Guest Post: Helping Our Children Learn to Navigate Life by Sara Dawkins

Mother Helping with HomeworkOne of my biggest pet peeves in dealing with my children, with anyone really, is a bad attitude. It brings all negotiations to a stand still. This does not just apply to parent/children relationships but in every relationship we encounter in life. Teaching our children to have the right attitudes no matter what circumstances they find themselves in is very important because as adults you still find yourself dealing with many of the situations you had as a child only in a much larger scale.

Another very important issue to work through with your children is to get them to take their responsibilities seriously, to take care of their own work, whether is be homework, chores, or whatever involves them personally. It seems that we are in a world today that the issue of taking responsibility for oneself was not particularly well taught. Not only does the world suffer because of these individuals but they are going through life the hard way as well. You are not doing your children a favor by taking their responsibilities upon yourself.

We can help our children with these two important social skills while they are young and make life so much easier for them in the long run. It is so much easier to start with a small child than to deal with a teenager in these matters so it is important to start young. But it is never too late to start. Here are a few tips for teaching your child how to navigate life a little easier.

  • You are the parent, you are in control – At some point in my early parenting I lost control and found myself arguing with my children. And instead of being in charge it seemed that I had become a participant in a debate. It is not a debate, you are the parent. This is also when attitudes flourish in children, when they realize they have some leverage when it comes to their behavior. You need to be the final say.
  • Remain calm at all times – If you are angry it is not the time to hand out any kind of discipline. You need to separate yourself from your child, and no, I do not mean you can leave the house! Send them to another room or make them sit down and you go to another room until you are able to talk calmly and rationally. Nothing is ever done right in anger. This is also a good example to show your children in matters of self control.
  • Teach them to accept their punishment when they are wrong – It is important to teach your children to accept the consequences when they do wrong. But never assume that they are guilty. Give them a chance to talk. If they have a valid reason for their behavior it is important to listen to their reasoning as long as they do not have a bad attitude. This is important, to listen to them when they are being reasonable so as not to goad them into a bad attitude. As long as the conversation is calm and productive it has benefit. But beware because some children are actually skilled this way and can keep the conversation going for hours just to wear you down. Make sure you are paying attention and aware of their motives.
  • Never give in to attitude – A bad attitude is never a good thing, it will go with them into school with teachers, into jobs with bosses, and into relationships as an adult. Do not give in because you are tired or busy. Stop the attitude in its tracks before it becomes a habitual part of your relationship. It is not only important for your relationship with your child but for their future and how they navigate their way through life.
  • Give them responsibility young – From the time your children can walk they need to be given chores that are strictly their responsibility. The little ones can pick up their toys and put them in the toy box or put away their underwear or socks in the dresser. Do not give them a chore and go ahead and do it because they are taking too long or go behind them and do it again. This will defeat the purpose. Your main goal should not be to have the perfect house but to mold your children to be able to navigate clearly through life. As they get older teach them how to do more chores until they can master everything in the household as well as you can. Then when they leave home you can be assured that they will succeed.
  • School work and projects – I am an advocate of helping out children with homework and projects but it is imperative that you do not do the work for them. You can help them to get organized, help them have a specific time to study, be available to them, answer questions about specific problems, or give them ideas but you can not do their work for them. Believe me when I say that this never works out for their good. You will end up with a lazy child and eventually an ignorant, lazy child. They will not know how to take care of their own business and will end up failing even the easy tasks. And do not think that you can do it when they are younger and that when they are old enough they will take over. Nine times out of ten this will not work.
  • Own up, deal with, handle – Our children need to own up to their mistakes and not be rescued from every thing they get themselves into in life. I am not saying we should not be there for them but we must not take their responsibilities or their mistakes as our own. Only too often parents are going into schools and fighting for their children even though they are wrong. Yes, go to school and mediate, pay attention, make sure they are wrong. But do not take up for your children when they are doing wrong. Always be there but you do not always need to rescue them. If you do it when they are young then when they get to be teens there will be situations they will look to you to handle that you will no longer be able to do anything about. I found out the hard way that the school system and the police consider a seventeen year old an adult and treat them as an adult. They need to learn to be responsible for their own actions and to be able to handle situations with support from their parents.

The reason I am able to authoritatively tell you all this is because I have made every one of these mistakes with one of my own children. One of my children had some physical as well as emotional issues when they were very young. This child always seemed to be off target just a bit in everything they did. As the devoted and loving mother I am this was my opportunity to jump in and help, rescue, do whatever it took to help them out.

Then that child became a teenager and did not have the skills needed to navigate through high school. Not that their intelligence was in question but at this point they let the responsibility fall to anyone who would take over the work. By this time I realized what I had done and tried to stop but the neglect of school work with the excuse that it was too much or too hard and the prospect of failing or dropping out completely terrified me. Regardless of my better judgment I found myself helping and putting an older sibling in the same position as well, feeling obligated to help for my sake.

Finally getting the child out of high school was accomplished but turning things around at this point is going to be a long hard road. I know that nothing is impossible for God and I am praying and trusting the Lord to help me to let go and let Him take over in the instruction of my child. Something that I should have done a long time ago but at the time could not see that what I was doing was hurting my child in ways I could not even imagine. I was divorced when this child was ten which further added to the assistance I felt they needed. Now I realize the hurt I have brought into their life.

Start while your child is young and do not let circumstances or physical/emotional issues overtake wisdom. The word of God gives the best instructions in what to do for our children. “Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14 (NAS) Real love, God’s love, is always done for the good of the person you love. Our human love is often more for ourselves than for the good of the person we love. Determine the real and valid needs of your child. Look off into the future to when you can no longer help them and think about how they will need to be equipped. Then assess what the very best thing is for your child and do that. That is true love.


Author Bio

Sara is an active nanny as well as an active freelance writer. She is a frequent contributor of  Learn more about her


  1. Good thing that I was able to read this now that my son is still young. When I was still single, I used to think this way – I used to think of the ideal parenting. But when the baby came in and everything in life got totally busy, I just forgot everything.