Families, communities, and nations are stronger when children are taught to be more self-reliant. For parents to teach self-reliance to their children, they must first learn it for themselves. According to Kristena Eden, parents are responsible to give their children “a strong foundation for life.” She reminded her readers that a child’s early learning and experiences will determine how they deal with obstacles later in life. She also stated that parents should help their children build a foundation based on strong principles and suggested “three basic principles” for helping “children to love, learn, and progress in their path toward self-reliance.”
Eden’s first principle is for parents to set a good example “because every action and word we use either influences our children for good or bad.” If we want our children to learn self-reliance, we must show them “what self-reliant learning looks like.” She asked an important question: “Do your children know that you are studying the scriptures on your own? Do you ask questions and seek answers?” Eden gave four questions and principles for parents to teach to their children to consider before they decide on something.
1. How am I feeling? Have them ask themselves this question before reacting to a situation.
2. Why am I feeling that way? Teach them that they don’t have to share why, but it is good for them to recognize what is causing their feelings.
3. Know that others see us differently. When confronted with a situation or question, it is good for children to know that they can learn by trying to see their actions from another’s point of view.
4. Know that God knows more about ourselves than anyone. This means they can ask Him for help with anything they are struggling with.
Eden’s second principle is listening. “The greatest way to teach children is to listen to them.” When parents listen to their child, they can learn about their child’s worries and struggles. They can also help them learn more self-reliance. Eden provided the following reminders for good communication with anyone, including your own children.
1. Do not prepare a counter argument or advice while others are sharing.
2. Do not interrogate or cause them to be defensive.
3. Do not order or demand.
4. Do not attack or criticize.
5. Do not sidestep a question.
Eden stated, “We are more effective using positive reinforcement, especially in teaching and setting the example. Our children are more willing to listen to us if we use positive tactics.” She listed the following reminders.
1. When children come to you visibly upset, state what you see. “I see you are upset.”
2. Ask them to share with you why they are upset. This is where you just listen, even if you don’t like what you hear.
3. Repeat in your own words to them what you understand they are saying or feeling.
4. Use empathy phrases such as, “I am sorry all of this happened.”
5. Ask them what you can do to help. Don’t take it over and fix it for them. This is a good time for them to learn to problem solve. If necessary, ask them if they need a few ideas on how to overcome this. It is important to let them ask you for help and tell you exactly what you can do. If they ask you to do it for them, say, “I am sorry I can’t do that. Is there something else I can do to help?” …
6. After they share what they want to help with, you may ask to share your ideas or feelings. If they feel understood, they are more willing to be taught. Again, do this kindly and with none of the previous “don’ts.”
Eden’s third principle is to “provide opportunities for independence.” She gave the following techniques that are helpful in teaching self-reliance skills to children.
1. Do the principle or action you want to teach them for them while they are watching. For example, show them how to find an answer to their questions using the scriptures.
2. Do the action with them. Both hands on.
3. Observe while they are doing it.
4. Let them do it on their own.
5. Have them teach someone else what they just learned.
Parents have the responsibility to care for their children and to teach them the principles and skills that they will need to be successful in life. An important principle that is critical for successful living is self-reliance. When parents teach and model self-reliance to their children, their family, community, and nation is stronger.