There are a ton of things you take for granted that would be empowering to a ten-year-old son or daughter. That includes stuff you learned so long ago that you don’t even know you know.
Examples? How to reset the circuit breakers. How to shut off the main water supply to the house. How to stop the toilet from running. How to change the furnace filter. How to silence a squeaky door hinge. How to clear dryer lint. How to use a plunger. How to change a light bulb. How to change a light bulb when the glass has shattered and just the metal base is left in the fixture. How to open the fireplace flue. How to unjam the garbage disposal. You get the idea.
This is the gift of empowerment.
When a child of elementary school age learns one of these household maneuvers, they feel like they’ve been invited into the inner circle. They’ve been entrusted with knowledge not available to unenlightened and unworthy younger children. This is grown-up stuff.
You can certainly do this with your eight-year-old, and age 12 or 13 surely isn’t too late. But ten is the perfect age for this.
Please note the above list does not include wallpapering a bedroom, tiling a kitchen floor, replacing a screen door, or assembling IKEA furniture. Those are potentially grueling jobs that typically require advance planning, multiple trips to the hardware store, and unwelcome troubleshooting along the way. Feel free to recruit your teenager to partner with you in those tasks.
The allure of these seemingly mundane tasks is the revelation.
There’s a magical quality to it. These are skills a child does not have. Ten minutes later, they do! Presented properly—perhaps with a bit of a whisper—the experience can be profoundly satisfying to a curious child.
The best part about this initiation into homeowner secrets is that you don’t have to schedule these lessons. They happen naturally in the course of a year. When something around the house needs fixing, replacing, cleaning, or plunging, simply invite your young assistant to inspect the problem and witness the solution.
Yes, the four-minute job has now become a seven-minute job, but isn’t it worth three minutes of your life to give your child such a gift? Send them on their way with a hearty hail of appreciation for their assistance and there’s a good chance they will join you in a few years for a more grueling job, when you really do need their help.
Read more of Jay’s contributions to fathers.com.
Jay Payleitner is a popular speaker for men’s weekend retreats and the bestselling author of 52 Things Kids Need from a Dad, 52 Things Sons Need from their Dad, a new release Jay co-authored with his daughter, Girl Dad, and dozens of other books. Jay and his high school sweetheart, Rita, live in St. Charles, Illinois where they raised five awesome kids, loved on ten foster babies, and are cherishing grandparenthood. Track him down at jaypayleitner.com.
Action Points & Discussion/Reflection Questions
- What do you remember about learning these kinds of things when you were young? Who taught you, and were they good memories or not so much?
- What’s your experience with getting a child to help with small household tasks? What have you learned through the process?
- In many cases, when you recruit your child’s help with something, try to keep the time pretty short.
- For longer or more involved projects (maybe with older kids), talk to them about it a day or two before you need them.
- When your child is helping you with something, find a way to make it fun for him or her—either during or after..