On their own Two Feet

Anyone who knows me knows that I am always banging on about resilience, aspiration, independence and self-esteem and how interlinked they are in creating confident,capable and self-reliant young people.  a couple of weeks back I had two great examples of all my beliefs made real-though nothing to do with me!

On a Sunday  afternoon when their door banged I almost didn’t answer it expecting it to be someone trying to convince me to share their beliefs but I like to be polite. When I opened the door there was a youngish  mum with her little 3-4 year old daughter beaming away at her side and clutching the handle of a big red plastic bucket. Mum asked if they could wash my car for me but unfortunately I don’t have one so I asked instead if they would wash my very dirty bike which only gets to see water when it rains. I wheeled it out into the  front garden  and filled up the bucket with hot soapy water and left them to it, though with the door ajar in case they needed anything. I could hear mum telling her daughter how to clean properly and they chattered away whilst they took their time and did a really good job. When I was called back I asked about payment and mum told me that it was entirely up to me as they were working for donations only as the little girl wanted a scooter and Mum was teaching her a lesson in how to get something you want! I was rather thrilled  to be part of the plan, even if unintentionally,  because it seemed to me a rather bold but exciting lesson to be teaching and learning although I can imagine many people would not approve. The mum said that she wanted her daughter to learn from the word go that getting the things you want is about the choices you make and the work you put in and not about getting someone else to do it for you or give it to you.

The second example from the same week is a bit of a cheat really as the young woman concerned is certainly no longer a child but I have known her since she was born so to me she will always be my friend’s daughter as well as a lovely young woman in her own right.  Alice studied music at university and though a talented musician  the work she really wants to do is to manage or produce  for a choir or similar. Such jobs are like gold dust and of course there are no real qualifications for them,  you simply have had to learn by doing and  there is the catch-any job that needs experience rather than qualifications takes time and opportunity and will almost certainly not pay very well even if you are lucky enough to get your toe in the door. So Alice has worked in any job she can find that provides her with experience in her chosen field coupled with enough money to live  but instead of ranting against the unfairness of the system that tends to keep out newcomers very effectively she  helped to create a small opera company with talented singers actors and musicians to bring unusual opera to unusual venues.  All the members of the group are professionals  working together to create something unique and I was really impressed by the performance, the full house and Alice’s wonderful production.  I have no doubt that both she and my little  bike cleaner will go on to have the lives they choose in their different ways  and they are both wonderful examples, at different ends of the  growing up process, of what happens when parents and other adults  support children  to become fully self actualised and independent.



  1. How inspiring. I have a 13 year old that I am trying desperately to earn money for the clothes she wants, her attempts (mainly cleaning jobs) are half hearted and remain unpaid, much to her frustration! Perhaps my teaching is no good, although I struggle with teaching someone how to clean? Any tips?! I intend to come to your workshop ‘Living with a Teenager’.

    1. Hi Keeley, look forward to meeting you at the workshop. I’m assuming she’s doing these jobs for you? If that’s about cleaning at home set some clear criteria for what a ‘job well done’ will look like e.g. ‘All dust removed from surfaces’ etc. Be very specific so she knows exactly what she has to do to get the money promised and be tough – don’t pay up until all criteria are met.
      Personally I think at 13 they should be doing some degree of cleaning themselves without payment as a member of the household so make these requirements clear too.
      See if neighbours or friends can provide her with some small jobs to do – I once got my niece to clear my garden with me and she did a great job- but again make sure they don’t pay her unless she does what is required.

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