This blog post is part of a trio of posts centered around the lessons I want my children to know by the time they launch into the world. The intro for all three posts is the same.
Launching can look very different for different families, but in our family, when our children graduate from high school and leave to attend college, this marks a significant milestone in their life. Granted, they still are tied in some ways to us and depend on my husband and I for certain things, but they are out of the house, living on their own, which feels like a preliminary launch into full-blown adulthood.
I have divided the topic of Lessons Before They Launch into three posts, each covering a different category of lessons. In addition to this one, there is a post focused on Tactical Life Skills and one focused on Emotional Well Being.
I also have recorded a podcast episode in which I speak in more detail about ten of these lessons. For reference, if the topic is covered in the podcast, I will mention it below along with a time stamp of where you can find that particular topic in the episode. These posts and the podcast episode are meant to supplement each other, working in tandem to provide as much information as possible.
I also want to say that many of these lessons are things we continue to learn over the course of our life. The idea is not that your child will have fully mastered these lessons when they leave the nest, but rather, the topics of each lesson will be familiar territory to them. As a parent, what I want to avoid is for my child to encounter these issues for the first time after they have left home. I feel that would be a disservice to them. Instead, I want to equip them with as many tools as possible to navigate what lies ahead.
Think of these lessons as each having a spectrum of skill, knowledge, and mastery. What we are looking for when our children leave the house is for all of the lessons to at least register as a known quantity on their spectrum of knowledge. As they continue to grow and mature, so too will their scope of knowledge and experience with each of these lessons.
Let’s dive into the Personal Behavior Lessons!
HOW TO MANAGE TIME
This does not mean that your child is necessarily good at managing their time, but it is important that they understand time as a construct and how to operate within it. For example, I want my children to know how to arrive on time, understand how long it takes to accomplish certain tasks, and have an awareness of how to plan ahead to reach a particular goal or meet a deadline.
HOW TO GET YOURSELF UP IN THE MORNING
If you are still waking your child up for school when they are a Senior in high school, you are keeping them from learning how to get themselves up in the morning. This is not easy for sleepy teens, but it is even harder if they arrive at college having never learned how to get wake up and get going on their own.
HOW TO FEED YOURSELF
Relying on someone else to provide all of your meals is not realistic. I do most of the cooking in our home, but all of our children know how to prepare simple meals for themselves. They know how to scramble eggs, cook pasta, fry bacon, make toast, and prepare a smoothie. They also know how to cut an apple, make a PB&J, pop popcorn, toss a salad, and get creative when the fridge is bare.
HOW TO SPEAK TO ADULTS AND SERVICE PROVIDERS
Eye contact. Speaking clearly and loudly. Using appropriate grammar and avoiding slang. Listening attentively. Asking followup questions. These are skills that are required when ordering at a restaurant, speaking to a customer care representative, meeting someone’s parents, talking with a professor, applying for a job, and countless other interactions.
HOW TO BEHAVE ONLINE
(I talk about this topic in more detail in Podcast Episode 39 starting at the 14:45 mark.)
Digital footprints are forever, and reputations and careers have been ruined by stupid mistakes made by unwise online behavior. I would add that we teach our children to text in a way that aligns with how they speak, and we advise them never to text something they would not want everyone to read. Nothing on the internet is private.
HOW TO EAT AT A TABLE
We tend to think of table manners as the set of behaviors we use at a fancy restaurant. But table manners are actually the set of behaviors we use any time we eat with others. In our home, we place a high value on the basics such as chewing with our mouth closed, waiting to speak until they done chewing, keeping our arms off of the table, placing our napkin in their lap, and cutting our meat into bite-sized portions. The way we eat with others matters because it communicates how we respect others as well as ourself.
HOW TO WRITE A THANK YOU NOTE AND ADDRESS AN ENVELOPE
Simple, heartfelt, and succinct is the way to go when teaching children to write a thank you note. The timeliness of the process matters as well as do the basics of how to address an envelope.
HOW TO OWN YOUR ACTIONS
(I talk about this topic in more detail in Podcast Episode 39 starting at the 16:40 mark.)
This is the difference between, “The milk spilt,” and, “I spilt the milk.” Ownership matters. Passivity serves no one. In our home, I say to my children, “Tell me what happened, and start by using the word ‘I’.” It works every time and keeps them from blaming or being passive. “She hit me!” turns into, “I threw a ball at her and she hit me.” Teach your children to own their actions.
HOW TO SAY NO AND HOW TO HEAR NO
(I talk about this topic in more detail in Podcast Episode 39 starting at the 18:18 mark.)
I would like to suggest that you make “no” a power word in your home. If someone says no, they need to mean it, not send confusing nonverbal mixed messages that negate the power of the word no. If someone is told no, they need to stop whatever they are doing immediately, requiring no further request. In our home, no means no. For obvious reasons pertaining to consent, along with a million other situations where the word no is involved, make sure your children know and understand how to hear no and how to say no.
HOW TO APOLOGIZE
“I’m sorry if you’re hurt.” “I’m sorry you are mad at me.” “I’m sorry that happened.” These are not apologies. They show no ownership and they do not mend anything. “I am sorry that I hurt you.” “I am sorry for kicking you. I can see that made you mad, and I understand why you’re angry.” “I am sorry I spilt the milk. It was an accident, but I will clean it up.” A good apology serves us all well in the long run.
Love “start with I!” Even though my kids are both off to college, I’m going to use this — thank you!