Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Teaching Your Children to Fly

A year or so ago I got this great talk on CD by Merrilee Boyack. I talked about another one of her talks on CD called How Do I Change My Husband? on another post. This talk teaches a very practical approach to teaching our children the skills they will need to be independent adults. As Merrilee quotes, Ann Landers once said,

In the final analysis it’s not what you do for your children but what you’ve taught them to do for themselves that will make them a successful human being.”

Merrilee gives step-by-step instructions to implementing “The Plan”, a detailed list of what children can learn to do “year by year, to build confidence, life skills, and self-esteem.”
For example, she says that four year-olds should be able to:
Brush teeth
Make bed
Make own breakfast
Make sandwiches
Begin to clean room

While thirteen year-olds should (among other things on the list):
Sew simple items
Have own recipe files
Shop for groceries
Understand prescriptions
Learn meat-handling rules

The CD comes with a printed list of the skills to be learned at each age. One of the first things she says in the CD is that we are to take the list and modify it to the needs of our own family and abilities of our children. I definitely agree. But it is a great resource tool to make sure we are teaching the important things. I can’t believe that I have less than 5 years with my used to be baby, now 13 year old, taller-than-me son. Then he’ll be 18 years old!

I don’t know about you, but when I read parenting books, more often than not, I end up learning important things, but also in tears because of all the things I haven’t been doing right and how much work it really takes to be a good mother. So this time I decided to take President Monson’s advice:

Rather than continually dwelling on what still needs to be done, pause occasionally and reflect on all that you do and have done.”
Joy in the Journey”, 2008 BYU Women’s Conference

There are important things on the list that I haven’t taught my children yet. But some things they actually know how to do ahead of Merrilee’s schedule. A couple of years ago I started teaching my children how to pump gas. I get out with them and supervise, but they use the credit card in the machine, push the right buttons and pump the gas, everything. They even beg me to do it. When we go to the orthodontist, Alexander has to check in with the receptionist while I sit down in the waiting room. They all have favorite recipes in their files that I bought them. They know how to do quite a few things on the list.

One thing we do need to work on is how shy they all are. Merrilee talks about how doing many of the things on the list makes children confident in talking to adults and in front of others. We need to work on those. Elisa has a fear of public speaking so I told her that I thought she should run for student council, which requires the student to make a 2-minute speech in front of the whole school. Alex did it and enjoyed it. But Elisa burst into tears the second I said it. So we’ll be finding a different way to try to conquer her fear.

Anyway, it’s a great talk on CD! So besides a review, I am offering a copy (not MY copy, just an extra one I picked up) to one of my readers. And I’ll throw in chocolate because everything is better with chocolate--and you deserve it for making it through the whole post! To put your name in the hat, just leave me a comment below about something that your parents made you do when you were young that you didn’t want to, but now you appreciate learning. It’s that easy! Add a comment until midnight on September 1st and I'll post the lucky reader on the morning of the 2nd. Thanks for coming by my little blog.


  1. That would be an awesome prize to win! I heard her speak at a Time Out for Women almost 4 years ago and she was great. This talk sounds like there's a bunch of things from her great book (something about the "parenting solution"...can't remember exactly right now) that I keep putting off buying.

  2. This sounds so great and I heartily agree with it all!
    There are so many mom's out there who do it all for their kids and then their kids have no skills.

  3. A list of "can-dos" according to age is great! My parents made us spread fresh manure on our garden plot every year. I hated it! I would throw up the whole day because the smell made me sick. So what do I do? Marry a farmer and rancher where that stuff is part of the lifestyle. My parents love to tell that story to my children. =)

  4. My dad always had us change our brakes, flat tires and oil as well as other things you can do in your driveway. I'm glad I learned though. (Still wont do the oil) There have been a few boyfriends I have had to change flat tires for as well as show a husband how to do it... ;)

  5. Not many entries. You guys have a good chance to win! I love the stories so far.

  6. Thanks for this post - I definately appreciated the quote by Monson right now. I'll have to check out the CD. It looks good!
    As far as stuff my parents made me do when I was parents always insisted that we load the dishwasher a very specific way. My sister jokes about how anal we both are about it now, but I can stack a mean dishwasher!


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