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February 23, 2015

Four Traits That Will Launch Your Child Into Adulthood — Part One: Resourcefulness

ScreamFree_Nov_2014_0048For those of us who are parents of teens, the idea of sending our kids off on their own can be daunting. Some days, that launch date can’t come soon enough, but sometimes the fear (will he make it?) and the questions (did I do enough?) are overwhelming.

If all goes as planned, our kids will eventually leave home and live independently of us. So how do we know if she will make it on her own? How do we know if we’ve taught him enough?

There are four traits that are essential in a successful launch. Think of these traits as the rocket fuel that will propel your teen into successful adulthood. They are resourcefulness, grit, curiosity, and self-discipline.

Resourcefulness: The ability to deal skillfully and promptly with new situations, difficulties, etc.

Resourcefulness is that ability to face a challenge and be able to draw on your own skills to solve it. Think of Bear Grylls in the wilderness building a shelter out of a log or a dead camel. (Yes, he really did that.) But resourcefulness can also show up when we are lacking skills. That’s when you need to know who to call.  Think of a teen who doesn’t own a car, but can find a ride, either on the city bus or from a friend who owns a car. The key is being able to evaluate what is needed and deciding how to solve it.

I recently saw this trait in action in the life of one of my husband’s employees, 18 year old, Fulani. As he was driving my husband’s truck to an event he was working, the truck started smoking, so he pulled over and realized it was on fire—a small fire, but nonetheless it was a fire! He immediately called 911. The fire was extinguished, the truck was towed, and Fulani was on his way again to work. (I don’t even know how he got there, but he did.) He later called my husband and reported what had happened. (Can you imagine calling your boss to say his truck caught on fire? While YOU were driving it? Yikes!!) To say Fulani was resourceful is an enormous understatement.  He skillfully and promptly dealt with a difficulty that he had probably never dealt with before. I imagine his parents had done a good job of preparing him for the unexpected.

How, you ask? Sadly, too often we circumvent our kids’ ability to grow in resourcefulness when we rescue them. Our teens will grow in being resourceful when we stop making all of their decisions for them and when we stop trying to solve their problems. Let’s walk beside them through a difficulty, rather than carrying them through it. Sometimes we may not realize how prepared they are until we back off or until we’re not around to interfere, as I learned a few summers ago.

So here’s your challenge for today, parents of teens:  rather than swooping in to save the day, the next time your child faces a challenge, brainstorm with them ways to solve the problem and allow them to implement the solution. Then sit back and watch their resourcefulness grow.

Check back tomorrow for a discussion on the next rocket fuel: grit.

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