Can Kids Be Self-Sufficient These Days?!?

We justify doing a LOT for our kids during the school year.  After all, they have more homework than we ever had.  Kids also participate in a wide range of time-sucking activities.

But, we are in the dog days of summer now.  I find myself questioning whether my ‘tween and ‘teen could manage on their own for a couple of days.  I fear the house would be littered with half-eaten and rotting food.  I can’t imagine the milk being put back in the fridge.

To highlight my concerns, we recently asked our kids to clean their shared bathroom.  We keep the door closed because the view is too similar to a restroom in Grand Central Station.

To our surprise, there were no less than eight empty bottles of shampoo and conditioner in the bath tub.  At least ten depleted toilet paper rolls littered the floor.  Two empty tubes of toothpaste were stuck to the sink.

I’m continually asked for lunch options when the answer is in the fridge.  They can’t seem to be able to find anything in the kitchen or their rooms.  My kids also ask me what to wear in the morning.  They both have iPhones and have the same weather app I use.

The effort to look for anything themselves is too taxing.  These are the same kids that will spend furtive hours searching for game apps or popular YouTube videos.

to do list

I believe the answer to fostering some semblance of self-sufficiency with kids begins with refusal.  Refusal to help look for food, clothing, and misplaced items in ALL circumstances.  This means, at times, they will be late for camp or a playdate.  They will plead with tears of frustration in their eyes.

Life’s most valuable lessons are learned by making mistakes and facing the consequences.  The drama factor alone can propel any parent to just do it themselves.  It’s tempting to go with the path of least resistance in many situations when our children (feign) helplessness.

I have to continually remind myself of the quote, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.




3 thoughts on “Can Kids Be Self-Sufficient These Days?!?

  1. Dave, let them do it for themselves. Winter, spring, summer or fall, how much homework they have (or not) shouldn’t affect whether a kid puts the milk back in the fridge or makes their own lunch. Both of yours are old enough to do that for themselves (in addition to picking out their own clothes and cleaning the bathroom). They are only as dependent as we allow them to be. If my 6th grader can navigate getting to camp in NYC back and forth with friends via PATH with kids from your daughter’s class, yours can at least find a misplaced shoe!

    • Thanks. Well put. Easier said than done for most, which is why I wrote the blog entry. You would be surprised by how many parents, especially the at-home parents, who fall into this trap and end up doing almost everything for their kids. Hence, fostering self-sufficiency seems to be a challenge for our generation and a point worthy of reflection.

      P.S. I’m trying to stay anonymous (hah!) so please don’t use my name. Still trying to get a job back on Wall Street…

  2. I completely agree that our generation does a lousy job of fostering independence and needs to “land the helicopter.” While I would like to say it gets better when the children are older, I have seen no evidence of this in high school, which is sad, because expectations haven’t changed—institutions still expect our young people to be accountable for themselves, and we have not equipped them with the tools to do that. This is why I have always tried to give my children more independence than I may be actually comfortable with at the time and do a course correction later as necessary (it has not been necessary—yet).

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