Saturday, April 27, 2013

Saturday So What:Teaching Self Sufficiency

Earlier this month I missed one of my posts. It's because I was so swamped that day and the week leading up to it. It was the Utah State Competition for Odyssey of the Mind. I was a coach for one of the teams from the local elementary school. Seven rambunctious 8-9 year old boys with half of them diagnosed with ADHD. I learned a few things in the 6 months leading up to the competition, one of them that I never want septuplets, the second that children in this day and age need to be taught creative and self sufficient skills.

The point of Odyssey is to form teams and give them a problem to solve during the school year. It usually requires them to produce a skit and build a structure or remote vehicle that can accomplish a task within a certain set of rules. Oh, and the kids have to do it by themselves. No outside help at all. Even coaches can't tell the kids how to do something, suggest a solution or glue a single thing. It's all kid powered.

At the start of the year, I was amazed at how little these kids could do on their own. It took them 3-4 times as long to complete a task as it would take me. It was horribly frustrating. I wanted to tell them what to write, how to build their tower, and move on to the next task. But I couldn't without cheating. So I had to work on my patience while the boys figured it out on their own.

This experience made me take a hard look at my parenting style and the other kids at my daughter's school. How many of us have been to a pine wood derby where there's a car that is the biggest and best-- and in no way possible done by a kid? I have known so many parents that "help" make their kids science fair project look better and more impressive. Sure, the backer board might get more attention, but what are they teaching their kids? Take the easy way, do it the "right" way, be the best. If you aren't good enough to be the best, get someone else to help you to be there.

I decided I really don't want my girls raised that way, but it's a challenge. My daughter looks ten times cuter when I dress her. We get out the door faster if I just tie her shoes for her. And the house is so much cleaner if I just put away the toys. But then, if I intervene for the sake of convenience or appearance, my child has learned nothing. But if I let her take the 10 minutes to tie her shoe, she has solved a problem. And there's a sense of pride that comes with it that can't be bought or done for her.

As parents, some times we have a set "right way" in our minds on how something should be done. I know I have a tendency to force my view onto my kids at times. Funny thing though, when I let me kids figure their own way around, they come up with a solution I never would have dreamed of. They can really be amazing. And hopefully, if I teach my kids this creative problem solving and self sufficiency (and patience for myself) then they can grow up knowing that they can do anything, solve any problem, be anyone they want to be.


  1. When my daughter was in kindergarten they used to send home shapes for them to cut out and decorate for each season. My daughter would always cut hers out herself, then just ask me for random supplies- beads, yarn, fabric, colorful paper, macaroni noodles, etc. and then start gluing away. We’d set it out on the counter to dry and then it would go right into her backpack.

    I’d go in to the school to help out with her class the next week and all the projects would be up on the board, and I would smile to see her smooshy, chaotic, fairly misshapen Christmas tree among all these other precision-cut, symmetrically and neatly decorated trees. They looked nice, but I was pretty sure the parents did more than the kids did. (except for a few of the kids that I know were gifted with great fine motor skills!)

    I love watching my kids grow and learn and yes, even make mistakes. This post was a great reminder. :-)

  2. It can be so hard as a parent to let the little ones do it themselves. But some of my most treasured gifts are the cards and pictures my daughter has made. Sure her spelling is off and her cutting isn't smooth and straight, but it is beautiful and full of love.

  3. I think most most struggle with this. I'm the same way!
    from The Dugout



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