4 Steps to Teach Your Child Anything – Every Parent Should Know

By  | 


Source: Africa Studio

Source: Africa Studio

Two weeks ago, we posted an article about the implications of being a helicopter parent and to my surprise, the thing went viral.  The article is based on a talk given by Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of How to Raise an Adult. Here was the takeaway: The two most important things that we can teach our children is to love others and to work.  In other words, CHORES AND LOVE.  It’s a beautiful thing. It’s  what our intuition has been telling us all along and NOW we have Harvard-based research to back it up. But, let’s be honest.  Have you tried implementing a new chore system lately?  In terms of the household chores themselves – every parent knows that it’s easier to clean up messes alone than trying to recruit the kids to do it.  Teaching your kid to contribute is exhausting – more exhausting than hovering over their academic life.  It’s hard work.  But if we want to truly shift our focus to cultivating  well-rounded loving adults, we must be willing to do the work.

Here’s what I forgot to mention in the first article.  There is a brilliant formula for helping our kids become independent.  It doesn’t happen overnight – its a long work in progress.  But THIS is what we as parents can aim for.

The 4 Steps that Every parent should know

Years ago, Julie was introduced to a life-changing parenting technique by friend, Stacey Ashlund (the mother of two children, one with special needs and another who is developmentally typical).  She used this 4-step method to teach both of her kids the skills that they need for life.  Lythcott-Haims references the technique in her book.  It is simple and yet, so incredibly profound:

  1. Do the job in front of them.
  2. Do the job with them.
  3. Watch them do the job.
  4. They’ll do the job on their own.

If CHORES and LOVE are the secret to raising successful adults, then as far as I’m concerned, this 4-step process is where it comes together.  This plea to stop hovering is not remotely a matter of passive parenting. As the author puts it,

“Our job as parents is to put ourselves out of a job, period. We’re not meant to parent them for the duration of their lives, or ours. Our job is to ensure they have the skills, the confidence to fend for themselves. We will always love them, but the most loving thing is to prepare them for adulthood rather than pretend that we will always be there to resolve things for them.” (Pat Morrison, Los Angeles Times)

As parents, we demonstrate, we talk, we teach, we love, we encourage, we remind, we reward.  This is how that parenting thing goes. It’s not a straight trajectory toward success.  It’s a sort of circle that winds upward over time.  Sometimes it’s dizzy and dirty, but through the process, they will learn how it’s done.  They will learn to use their own two hands.  They will learn that getting dirty is part of the process and that their efforts are a contribution to something greater than themselves.  As far as I can see, we might also call it, How to Raise Human Beings.

How to Raise An Adult

Project Starter
Author of The Success Project: 10 Steps for the Mompreneur