Blue laundry basket isolated on white“Give people fish and you feed them for a day; teach people to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.”

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his Chinese proverb provides a powerful metaphor that echoes good parenting practices. Ideally we want to raise our children to live independently as responsible, respectful and resilient adults. With this goal in mind, it is ironic that helicopter parenting has become all too prevalent.

That parents want to protect their children and shield them from harm is understandable. That parents want to provide their kids with happy lives free of pain and disappointment is equally comprehensible. Unfortunately, under this guise of love, parents are committing a great disservice, as they are not preparing their children for the real world. It is imperative to equip kids with the skills to face adversity, persevere and know that they can ultimately manage challenges on their own accord.

As summer holidays are on the horizon, parents can implement an out-of-class curriculum, one that emphasizes independence and resilience training. Age-appropriate chores, says parenting expert, Wendy Mogel, in her book The Blessings of a Skinned Knee, are a great place to start. Though jobs may not be completed as efficiently or expertly as if you were to do them yourself, chores teach kids important life skills while giving them a genuine sense of accomplishment. Chores can begin from a young age with increasing responsibility, as children get older.

» SELF-CARE – Toileting, cleaning, dressing and feeding are necessary skills in order to manage successfully away from home. At the beginning of the school year, it is evident which kids have not been encouraged in the self-care department. You don’t want yours to be one of them!

» CARE FOR PERSONAL BELONGINGS – Cleaning up toys, making one’s bed and putting clothes in the laundry teaches kids to look after their own possessions while providing real help to the daily upkeep.

» CARE FOR FAMILY AND HOUSEHOLD – Setting and clearing the table, loading and unloading the dishwasher, sweeping, taking out the garbage and recycling, and emptying garbage cans around the house are ways to make a genuine contribution to the smooth running of family life.

» INCREASED RESPONSIBILITIES – Making lunch for school, organizing and maintaining one’s knapsack, washing dishes, cooking, looking after younger siblings, taking care of pets, and doing laundry are all important life skills that give children a sense of autonomy.

» OUTSIDE THE HOME – Walking to and from school alone, learning to take public transportation, getting a part-time job such as a paper route, babysitting or snow shovelling are activities that communicate, “I believe in your ability to manage in the real world.” This increased responsibility is coupled with a well-deserved sense of independence.

You might think your children are too young to implement any of these suggestions, but it is never too early to start. Not only will it teach valuable life skills and lessen your load, it will also build their self-confidence and sense of accomplishment. So challenge yourself and your kids this summer by breaking out of your comfort zones. Reframe mismatched outfits and chipped dishes as collateral damage on the road to independence.







ELLEN KELNER holds a Master’s Degree in Education and is a resource and math specialist at a private school in downtown Toronto. She is a long time resident of the West Village Community.


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