as a part of who we are, but sometimes we need to call on them to come forward and be developed at this time. Instead of ‘demanding’ that a project gets done and shame the child or yourself with yelling or name calling (lazy, thoughtless, stupid, a failure), be kind and look for the virtue that you need to call on to overcome the obstacle. When you search for the virtue you need at this time, you are practicing the strategy of Recognizing Teachable Moments.

This is parenting and self-talk at its best.

Setting goals or intentions in the new year

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The beginning of most years many people tend to use this time to think about what the year ahead will look like and what they would like to accomplish. Instead of goals, I want to think of intentions. What are my intentions for the coming month, three months or six months?  Sometimes a year may seem so far out that we believe that we still have plenty of time to get things done and soon we see the year has passed us by. Writing down your long-term objective and then breaking it down into smaller goals in shorter time frames helps with seeing the progress we are making.

One of the most significant obstacles to the beginning of the year goal setting is having clarity about both what we want and what we do not want.  One way of getting to a clear understanding of clarity for ourselves is to take the time to decide both of these things in each area of our life. Having the right balance in all areas of life is essential. Balance helps us, the family and teaches our children to focus on their whole selves and not just “what they want to do when they grow up.”

The four areas of life that if we contribute to on a regular basis bring us the greatest feelings of success and happiness are:

  • Home and family
  • Career and education
  • Hobbies and recreation
  • Community and service

Take a look at each of these and consider; write down what your intentions are for each of them. What do you want for your family and home? Do you want to spend more time with your partner and children? What would you like to do with them? What would you like to contribute more to in your home and home life? What does each of your children need from you? How can you honor the spirit of your home? What about yourself would you like to grow or develop more? Is it your health or some other part of life?

For each area think about what you are doing now and how you would like to take it to the next level. It is the balancing of improvement in each area that creates the greatest feelings of a successful year and life. Having clarity about what you want is the first step. Do not skip any of the areas thinking that you do not have time for them. Balancing your life in each area makes the other areas easier to achieve and brings joyfulness to life. 

Find a list of virtues here. Which ones are most important to your family?

Life Skill: Goal-Setting – The Definition

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Each month we will discuss one life skill with all of our students. This month’s skill is Goal-Setting. This life skill will be defined in the following ways for our students.

Young students:  “I know what I want to do, be or know  and I have a plan to achieve that goal.”

Older students:  Deciding what you want to do, learn or accomplish and making a plan to achieve it!

We are not your typical after school activity, in fact, we are an education center, working with students on physical self-defense skills while empowering families to bring out the best in our children and ourselves – through the martial arts. We believe every child has 52 gifts in them already. They only need to be taught how to grow and use them in their life. Balanced Life Skills serves parents, teachers, and students to reach that goal.

 Get the list of 52 Gifts of Character / Virtues!