Does it really matter to God whether you know how to cook a meal, do your laundry, or clean a bathroom?
Absolutely! The Lord has taught that all temporal things have a spiritual component (see Doctrine and Covenants 29:34). As President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) taught, “The Lord wants you to train your minds and hands to become an influence for good as you go forward with your lives.”1 The more we know, the better we will be able to care for not just ourselves but for others.
It’s our responsibility as parents and guardians to teach our children life skills, help them develop a healthy work ethic, and encourage them to take responsibility for their own growth and learning. And Heavenly Father has given us a pattern to follow in the scriptures.
When Nephi and his family had to travel across the sea, the Lord commanded him to build a ship. It would’ve been easier for everyone if the Lord had simply provided a ship. But instead, He allowed Nephi to struggle and sweat and do the work himself, “show[ing him] from time to time after what manner [he] should work the timbers of the ship” (1 Nephi 18:1).
God rarely does anything for His children that they can do for themselves. Although He is perfectly loving and supportive, He knows that trials are an opportunity for growth, so He lets us use our agency to solve our own problems while providing support and guidance.
To follow God’s perfect pattern of parenthood, we have to learn how to occasionally take a step back. Sometimes it’s hard to let our children do something on their own when it would be faster or more convenient for us to do it for them. But we have to develop patience with the process of learning because that’s how we progress.
Stepping back doesn’t mean neglecting your children or forcing them to do everything with no adult support. It means modeling the good behavior, instructing and mentoring them, and then allowing space for them to try on their own, all the while standing by to support and encourage them.
Think about the way you teach a child to walk. First, you walk in front of them so they see how it’s done. Then you might put their feet on top of yours and walk so they get used to the movement. And eventually, you let them try it by themselves. Sometimes you have to let them fall, and you don’t pick them up right away. You let them stand up and try again on their own. Over time, with patience and practice, they learn.
Teach children first by example, then by instruction, and then by practice. Break it down into smaller steps to teach them “line upon line, precept upon precept,” the way the Lord often teaches us (2 Nephi 28:30). Take failures in stride, remembering that they are opportunities to learn and try again.
Identify the life skills that are most important for your children to learn—not only physical skills like preparing food and maintaining a home but also social and emotional skills like interacting with others and handling rejection.2 Plan activities and service that will allow your kids to practice new skills and contribute positively to the world around them.
Here are some concepts to keep in mind as you teach your children.
Remember that if we are to be self-reliant, we must rely on Heavenly Father in all we do.3 Encourage your children to do things on their own while constantly acknowledging the Lord’s hand in their life. After all, “are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God?” (Mosiah 4:19).
Teaching skills to your children won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Show them that “the power is in them” to do great things in the kingdom of God (Doctrine and Covenants 58:28). Your efforts to encourage their independent learning will help them unlock their potential and grow to be passionate and capable contributors to the work of salvation.