Being able to take care of one’s own self. I cannot express the importance of this simple phrase. We are a family of ten. Yes, ten. Our children consist of two girls and six boys and range in age from three to eighteen. The workload that is required just to keep our family clothed, fed and living in a clean environment is beyond my sole capabilities. There isn’t enough time in a day to accomplish the many tasks that are waiting for me as the sun comes up each day.
It is out of necessity that our children have learned to do many things for themselves. “Many hands lighten the load” comes to my mind on most days. I am so thankful for those small but many hands. Our family has made the concept of self sustainability a central part of our children’s training. I have felt an urgent need, from the birth of each child, to make sure that they are prepared for the many possibilities that may occur in their lifetimes. We want our children to be aware of, and have respect for, the dangers that exist in this world. Poisonous snakes (we live in central Texas), drowning ( we have a swimming pool) and fire arms (we hunt), make up a very short list. Having the wisdom to protect themselves from danger is not enough though. We also want them, as much as possible, to be able to care for themselves.
Nobody gets a free ride
From a very young age we have encouraged our children to meet their own needs. This hasn’t always been an easy thing for me to do. I get a lot of satisfaction from serving my husband and children and making their lives more comfortable in the process. Doing things for others makes me feel really good. However, I knew that this selfishness would be detrimental to their training. Thankfully, being in a large family and the life lessons that come from that, have done a lot of the training for us. Instead of sitting hungrily, waiting for me to finish teaching a math lesson, my children realized rather quickly that their stomachs would stop growling much sooner if they got a snack for themselves.
We also require, very early, that they get themselves a glass of water when thirsty, bathe independently (but supervised for the very young), and put on their own socks and shoes (backwards is fine) before going outside just to name a few. At the age of seven our children go through what I like to call laundry boot camp. It is at this age that they take on the sole responsibility of doing their own laundry. Several of my friends have expressed surprise that I require this of my children at what they feel is too young of an age. My response usually goes something like this, ” If they can work their video game controllers, then surely they can figure out how to work a washing machine”.
If our children express frustration with the difficulty of these tasks we assure them that they just need more practice. We are purposefully slow to intervene when we see them struggling with a task, thus affording them more independent practice. If they display anger, we will not intervene at all. This is to teach that there is no place for anger when things don’t come easy and we are mindful to tell them so. We always aim to push them just past their comfort zones when difficult situations arise. The look of great satisfaction that spreads across their faces when they achieve something that they never thought they could do is absolutely wonderful. Don’t get me wrong, we are a team and we help each other in many ways each day. Lots of jobs require more than one person. And the more mundane tasks always go more quickly with a little company.
However, I have repeated, “If you are capable of doing something for yourself, then you should”, more times than I care to remember. Society could stand to learn this lesson. Nothing makes me sadder than watching the pitiful tantrums displayed by selfish, impatient and unthankful children. I cannot help but think that these will be the future looters of our local businesses should a SHTF scenario arrive.
Living outside of the city, raising animals, butchering, gardening and allowing lots of free time (we love homeschooling) has caused our children to master many outdoor skills. We have paid close attention to identifying and providing the tools necessary for their individual talents. They routinely receive fishing equipment, pocket knives, fire starters and flashlights for Christmas gifts each year. They don’t want toys that entertain for a day. They would rather be provided with something they can use throughout the year when they escape into the woods each day.
Recognize their individual strengths
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My oldest daughter is our go-to for anything related to animal illness or injury. She is both gentle and patient. She has hand-raised several orphan animals, both domestic and wild. She has also brought many of our animals back from death’s door. One of my sons has mastered starting fires in less than prime conditions. I have watched him spend hours in the backyard perfecting his skill. Guess who we call on when we can’t get the fireplace going in a cold day?
Another son is content doing even the most mundane and repetitive tasks all the while remaining joyful and thankful. This is more helpful than you could ever know. It is because of his willingness to always offer help, even without being asked, that has caused him to be a jack of all trades. He is invaluable to us. In a SHTF scenario I could easily put them in charge of specific tasks that would utilize their individual skills, knowing that they would be up to the task.
We spend our summers doing lots of camping. All of our children are excellent swimmers and fishermen. Even our five-year old can clean a fish. The ones who are too young to clean fish happily pull the heads off of the minnows that they caught in their minnow traps, sprinkle on a bit of lemon pepper, lay them on a sheet of foil and place it on the fire. They also know how to make a fish trap, pitch a tent and cook outdoors. They are never more happy than when roughing it outdoors. Their eyes brighten when having conversations about how we would handle a crisis and who would be responsible for what should the SHTF someday. They are very happy with the skills that they have mastered, as are we. However, we have made it a point to make them aware of the great suffering and dangers that would occur in this nation should that day ever arrive.
Having the mental tenacity to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and possessing the skills to do so is an incredible thing. These qualities are becoming increasingly harder to find. I mean, who cares about that college degree if you cannot even manage to get yourself to work on time, and then have the discipline to stay off of social media all day when you do finally arrive. Sadly, this is a true representation of many of the young people leaving college and entering the workforce these days. Many of them simply don’t possess any work ethic at all. I believe this is directly rooted to a lack of proper training. Training that should have begun when they were very young. It has been said that it is easier to mold a child than to fix a man. Our children have already, and will continue, to encounter this type of self-serving person.
I noticed many years ago that our children were very giving, even when there wasn’t thankfulness on the receiving end. I was glad that we hadn’t raised selfish children, but it did raise some red flags. How can we make sure our children are generous but not taken advantage of? I wanted them to be able to decipher between being helpful and being used or an enabler. This is where that trusty phrase “if you are capable of doing something for yourself, then you should”, comes back into play. If they can live up to that standard for themselves, then, so can others. Knowing when to say no is an important lesson as well. Ultimately, we have striven to teach them that each person is responsible for themselves. However, having a community, or family, of like-minded, self-sustaining and hardworking individuals to share in the work as well as the rewards is a wonderful thing indeed! Blessings!