Raising a self-sufficient kid

(49 Posts)
NeleusTheStatue Wed 20-Mar-19 23:48:08

Just wondering how independent other DCs were when they started uni/college. My DS is Y7 so still a long way to go, but I feel I ought to start doing something deliberately, to encourage his independence.

We always encouraged regular exercises and healthy eating habits so they are well part of his life now. He's a weekly boarder so is fairly independent also.

However, his room at the boarding house is such chaos with clothes, food packages, lots of loose A4 papers from classes, etc. He had a system at home so his room was always tidy but it seems like he forgot how to keep everything in place. He has to manage his clothes at school, but he brings all the dirty clothes at weekend so he doesn't do the laundry yet. He has to pick his food and drink at school, but he doesn't need to cook nor wash the dishes.

I fear he might live in horribly smelly clothes, in a room full of rubbish, and even ditch his healthy eating habits in favour of easy meals once he starts living alone...

So, I am basically on the mission of helping him become more self-sufficient before he hits the uni year. To begin with I am going to show him how to prepare simple but healthy and yummy snacks during the Easter.

Any advice or sharing ideas from experience would be greatly appreciated...

OP’s posts: |
ShanghaiDiva Thu 21-Mar-19 01:19:21

My ds was self sufficient when he started at university. We live in China and he is at university in the UK so it was essential he could take care of himself.
I taught him how to cook and with a bit of knowledge he became pretty good at adapting recipes. At home he was expected to help with cleaning, washing, ironing etc. In his final two years at school we gave him a monthly allowance and he had to budget to cover the following - phone, transport to and from school, lunch at school, going out with friends etc. We also encouraged him to save money and think about purchases he wanted to make.

ColeHawlins Thu 21-Mar-19 01:35:26

Now's a good age to teach him how to use a washing machine.

Make sure they have the underlying skills and don't worry if they don't always use them. That's my approach anyway.

AnnaComnena Thu 21-Mar-19 01:49:42

I agree that budgeting/being able to handle money is important.

Not just cooking/preparing meals, but shopping too. I live in a town with lots of students, and every September you see groups of them wandering around Tesco looking as if they've never seen the inside of a supermarket before. And maybe they haven't, if their parents do all the shopping online. But it's something they need to be able to do.

Knowing how to use a timetable, plan a journey, and use public transport to get to where they need to go.

How to read a map, so they can find their way around campus and around Unitown.

Simple sewing - sewing on a button, or a seam or hem that's coming unstitched.

Nandocushion Thu 21-Mar-19 01:55:45

So - laundry, doing his load of washing, knowing what goes in the dryer and what hangs to dry.

Unloading/loading the dishwasher.

With my children, it's also been things like problem solving. If the lights go out - what do you do? If the sink is overflowing, what do you do? That sort of thing. It's a good start.

Mabellavender Thu 21-Mar-19 03:00:06

if he’s at boarding school all week then surely that must help with learning to be independent? I’m not sure how much they have to do for themselves because mine don’t go to boarding school.

I think 11 is too young for you to be complaining about doing his washing once a week tbh. Teach him how the washer works so he knows but honestly, you don’t have him all week so I don’t know why you would t want to do most things for him blush

NeleusTheStatue Thu 21-Mar-19 03:40:37

Oh yes, budgeting money - so important. The problem solving approach is also great and essential. Using a washing machine shouldn't be so challenging but dealing with muddy game kits and hand washing are a totally different level... Teaching isn't bad but actually making him do would be hard...

OP’s posts: |


NeleusTheStatue Thu 21-Mar-19 04:24:36


Yes he is fairly independent as I wrote in my first post. But boarding school wouldn't teach him all the essential life skills - he's well looked after by chefs, gardeners, cleaners, etc. They won't come with him after he graduates... Being mentally independent and actually self-sufficient are different.

Also, I never said I wouldn't want to do his things. It's not about me but purely about him. Believe me, I would love to carry on looking after him if I was allowed to be so selfish.

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Decormad38 Thu 21-Mar-19 04:37:03

He’s got to explore that himself surely? That’s part of becoming an adult. As a parent you can’t control everything. Most students make a few mistakes then learn from that. Just teach him values and positive behaviour towards women. Thats more important than where he pits his clothes!

Xenia Thu 21-Mar-19 07:02:00

My 2 currently at university did all their own cooking from about 14 or 15 when their older brother left or they stopped wanting his foods (who did it before that and before him their nanny did most of it). That helped with cooking although they were in catered halls in year 1. Most of all i work full time and they have older siblings so are quite mature and sensible - i.e. sensible enough to google something they may not know how to do. I am sure your son will be fine particularly if he's at boarding school.

All 5 of my children passed their driving test at 17 which helped independence too. They did a lot of their own food shopping before university too.

I worked away the summer before university or part of it on a residential summer camp for younger children and that was helpful too.

Just don't try to contol him. He might choose to eat differently than at home or be messier than you prefer but he might like mess etc.

NewAccount270219 Thu 21-Mar-19 07:07:21

The thing is, independence doesn't look him doing exactly what you want and would do in the same circumstance - that's you being in control! So if he wants to live in chaos that's up to him - he knows how to tidy and it's him who will live the consequences of not being able to find things etc. Similarly, definitely teach him to cook a wide variety of healthy meals - but then if, like many students, he chooses to live off pasta, readymade sauce and oven pizzas that's his choice. Adults make their own decisions! So make sure he has the skills, but you can't make him use them.

anniehm Thu 21-Mar-19 07:30:30

Dd has boarded from 16 and they have to do their own laundry etc. She has a monthly allowance and has to budget for essentials like shampoo as well as tuck, clothes and socials. She can cook pretty well too. It's this summer for us and I have no concerns on the living front but hope she makes good choices when socialising as she's been quite sheltered at school

BubblesBuddy Thu 21-Mar-19 09:09:38

I think many DC from boarding schools transition well to university. In the 6th form, when boarding, there are requirements of communal living where DC do take over from the school. DD2 did her evening meals for example and Leiths Cert. However whatever they do at school doesn’t mean they won’t do what they want at university! They have control then, not you or the school! You just have to hope for the best. Catered accommodation helps!

Boarders are often used to communal living and make friends fairly easily. They will chat to other students about schools and home life and often they will find friends like them based on life experiences. That’s the easy route for many students from all walks of life but keeping an open mind is helpful. It doesn’t matter if your friendship group is sheltered before going as long as you go with the intention of being friendly to all.

Mine never had tidy rooms at school! When the boarded for a bit in South Africa there were room inspections and punishments for untidy drawers! My DD1 had to clean the loos at 5 am in the morning because she hadn’t folded her knickers! You could try something similar!! Only joking. DD2 learnt from that when it was her turn to go.

However don’t worry. It’s not your problem unless the deposit is taken because of it. Some of DD2s was taken as she was jointly liable but didn’t do any damage! Others did. However you just have to step back and let them learn. Most adults do!

NeleusTheStatue Thu 21-Mar-19 11:01:15

Actually I learnt most of the essential skills to look after myself along the way without my parents' guidance. The way I lived for the first few years without my parents would be a total shocker for the current me, but I didn't realise any inconvenience at the time. There were far more important things to occupy my young mind and I just couldn't care less about the comfort of living environment!

Though it would have been a lot easier and nicer if I was a bit more trained while I was still at my parents'. So I would definitely teach DS some practical skills, just to give him some useful equipments. As some of PPs said, it's up to him if he chooses to use the tools. He may not. Or he may find a better way. I am okay with it.

OP’s posts: |
daisypond Thu 21-Mar-19 11:09:34

Mine was fine . Was a very good cook , could clean and tidy, had had a job since age 16 and was able to budget and manage her finances. Also had travelled a lot round the world in budget hostels often on her own, so was just generally capable - better than I am actually. She’s found that children who have come from boarding schools struggle much more.

NeleusTheStatue Thu 21-Mar-19 11:42:02

Those who say their DCs are so handy at cooking, tidying, budgeting, could I ask you how it happened? Did they spontaneously became like that (like some of my friends who just loved cooking etc)? If you showed them along the way, would you mind sharing how you did it and roughly how old they were? You just showed them once and they took off from there? Or did you make it as one of their responsibilities at home so they learnt to see it as part of their daily life?

I am more practical than my (very handy) mum now so I won't be surprised if DS becomes a lot better than me eventually. I have no intention to force him to follow my way. I just like to show him the starting point and like him to store some adequate knowledge somewhere in his head which may come in use later on.

OP’s posts: |
BubblesBuddy Thu 21-Mar-19 14:28:02

Boarding schools can easily equip DC for university and you have long holidays! University is an extension of boarding really, except you might need to cook a bit if you don’t do catered. As boarding DC are a tiny minority I’m amazed anyone notices their shortcomings at all! Ultimately it doesn’t really matter!!

I had expectations at home but they were rarely met. You can keep banging on but how much grief do you want? I preferred to yell “tidy your room now!” and then inspect. I didn’t make them clean the loos and call it “Hard Labour” as they did in South Africa! And then I handed them back to school! I think some people are tidy and others are not. I’m not tidy, DH is. Both our children are not tidy. I could nag and nag and nag but life’s too short!

Cooking: they had lessons. They helped me. A bit! One was interested and one made excuses. One is now a decent cook, one still does one-pot cooking from a basic recipe book and her boyfriend cooks. He’s just more interested. If they are not interested, then they will survive but not do great meals.

DD1 had a cooking rota with flatmates in y2 at university. Every flatmate cooked one evening meal a week for those who were in for a meal. Saturday - no meals cooked. Cooking for one every day wasn’t anyone’s idea of fun! Too much washing up and clearing away! They did a flat food order too. So as long as they can cook something - they will work it out.

BubblesBuddy Thu 21-Mar-19 14:32:22

You could explain about using a washing machine, sorting washing, using a dish washer, ironing, shopping, prep of easy suppers, giving rewards for a tidy room etc. However DC needs to engage. Plenty won’t!

Xenia Thu 21-Mar-19 14:44:07

Neleus, I have just about never cooked the vening meal for my children as we had someone who idd after school and part of their job was to cook the evening meal for the 5 children. I always worked full time until at least 6pm. That's why my twin and their brother learned to cook - I am happy to buy them the food but not to cook it for them. So in fact when they went into univesrity halls with 2 meals a day that was a huge change because suddenly someone was cooking for them. This year (years 2) they are coping fine with cooking.

On why are they tidy - they don't like a lot of possession whereas I rember their sisters as teenagers in 2000+ and there was just so much stuff and mess (although even one of their sisters is very tidy - at 3 she would fold all the socks in her draw and pack a case more tidily than I've ever done it whilst her sister wasn't the same. Some of it must be innate.

Budgeting? I pay them an allowance weekly at univesrity (£150 each) so I suppose they cannot really easily run out of money as it comes in every week. My parents in contrast as I only got the £50 minimum grant in those days, made it up to the £900 full grant (very kind of them) and paid that once a term.. I used to record everything I spent - I scanned some of those university accounts books recently. With on line apps these days my sons can see their bank accounts on their phones in a few seconds so it's probably easier.

Despite all the above some people just seem to be naturally spend spend spend or very messy. I am not sure parents can make children tidy etc.

daisypond Thu 21-Mar-19 15:24:49

Mine taught herself to cook. And she enjoys it. She mainly started cooking regularly to make cooked lunches she could then take to school for lunch. She’d cook them the night before. This was at the start of sixth form. Before that she’d always baked since she was small but cooking a meal is a different skill. For things like washing my dc had to do their own washing from about secondary school she- just put it in the machine and turn it on and then take it out. Tidying and cleaning they’ve had to do since they were small so that’s normal. We’ve never had a cleaner so everyone has to help. 150 a week as someone mentioned seems a huge amount to give a student child. Does that include rent for their accommodation? Doing the shopping is a chore that’s new for mine - a weekly shop can be quite heavy and you’ve then got to lug it back. You’ve got to be organised so you don’t run out of stuff. Really, money is the big one. If you’ve got parents who’ll subsidise their children too much they can in effect buy their way out of being independent - they’ll eat out or have takeaways regularly, for example.

Nettleskeins Thu 21-Mar-19 15:55:45

well mine wasn't very independent at all, cannot cook, never tidied his room, papers everywhere. But he could travel independently to school grin
University, which is self catered and no rules apart from attending lectures every day (at different times) has been a big change for him. And he is loving it - learning super fast how to budget, wash his own clothes in a pay machine, get himself up in the morning. When you need to learn you do. what has helped him has been advice on the phone from us, ad hoc.

BubblesBuddy Thu 21-Mar-19 17:32:30

If the students are organised, there are multiple supermarket delivery options. They don’t need to lug much at all! They nee to make friends and organise meals.

Why is it you think students with more money cannot or will not cook, daisypond? Yes, they will go and have coffee and have a meal out every so often but generally they cook. My DDs has a bit less than Xenia’s as it was a few years ago and the rent was covered by the loan. Not for DD2 though where it was only about 60%. We had enough money not to worry about a few £ a month extra. However they didn’t ask for more and as adults they can budget. The problem students are ones with very expensive tastes who don’t have the income to match their wants. Having a decent amount of money doesn’t necessarily reflect expensive tastes!

Mabellavender Thu 21-Mar-19 19:45:28

I didn’t go to uni so not sure what the norm is, but everyone I know that did ( back in the noighties) had a job while they studied to earn their own money and they paid their tuition fees when they earns enough years later. I didn’t realise so many people gave their adult children an allowance!

foundoutyet Thu 21-Mar-19 19:54:01

All my three would be able to cook a meal. dc1 may occasionally do some simple cooking, dc2 will live on crisps and chocolate and use the same plate (if she uses one at all) for a week. dc3 would love to cook lots of different things.
dc 2 is also the one who would not bother with washing and ironing.

daisypond Thu 21-Mar-19 20:09:02

Bubbles, you have to pay for supermarket deliveries, though - that's the difference, it's not just a matter of being organised. I'm not saying students with money can't or won't cook, just that they've got other tempting options that mean they can be fine without doing it all of the time.

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