Monday, August 18, 2008

Competent Kids

One of my primary goals as a parent is nurture competent adults. So far, it seems to be working, which has me wondering what I have done right. I think the biggest thing is to assume that my kids are competent and set them tasks that stretch them a bit but are within their capabilities; then I give them the tools and support they need to accomplish the task more-or-less successfully. If I wait for them to demonstrate their competence before acting on it, they will never have a chance to develop it; if I give them tasks that are too hard or don't provide support, they will get discouraged. And if I just do things myself because it is easier (which it is), then they will never become competent, or even know that they should.

So I talk them through cleaning the bathroom or a shotgun, or encourage them to call their grandfather to find out how to wrap a pipe with insulation, or wait patiently while they figure out the best way to lay out a garden wall. I listen to them argue that they shouldn't have to do this chore, or that they can't do it. I make sure that my sons do household cleaning and my daughter helps with the cars. I let them make mistakes where it won't be catastrophic, and let them make the corrections or clean up the mess. Things take longer initially, but once they learn the task, they can repeat it in the future. They know they can learn how to do things, so they are willing to tackle another task. In short, they become competent (and make my life a little simpler in the process).

Once again, it is trust and verify: trust that they can do the job, then verify that they did it reasonably well.

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