Building Your Children
(Parenting Tips for Self-Reliant Children)
As Clayton M. Christensen states in his book, “How will you measure your life?”, we must teach our children how to think rather than what to think. How do you do this? Build with them.
Christensen gives an example of a time he built a tree house with his children. They loved helping nail everything together and spending time with their dad. Then, when it was finished, they hardly touched it. He came to realize that the benefit of the tree house was not in the end product, but in the journey and growth that happened along the way.
Here are a few steps that can help you follow this example to teach your child self-reliance by showing them “how to think”.
First, YOU must figure out how to think.
You don’t need to be perfect at a subject to teach, but you must know where you are going and how to get there. To help your child grow, you need to grow too. Allow yourself to learn coping skills and put them into practice. Find ways to become more self-reliant yourself. Even if you have to figure some of it out only one step ahead of your child, learn to “build your treehouse” first. Figuratively gather your tools, read the instructions and practice. One of the best things you can do as a parent is to be proactive and self-reliant in your own progress.
Second, go to their level and involve them.
We too had the experience of building a play house with our child. We received a nice second-hand wooden playhouse from a neighbor. It would have been easy for us to fix the broken door, sand the peeling paint and stain it ourselves after our child was in bed. However, the words of Clayton M. Christensen echoed in our ears. It took us a good week longer than it would have otherwise, but our toddler (with very attentive adult supervision) helped us nail together the door, straighten the crooked window and prepare it for paint. Many natural lessons were learned in that process. We all learned to be patient, to work together, to communicate needs and to enjoy some creativity. Our toddler showed perseverance, gratitude, and of course it was some great family bonding time. All of that would have been lost if we had decided that it was easier to just fix it up ourselves.
“Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime” (Chinese proverb).
Last, let them lead.
Once you have assisted your child in gaining new skills, trust that they can use them. Find opportunities for them to practice in unprompted and prompted ways. Allow for progression.