Monday, 2 June 2008

Homekeeper Challenge #8

"A few years ago my neice Krystal went off to college for her freshman year. She was staying in an apartment with five other girls, and they would all be cooking for themselves. Her mother recounted to me an interesting conversation. All the moms were hanging around in the kitchen chatting. Three of the moms said, "Boy, I sure hope my daughter will not starve to death. She doesn't have the slightest idea how to cook." Then the moms began to discuss the things their daughters didn't know how to do and chuckled to think of them having to learn it all. My sister was horrified, as was I. Who did they expect would teach their children how to cook - and when?"

This is an excerpt from the BEST parenting book I've come across so far. It's called "The Parenting Breakthrough" by Merrilee Browne Boyack. First let me share with you how I came to own this book.

This past weekend I attended a women's conference, at which there were many books of all kinds for sale. One table was filled with parenting, relationship, and family type books. Seeing the long lines and knowing the next address was about to begin, I felt compelled to pick up this book and buy it. I didn't get to read any more than the title and subtitle ("A real-life plan to teach your kids to work, save money, and be truly independent.") but bought it anyway.

That afternoon, I was captivated by an amazing mother giving an address on service. She has 4 teenage boys and told stories of how service in an integral and natural part of their lives. I was amazed at how selfless these teenage boys seemed and drank in every word she uttered, hoping I could somehow derive her secret to raising sons of such quality. She was down to earth, hilarious and obviously held no grand notions of what a "perfect" wife and mother should be. She was probably the most realistic example of a mother I know.

As I crawled into bed that night, I finally picked up this parenting book and cracked open its pages. As I started to read, the opening description of the author's family was strangely familiar...yes, I flipped to the cover and realized the book was in fact written by the same woman I had admired earlier that day! And here she was sharing her parenting techniques with me - I couldn't have asked for more!

Her words have been truly eye opening. She sat down with her husband to write up a plan for how they would raise their children. She rightly notes that we make lists and plans for all sorts of things in life: diets, careers, even shopping. And yet few people actually sit down and create a plan for the most important thing they'll do in life - raising their children!

Her philosophy is that by the time her sons leave home around the age of 18 years, they should already be prepared with all the important things they will need to know to live an independent life. She felt that THIS was her and her husbands job as parents. So simple, so true, and yet so unfulfilled by most parents.

So she sat down and wrote a list of everything she felt it would be important for her kids to know before they moved out, and then decided at what age it would be appropriate for them to learn that skill. And most importantly, if the child was capable of doing something for him or herself, there was no reason she should be doing it for them.

The list is four pages long, and each age from 3-16 includes about 10 things to be mastered during that year. Things like:

Age 3: Clean glass tables, say prayers, pick up toys
Age 9: Bake cakes, fill car with gas, sew on buttons, write letters
Age 13: Pay household bills, understand prescriptions, type without looking
Age 16: Understand advertising, file insurance claim, plan landscaping

And so this week I am starting to figure out what my plan is, and to WRITE IT DOWN! Not only that, but I realized there are several things that I've managed to get by without knowing, and I realize now that I don't want to HAVE to rely on paying an expert to do these things - I should have some basic understanding also (gardening, auto maintenance, to name a couple!)

This is my new parenting manual. I'm only halfway through (she also goes into depth in areas like money management and emotional and spiritual development) and already I feel as though I've found a fantastic role model in Merrilee. I bet there are girls lining up a mile long for her boys, who can cook, clean, garden, fix the car, have good money sense...they of course are not perfect children, but they are a good deal closer than boys who spend most days watching TV or playing video games!

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