One of the blogs I read on a regular basis, At the Well had a post last week in which she made the comment, "We aren't raising kids, we are raising adults."
That has stuck with me and I have rolled it around in my brain - not being able to decide how I felt about that. Yes, we are raising adults....but kids are kids. I think I keep trying to make it a little too black and white. I think the true bottom line is that it is our job as parents to raise our children to be productive, self-sustaining adults (assuming there are no handicaps to consider).
More and more children are moving back in with their parents long after they have left the nest - or even never leaving!! There are legitimate cases for this. Maybe a single mom can't pay rent on her own so she likes having her son or daughter continue to live at home when they grow up and are a single adult also. Maybe there is a caregiver issue where the grown child is honestly providing care for the parent. But mostly, these returns to the home are not wanted. The parents say yes because it is their child...but in all honesty they DON'T want them there.
Then there are the young adults that go to college or join the workforce and still expect mom and dad to buy their clothes and other such things. Or pay their car insurance!!!! Expect being the key word. Things freely given are just that...gifts from the parents - that's not what I'm talking about here.
So, as the mom of 3 I began to wonder how I was doing on this front. We have one out the door in college that we have learned a boat load of lessons on. Knowing many of you have children also, I thought I'd share 6 of the success and failures we have cut our teeth on so far.
1. Teach your kids to cook. Do you know, I have taught 2 adult women to cook fresh foods in the last few years? It's not that they couldn't cook at all -- but cooking was more often than not out of a can, bag or box. They had NO CLUE how to cook fresh vegetables. This woke me up to just how important it is for our kids to know how. When I was growing up, it wasn't that I had lots of cooking time at home, but I was put to work helping. At the very least I SAW my mother cooking real food. I knew it could be done and it didn't look real involved. So even if I didn't know how to cook something when I left home, I was not afraid to give it a shot because I'd seen it done. Now, my mother never made artichokes...so I have never tried even though I love them. See how this works??? Let your kids see you cook. And even better, make sure they can. My son will tell you that he is a hot commodity as boyfriend material because he cooks. His girlfriends don't know how!! Success!
When we neglect this one thing, we hand our childrens health over to big business. Boxed food. Canned food. Fast food. That equals out to one unhealthy young adult.
And on that same note, my son, who never had cavities growing up, just had 5. Yes, five (well, only 3 teeth, but 5 surfaces). The dentist just shrugged and said it was very common in college kids that had moved away from home in the first year. It's almost all nutritionally related. So there's another lesson for you. Tell your kids to be extra careful of their teeth that first year and make sure they are getting the nutrition. My son is now back to cooking after the shock of this. He claims that he is as vigilant as ever with his teeth and could not understand. That's when the dentist told us how common it was.
2. Teach your children about money. But that is not enough. Our son had financial classes in public high school. He also had Financial Peace for high school students. He had the knowledge on how everything worked. What he didn't have was the experience. So, within 6 months of moving out on his own he had financial problems. (That he has never asked us to help with - now that's raising an adult.) What we failed to do was open up a checking account for him and let him have real life experience of working out of and balancing the real thing. Sure, he had a savings account and a ATM card - that taught him nothing. FAIL!!
Next year my second child will be starting high school. At that point we plan on opening a checking account for her with her clothing allowance in it. We have a budgeted amount each month that we will put in there. I will also have her school lunch money put there. It will be her job to know what money she has and balance the account each month. This will be something we do with her. If she does fail, she will do it at home, where we can walk her through the consequences (NOT protect her from them) without it being as painful as it could be if she was already living on her own. NOW, the key to this is to make sure you aren't getting talked into giving extra money. The child needs to know how to stay within the limits of what they have. Just look at our economy and you can figure out why. Tell me this isn't an important skill in the years that are coming.
3. You must teach your kids about cars. Teach them to change the oil if you know how. At the very least make sure they are proficient at checking fluids and know when to go get the oil changed. Do they know you need to rotate tires? Tire changing can be huge also. At the least make sure they have the auto club number on their phone for help with a tire. Success on tire changing and Fail on the IMPORTANCE of checking your fluids.
The other big one with cars is insurance. Make your kids pay their car insurance. You can have them on your policy and have them pay you. This does make it cheaper, and mom is less likely to tack on late fees. So let them be late - but make them pay it. This is one bill in life that should not be negotiable. Have them pay it from day one. It's part of the responsibility of driving. If they can't be responsible for this, what makes them responsible enough to drive in the first place? I can't tell you the number of kids that drop their insurance payment first time money gets tight after leaving home because it has NEVER been a priority - mom and dad handled that and never really made a big deal of it. Driving without insurance is criminal. If you can't afford the insurance you have no business driving. NO. BUSINESS. DRIVING. And if mom and dad don't make this a big deal, the kid will end up hitting someone while they aren't insured and ruining the lives of another family. Criminal. (Can you tell uninsured drivers are a pet peeve of mine???) This is more important that paying the car note itself. If the car isn't paid, they come take it away. That doesn't ruin another family. And ruined credit is not a ruined life.
4. You can tell a kid they can't ____________ as long as they live in your house. Then, don't be shocked when that is the first thing they do when they move out. The key then is to let it go and accept it. They did follow the rule in your house. Now its their turn. Do not harass them unless you want to drive them away. You may state your displeasure in a respectful manner, but don't treat them like a 13 year old - and don't do it every time you see them. They don't live in your house anymore - let them be the adult you raised them to be. You've had your say when they were growing up. Now its up to them to decide their own path. You can always pray about it - but don't treat them like naughty children over it.
5. Teach your child from the beginning that they will ALWAYS deal with people that will hurt them, talk about them behind their back, lie about them and try to harm them. There doesn't even have to be a reason. Now, you have to do this in an age appropriate manner. You are not trying to crush their spirit. But don't pass it off with something like "kids are cruel". Humanity is cruel. Don't give them a false sense that it all changes when they hit 18. That kid that is spreading stories about your child in the lunchroom -- is going to show up again in their break room at work...with a new face and tactic. It does not stop. The key is to teach them that it is okay to hurt...and then how to deal with it. It takes both skills to get through life without being hardened to the hurt or crippled by it. And it can come from within your own family as well as from strangers. That can be the toughest lesson of all. Success.
6. Teach your children that following the law and liking the law are not the same thing. Whether you agree with the speed limit or not, it is the law and you DESERVE a ticket if you break it. That's just an easy example - but you get the idea. You can do the right thing even when you disagree. If you are Christian it is required of you (unless it is actually something that goes against God). You do not have to like it. It's not even about you. Success...with lots of pain and anguish.
This also carries over into other areas of authority. Teachers. Preachers. Supervising adults. Authority is to be treated with respect even when they are wrong. When you have been wronged there are usually set ways you can go about contesting it. Follow those rules or protocols first. And sometimes, you don't win even if you are right. Move on.
We all want our children to grow up and be happy, healthy, productive adults. It doesn't happen just by loving them. You have to do the work. Most of the teaching makes twice the work than doing things for them and just letting them be kids.
Then one day, they are grown and out of the house. And you watch them get creative to solve their own financial problems. You watch them cultivate mentor relationships to learn the things they don't know. You watch them help others. You watch them be incredible adults.
And all the extra work is worth it.