In my pre-pregnancy days, I often envisioned myself nurturing a daughter, guiding her to embrace both strength and tenderness. However, when I became pregnant, it was a son who first entered our lives. While it initially seemed like a shift in my aspirations, parenting a boy for three years has only reinforced my ultimate objective. I am determined to equip both my children with vital life skills that will help them grow into resilient and compassionate adults, each on their unique journey.
My partner and I have been deliberate in challenging the traditional gender norms ingrained in us by society and culture. Raising a son and a daughter has given us an exceptional opportunity to demonstrate a familial unit that shares duties regardless of prevailing norms. In our modern era, many fundamental life skills are being neglected by younger generations. Despite being millennials ourselves, we were startled to discover, after tying the knot, that we lacked several indispensable skills for managing a household.
With this realization, we initiated our son’s education on self-sufficiency from an early age. Enrolling him in a Montessori preschool, which emphasizes self-directed, hands-on learning, was a significant step. I believe that instructing kids in fundamental skills doesn’t demand a specific approach, only ample patience. These are the five essential life skills we are imparting to our son (and eventually our daughter):
1. Crafting from the Beginning
Teaching children to cook and craft from the ground up not only equips them with essential survival abilities but also introduces them to the realms of science and mathematics. It also provides an excellent opportunity for familial bonding when carried out under the right circumstances. Commence by involving them in simple tasks such as scooping or arranging ingredients, and gradually progress to more intricate methods.
Choose a meal and a timeframe that feels realistic for both you and your child. It’s crucial to maintain reasonable expectations. Irrespective of their age, kids will make errors while assisting, and that’s an integral part of the learning process. It’s also advisable to use child-friendly recipes to make it enjoyable and effortless. David Atherton’s Baking Book for Kids is an exceptional resource for baking with children aged 5 to 9. As a former international health advisor, Atherton prioritizes nutrition in his recipes, providing a virtuous feeling about what you create.
2. Expressing Basic Needs
Inculcating the ability to express fundamental needs in children is critical from day one. Being naturally talkative, I have engaged in conversations with my children since they were in the womb. I also taught them some sign language as infants, acknowledging the significance of non-verbal communication in language development. We have consistently narrated our actions, read books daily, and verbalized our feelings. I firmly believe that these endeavors will culminate in a young man who can identify his emotions and articulate his desires clearly.
3 years old, we are beginning to witness the fruits of his communication skills. He articulates his needs clearly, leaving little room for misunderstanding. As his vocabulary expands, we are introducing the significance of tone and inflection. How we articulate things holds weight, and etiquette is paramount. We not only correct him when he makes demands but also strive to set a commendable example for him. For instance, we encourage him to say, “May I please have another snack?” This facet of communication will necessitate time to fully develop, but we have to initiate somewhere.
3. Upkeeping a Washroom
Most parents can attest that toilet training is one of the most challenging aspects of toddlerhood. Coping with a 2.5-year-old meandering around the house instead of using the washroom can be exasperating. Rectifying it could take merely 15 seconds, but they opt to hold it for another half hour. Toddlers have their logic.
After several months of intermittent training, our son was eventually toilet trained soon after his third birthday. Nevertheless, we soon realized that we had exchanged soiled diapers for grimy toilet seats due to imprecise aiming. Consequently, our next instruction was about maintenance. With three individuals sharing the bathroom, our son is expected to contribute to its upkeep, just like the rest of us. Currently, his responsibilities encompass wiping the seat, repositioning it (essential), and restocking toilet paper. Subsequently, we will introduce more extensive cleaning tasks as he grows older.
4. Arranging Clothing
Doing three loads of laundry? Easy. Stowing away three loads of laundry? Not so straightforward. This competence benefits both the child and the parents. Intriguingly, children relish learning new things, particularly when they witness their parents consistently doing it. The first instance we taught our son to fold pants and hang shirts, he was overjoyed. He experienced a sense of achievement in mastering this seemingly minor task. Now, when he spots a bag of clean laundry in front of his room, he becomes elated. I understand that the thrill may wane when he’s 13 and would rather play video games, but at least he will be accustomed to fulfilling the chore.
5. Establishing and Honoring Limits
Learning to set and honor limits is a crucial skill that everyone should absorb from a young age, particularly boys. Our son’s acquaintance with consent and boundaries commenced before he even turned one, courtesy of our family feline. Babies possess an innate curiosity and affection, so we knew he would eventually attempt to grab her. That’s why we consistently reiterated the same phrase: “No, give her space.” Once he comprehended how to be delicate, we educated him on requesting permission by observing the cat’s body language and permitting her to decide if she wanted to be petted (usually by sniffing his hand and rolling over).
We applied the same principles to physical games such as tickling and wrestling. If at any point he conveyed discomfort, we promptly ceased and sought his authorization before continuing. Now that he has a little sister, the concepts of consent and boundaries are intertwined into their everyday lives. Both of them need to comprehend and respect other people’s boundaries as well as their own to foster successful friendships and relationships. Certain moments are more successful than others, but conveying and reminding him about this life skill is my unwavering commitment, regardless of his age.