Unification News for June 2000

Equipping Your Children for the Real World

Christine Field
June 2000

The irresponsible teenager has become the symbol of modern adolescence. She can't find her schoolbooks to do her homework. He regularly runs out of clean underwear. She has to borrow money from Dad to go to the mall, and cooking for both consists of operating a microwave oven.

Gone are the days when schools taught homemaking skills, much less money management and life organization. This young lady and young man may be chronologically ready to be launched into the real world, where Mom and Dad are not around to cook, launder and clean or available to lend $20, but are they equipped to handle it?

In my early days of parenting, I had this mistaken notion that childhood was a kind of child's carnival, where our main responsibility was to keep our children entertained. Four kids later, I realize that childhood is training time for work and the real world. The earlier our children understand that life involves responsibility, the stronger their work ethic and willingness to work will be.

Now this does not mean that children should not play. Child development experts note that play is children's "work," the way they learn about themselves, others and the world around them. But all play and no work makes for kids unequipped to enter the adult world.

Equipping for service

As the mother of three daughters and one son, I believe God is calling us to equip our children to serve Him in many ways. That might be as a keeper at home (my profession for the past 10 years) or it might be as an attorney (my profession before motherhood). We need to make sure we are not shortchanging our children in life skills, so they will be prepared to serve God wherever He calls them.

There are 11 life skills in which we must intentionally equip our children. They range from the practical, such as balancing a checkbook and managing money, to the sublime, such as encouraging them to have a rich prayer life.

You are probably thinking, "Great. Just what I need. Another 'project.' " I am not talking about projects or earning badges or keeping checklists, although you may utilize some of these techniques as you train your children. I am talking about parents mentoring—coming alongside to instruct, encourage and assist—their children in everyday life skills. We can mentor our children by simply involving them in our lives and spending time with them.

With exposure and training in these areas, children will approach adulthood with confidence to manage their own careers, families and homes.

Home Skills. Chores are the perfect training ground for home skills. Even the youngest child can fold a washcloth or sort clothes into whites, darks and brights. As his coordination improves, he can be expected to fold and put away towels and laundry. By the time he is 12 or 13, he can independently do the family's laundry. Other home skills are learned by spending time alongside Mom or Dad as they do home maintenance and repairs. My husband's fondest memory is of going to the hardware store and assisting his dad with home tasks. One of my greatest joys is washing dishes with one of my daughters.

The distraction of washing and wiping clears the way for some good conversations. By involvement in the daily preparation of meals and cleaning up, my children are learning to cook and clean, as well as valuable lessons about nutrition and kitchen safety.

Social Skills. Learning manners and etiquette in the relaxed atmosphere of the home can be fun! Play restaurant or tea party and challenge your kids to use their best manners. Talk about the underlying issue of respect and why we should do things such as open doors for others.

Use family rules, which should be determined during a family meeting. This list of rules—and the consequences for their violation—can be posted as a reminder to children. Together with learning responsibility and consequences, etiquette will make your child both personable and employable.

Life Navigation Skills. These teach children how to progress through life, be that in the form of reading a map or properly answering the phone. Parents must also teach their children to navigate the dangers of life by making sure they have drawn firm boundaries. Teach young children personal information, such as addresses and phone numbers, but also teach them when it is not appropriate to share this personal information, such as with a stranger.

Time Organization. Children need to learn the basic concepts of time, such as reading a calendar and a clock, but they also need to learn discernment in the use of their time. Model wise use of time by managing your own commitments and schedule. The best use of time is that which provides stimulation and education, but has a primary commitment to growing and maintaining relationships with others. Employ down-time activities to help them make room for relaxation and fun, such as a family game night or drawing or reading together. Also, weave family life around time-related rituals, such as meals and bath and bedtimes.

Space Organization. When our children were very young, we taught them that everything has a place, and that they had to help to maintain order in the home. We did that by giving them child-friendly surroundings, such as low shelves, their own laundry baskets and boxes labeled with pictures of their contents. With older children, help them not to accumulate stuff and make sure they have an organized, consistent place to study and work. Teach them to be good stewards of God's gifts and not to be consumed with possessions.

Spiritual Habits. Even if our children are involved in the church children's ministry, good spiritual habits begin at home. Your children should see you praying and reading the Bible. If you provide them with quality devotional materials and teach them to be quiet on the inside, they will have a firm spiritual life foundation. Parents must first have clarification about their own beliefs and be grounded in the Bible. Then they must have the courage to let their children see those beliefs lived out every day.

Money Management. Children learn about money naturally. Teaching them its value must be intentional. One method is giving an allowance. As they shop, teach them comparison shopping and wise consumerism. They won't learn to handle money if they never get to spend it, whether wisely or unwisely. I would rather see my daughter squander $10 of her own money now and learn a lesson about impulsiveness than to wait until she is 20 and watch her drown in credit card debt. Most important, instill in them the value of tithing and saving. If they are faithful in these matters when the dollar amounts are small, they will be faithful stewards as adults.

Health and Nutrition. The statistics on unhealthy children are staggering. According to the American Dietetic Association, the number of overweight children in this country has more than doubled over the past three decades. Parents are the ones buying groceries and cooking meals, so we can model a healthy lifestyle and provide nutrition. Make a game of planning meals and challenge children to help make those meals meet healthy guidelines. Also value physical exercise as a family and engage in physical activities together.

Mental Aptitude. The life of the mind goes hand in hand with the health of the body. A healthy mind is one that can organize schoolwork and learn effectively. Help children set up a study area and schedule. Know your child's learning style —visual, auditory or kinesthetic. With awareness of different learning styles, you can and help him learn in the way that makes sense for him.

Creativity. Children of my generation had hobbies. Many children today just have television and video games. With an appreciation for the creative skills of life, children develop an outlet for creative expression and a chance to contribute something beautiful and personal to the world. Expose them to the arts by going to concerts, plays and art galleries. Indulge and encourage their expressions by providing creative materials for them to explore. Share your own creative passions freely, be that cross stitch, woodworking or writing.

Value of Life. The joy of everyday life is quickly fading in society. Psalm 118:24 tells us, "This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Children need to see their parents living a life that they love. Richard Foster, who wrote Celebration of Discipline, reminds us, "God's normal means of bringing joy is by redeeming and sanctifying the ordinary junctures of human life." While the minutiae of our lives may hardly seem significant, an attitude of grace and attention shows your children to appreciate and value the beauty of everything. Life can be joyous and should be for those who know God. When children or adults comprehend this, it affects all areas of their lives.

Childhood is a short, sweet season. Live it fully. Teach your children passionately, and you will all look to the future with confidence. Help your kids learn life skills with Consumer Books for Students.

Christine Field lives with her husband, Mark, and four children in Wheaton, Ill. She is the author of several books, including Coming Home to Raise Your Children and Field Guide to Home Schooling. Reprinted, with permission from the author, from Focus on the Family, May 2000. Check out the web sitewww.family.org – Bill Selig)

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