Can-do kids are make-do kids. They usually have several traits that distinguish them from dependent, underconfident children:
1. Resourcefulness: Today, resourcefulness may mean turning an oatmeal carton into a castle. Tomorrow, it might mean putting together a last-minute presentation that wows the boss. Resourceful kids can do a lot with a little because their parents haven't filled their lives with store-bought toys. Instead, their playthings tend toward the traditional—building sets, dollhouses, clay, and blocks.
Encourage resourcefulness by showing your kids how to make the most of simple everyday items. Take your child outside and share tips for making log cabins from sticks, walls from small stones, and trees from pinecones. Then watch the world open up.
2. Imagination and creativity: Can-do kids are not television addicts who sit for hours, staring mindlessly at the "boob tube." Kids with imagination love books and have a strong desire to learn. They're the ones who are life's doers, not the watchers.
Ignite your child's imagination by reading together. Involve your kids in books early by having them find things in the pictures, talking with them about the stories, and encouraging them to make up stories of their own.
3. Determination: Call it spunk, moxie, or spirit, can-do kids have it in spades. Determined kids learn to tolerate realistic doses of frustration. This enables them to persevere in the face of adversity, to turn life's obstacles into challenges, and to hang in there when everyone else has dropped out of the race.
Build determination by dosing your kids with plenty of Vitamin N, or "No," the most character-building word in the English language. You needn't veto everything, but don't be swayed by pleading if what your kids want sounds unreasonable to you.
4. Self-sufficiency: Can-do kids are independent and self-reliant. Your kids will stand on their own two feet because you raised them with that goal in mind. They will develop a self-confident attitude toward the challenges of life.
To instill self-confidence, provide encouragement and support when times get tough. Don't always try to clear away problems. Allow your kids to make mistakes. It's part of growing up. Most can-do kids have learned some lessons "the hard way" because their parents haven't protected them from every difficulty life dishes out.
5. Responsibility: Can-do kids understand that success depends more on what you put into things than what you take out. They begin to understand this when they start contributing to the operation of their own home.
To develop a sense of responsibility from an early age, give your children household jobs: making their beds and keeping their rooms tidy. As they grow, have them take on more tasks.
6. Respectfulness: If your children respect you and understand what you expect from them, they won't have to constantly search for rules and limits. They will have a sense of security that gives them the freedom they need to become the best they can be.
Develop respectfulness in your kids by taking a strong stand on issues. Make sure your children always know where you'll land on a particular question. Stand confidently, and teach respect not by force, but by example.
7. Autonomy: Kids who have unrushed childhoods are able to focus their talents early in life. They possess a well-developed sense of individuality.
The surest way to develop autonomy is to allow children to play on their own and solve problems for themselves. You may need to help them at first; ask questions designed to guide them in solving the problem for themselves. Soon, they'll be handling problems on their own.