RTW: How can I nurture self-reliance in my children?


Recently, Nate spent a week with the Deacons (12-13 year old boys) in our ward at Scout Camp. He spent the week leading, teaching, helping, and working. As an assistant Scoutmaster, he’s learning lessons as he teaches. I was so interested to hear his report about his experience, and was especially curious to hear that he had cleaned a lot of toilets during the week (particularly as that is his current “housecleaning job” at home). He described the varying reactions of the boys to having to do this job. Hearing their responses reminded me of what it’s like to be a mother!

I am thankful that I had parents who taught me to work and that my husband and I have spent the last 17 years trying to raise Nate so he could know how to work. I’m grateful he knows how to clean a toilet (as well as dig post holes, remove trees, paint walls, put in a wood floor, repair sprinklers, make a meal, do the dishes, read a story to a child, make his bed (are we still working on that?), handle a customer service phone call, and do his laundry). I know his future wife will be grateful, too. After his week’s experience trying to get some Deacons to clean toilets, among other duties, he expressed gratitude to us for teaching him to work.

WOW! Hearing his gratitude and sensing his understanding was an awesome moment for us as parents. It is one of those moments when we felt, “All that teaching is paying off!”

Of course that’s not what we have always felt when trying to help a child learn how to clean a toilet, when the whining and complaining and reminding begin and continue.

Here’s something I have learned about teaching a child self-reliance and how to do a job: most children don’t want to learn. Complaining, resisting, and not doing a very good job the first (or second or third) time are normal behaviors.

So you just have to keep trying to keep. Repetition is the key. Day after day, week after week, you just keep at it. And you look forward to moments like ours with Nate when it clicks for them and they see the value of it all. I believe that most children will, at some point, realize the value of being taught to work, when they recognize that adult life is pretty much about work.

Here’s what I am working on: Learning not to respond in anger, irritation, or impatience to those behaviors. Let’s see. I’ve been at it for 20 years. I still need more time!

My brother Craig told us a funny lesson he learned yesterday in church. A man said, “Here’s how to learn patience.” And then he closed his mouth and didn’t say anything else.

The lesson was that there is never an end to learning patience; we just have to keep trying.

So while I keep trying to teach my children to work, I keep praying they’ll be patient with me as I keep trying to be patient with them.

It’s worth it.

Happy Teaching,

Liz 🙂

P.S. Myjobchart.com is one of the tools we’ve used to help our children learn to do jobs regularly. I recommend it! Listen to a radio interview with founder Gregg Murset explaining how it works.


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