...or, I felt that way as a kid. Partly me, partly my human environment (my family didn't teach the young) and partly that it takes longer as knowledge develops, to be useful -- or so I imagined. I didn't like that it felt like all I could do was school, minor household tasks, and entertaining myself.

So as I look for a house now, I want to be sure the environment is right for my boys, as they get older, to do things they can get a sense of accomplishment from, especially things they don't have to feel completely dependent on me for. Such as:
* farming (but that takes land and tractor)
* gardening, and maybe selling the produce
* woodworking/wood finishing
* home repair or fixup -- maybe we'll get some projects together.
* engine repair -- although I know too little to mentor

What did you do when you were child or teen -- or what do you think would work for this purpose? It need not be anything like the things I listed.

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Hobby farming is an expensive endeavor. Gardening successfully is often about very deferred gratification (accepting that you're just not getting any tomatoes/oranges/whatever this year and will have to wait until next year to see what happens...by that time the kids will have found something else to do). My father knows next to nothing about car repair; fathers who fix cars teach their sons how to fix cars, and fathers who don't fix cars teach their sons how to find a mechanic who won't (totally) shaft them. 

Something related to home repair would probably be the most practical (bonding time and saving money from not paying someone else to do it). 

My father would attempt to work with us but it would, usually, end up with our "not doing anything right".  So we stopped.  However, I did learn from him that you can do pretty much anything you set your mind to, so that's a good thing.

If they are in Boy Scouts you can work with them on their projects (as long as they do most of the work), such as the cars, camping, etc.

A small garden is a decent idea just don't let them make it so big they have to spend a lot of time on it (gets boring).  Getting unfinished furniture and having them help you paint or stain it is a good idea and so is having them help you with small home repairs.  Teach them how to change their own oil, drain and fill the radiator, change the light bulbs, and replace their windshield wipers is a good idea as well.

Not being taught is a convenient excuse.  As a kid, I was often "thrown" into situations and told simply to "figure it out".  That, my friend, is what builds confidence and capability.  I did everything on your list and more with little-to-no adult supervision from the time I was a teen to the time I left home at 17.

Farming - find a local farmer who is EXTREMELY patient and needs some basic help.

Gardening - if you live in an urban/suburban area, community gardens seem to be growing (pardon the pun) by leaps and bounds.

Woodworking - start simple; take your kids to classes at Home Depot and then challenge them to do something similar (with basic hand tools) on their own with virtually no supervision

Home Repairs - see above

Engine Repair - buy an old lawn mower off of Craigslist and tell them to overhaul the engine

My father often told us to 'figure it out ourselves'.

I'm confused by what's a "minor household task," what's a chore, and what's a "something." Your list is very much things that they can display outside the home. Being able to do all the household chores seems to me to lead much more directly to independence they can feel than having certain hobbies that produce certain tangible results.

On the other hand, no one taught me how to scrub a toilet or vacuum a floor. I just figured it out once I had my own toilets and floors. Then again, I did need someone to tell me there's special oven cleaner, and there's all those tips out there for removing stains.

So, if you actually want independent kids, teach them to do everything involved in running a household - meal planning, cooking, budgeting, cleaning, laundry. Also the time management for that: "If Mom's birthday is Friday, but Sunday is our last chance to go to the grocery store, we'd better look at cake recipes Saturday, so we can be sure to get any special ingredients."

If you want skills they can display outside the home, teach them to write formal letters (recommending a book to the city librarian, for example). Also cooking, which has skills similar to your list, but faster.

Be aware of the different kinds of intelligences (for lack of a better term). Cooking involves lots of math and sensory discernment. Home repair involves an analytical frame of mind and lots of abstract spacial thinking. There's only so far you can get in music without talent (and tone deafness is real, too). Etc.

Someone mentioned the Haynes manual - those things are great.  I just wanted to add - when I was a teen, I picked up the gumption to wrench a little on my car because one of my friends and his dad were into it.  I've never done full-on "engine" repair, but I've saved thousands of dollars doing my own brakes, alternators, water pumps, belts, etc.  My dad never taught me that stuff.  Teach him how to be careful, and how to read a set of instructions.  They're never totally perfect, but it can be paint-by-number parts replacement a lot of the time.

I assume you are looking for what kind of home/property then?

For gardening you don't need much...I gardened since I was little, they let me have a small plot to grow peas and other easy to tend for crops. Just don't buy a totally wooded lot.

I don't know what is offered in your area; but here is more two cents, based on my own childhood and now as a parent;

Walk-ability: I grew up where I could walk/ride my bike into town. It was nice to have a place to go without having to be driven everywhere, such as the library or comic book store.

Nature: you don't need a huge lot, but we had access to plenty of wild areas along a river.

Other kids: I was brought up in a neighborhood that was old demographically, so there were no kids to play with except my siblings. Such isolation did not prepare me well for the school experience of being with other boys, and to this day I feel uncomfortable among groups of my same gender.

I would not agonize too much about hitting all the bases, where there's a will there's a way, and you never know what your kids interests will be.  You could get a place with a shop and automobile lift, only to find your kids would much rather sit in front of a monitor and write code, or play sports all year.

* farming (but that takes land and tractor) / We had chickens and l still have them now
* gardening, and maybe selling the produce / you can harvest a 3 ft plot for a family of 4
* woodworking/wood finishing / you need only room for a small bench and vice
* home repair or fixup -- maybe we'll get some projects together. / youtube can show you how
* engine repair -- although I know too little to mentor / hobby stores sell small scale motors 

l dont know what type of house you live in but l did all that living at home on a normal house block in the burbs , although l live closer to the city now , l still have enough room to do all those things now , and for the others that have smaller dwellings there are group farming plots the council lease for a minimal fee , the local council also runs " men in sheds " programs on everything from home repair to car rebuilds . l am always learning something new every day , and there are days that my apprentice shows me something he has picked up from someone else that l take on board .

Example , on weekends he works with others from his trade school to earn extra cash and he picks up tricks that there bosses use , then uses them on my jobs and if l like it l start doing it .

Bah.  Find something where you can say, "I don't know this.  Wanna help me figure it out?"  Read a book together, watch some videos, make some plans, and make something happen.  

Teaching your kids how to learn on their own is far more important than any one of those skills.  Then they will never have cause to say, "I can't do anything!" because they will have the confidence in themselves to learn and figure it out.

Get a couple of junked lawn mower engines for cheap or free, dissemble them with your boys. Great fun, learning opportunity. I wouldn't worry about getting them running initially, just learn/teach how they work. Once they/you understand some small engine basics, get a go kart. Insist the boys maintain it.
***** I didn't like that it felt like all I could do was school, minor household tasks, and entertaining myself.*****

Hey, you were probably ahead of the curve!

*****I can't do anything!...or, I felt that way as a kid. Partly me, partly my human environment (my family didn't teach the young) and partly that it takes longer as knowledge develops, to be useful -- or so I imagined. *****

"Learned helplessness". It can be caused by a number of things. I for example grew up in a dictatorship: anything not compulsory was forbidden. There was no point in asking; the answer was always "NO!"

Some more factors that can cause it are excessive punishment and criticism. For example, I got beaten for accidents and honest mistakes. You become afraid to do anything out of the ordinary. You see this a lot in excessively punitive, authoritarian cultures. Nobody has any intitiative, and only does as they are told, except the bosses, who typically are sadly lacking in creative ideas.

Notice I said "criticism" not "excessive criticism". Any and all criticism is excessive. You can give feedback without turning it into a personal attack. If you are familiar with the way animals are "clicker trained", the only choices are approval and lack of approval. No threats or punishments. And you get positive feedback for any reasonable attempt at something that is still being learned.

By way of contrast, what usually happens when young humans are trained:

Mom: "Take out the garbage".
Son: "OK." (takes out the garbage)
Mom, visibly angry, in a loud voice: "WHY DIDN'T YOU TAKE OUT THE RECYCLING WHILE YOU WERE AT IT?"

She has just punished him for taking out the garbage. Then she wonders why he doesn't take any initiative.

Here is the correct dialog:

Mom: "Please take out the garbage."
Son: "OK." (takes out the garbage)
Mom: "Thanks for taking out the garbage. Oops, I forgot to mention the recycling. I have a lot on my mind so it's hard for me to remember all those details. [looks son in the eye] I wonder if I could ask you to remember the recycling when you do the garbage. (pause) Do you think you could do that for me?" (solicit firm resolve)

Dads apparently have a reputation for being stingy with approval with their sons:

Son: "I raked the lawn like you asked."
Dad: "Grunt"

Correct dialog:

Son: "I raked the lawn like you asked."
Dad: "I noticed. Thanks, I appreciate what a thorough job you did".

Unfortunately, there is also a rule of motivation that you only get occasional praise for doing anything that is routine. You get consistent praise for doing anything that you're still training for.

As for the details of building some depth of skill, try participation. Plan a project as a team effort. If your own skills are limited (mine are), volunteer for a friend's project. Social bonds are better formed through work, not play, contrary to television and magazines (with their ubiquitous portrayals of male-bonding as watching football). Amish barnraisers form stronger interpersonal bonds than urban playboys.

Have fun.


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