I hope both of my children will grow up to be assertive and independent adults. It would sadden me if, as adults, they turned out to be basement dwelling individuals who are unable to function in the real world. I’m trying to do my part as a parent to teach them the basic life skills they will need to be confident and independent. In my opinion, learning how to communicate clearly and effectively is one of the most important, if not the most important, skills a parent can teach a child.
So how does a parent promote confident, independent, problem-solving, self-starting kids who are also effective communicators? Take a recent interaction with my step-son while coming home from work as an example:
ME: Hey. How are you?
ME: How was school?
STEP-SON: Yes, but I already got it done.
ME: Great. What have you been doing since you have been home? STEP-SON: I had a snack. Did my homework, played some X-box and I just woke up from a nap.
ME: Nice. You have a rough life. Did you happen to put away the clean dishes in the dishwasher, bring in the trash cans from the curb or feed the dogs?
ME: Why not?
STEP-SON: I didn’t know I was supposed to.
STEP-SON: Really. Maybe you should leave me a note next time.
ME: Feeling my frustrations rise, I walk upstairs to remain calm.
STEP-SON: Do you know when dad will be home and what we are having for dinner?
ME: He should be home shortly. I didn’t know you wanted dinner. You should have left me a note!
There were multiple lessons to learn in this situation. 1. Communicate your needs clearly. 2. Don’t overreact. 3. You might not get what you want or need. 4. Moms will always find a way to do that teachable moment shit.
So – if I was trying to teach him something, why did I end up making him a before dinner snack? Teachable moments don’t have to be terrible. There is a big difference between being a smart ass and being an asshole. I will ALWAYS be here for him. I will ALWAYS try to help him. I will also ALWAYS use any opportunity I can to teach him how to be an independent human being, and that means both of us will be equal parts annoyed and relieved until he grows up to be that human being I know he is capable of becoming.
I have no idea if he learned a thing that evening. That’s okay, I guess because there is still plenty of time for me to find teachable moments that will help him learn the things he needs to know in order to be a confident and independent adult. This one didn’t really turn out to be one of them, because I fed the dogs, I emptied the dishwasher and I put away the garbage cans and he’s 15 years old. His independence will happen, eventually. At least I think so…