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Ten "Spokes of Life" That Parents Should Teach Their Children

03/17/2015 02:55 pm ET | Updated May 17, 2015

What are the most important things you should teach a kid?: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and access insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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Answer by Mike Leary, Psychotherapist in private practice, Individual-Marital-Parenting-A&D

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Had 6 kids; four full time step kids, two part time kids, thousands counseled now. As a therapist, probation officer and trainer, teacher, coach and scout master.

You asked to identify the aspects, not how to get these items.

I see the things kids need to know with a Wagon Wheel metaphor. Each spoke is an aspect of getting along in the world.

1. Economic
Learn how to manage your financial world. Don't waste money. An entrepreneur said he had a quick and dirty way to evaluate whether a person was going to be good in business; did they get some kind of job before the age of fourteen. They will learn the nuances of economics they never forget. How money can grow and deteriorate?

How to do more than withdraw funds from a personality-less credit card? I have seen people get a new credit card and really conceptualize it as free money.

How to reconcile a check book? The bank people are astounded at how many people come in, ask for their balance, and think that is how much money is still available. The account holder is then surprised when outstanding checks come in and there are overdrafts.

2. Creative
Everyone needs to make things that didn't exist. "I made it myself." It doesn't seem to matter what it is, just as long as it gives a sense of pride to its creator. Find your sense of innate gifts and shape them to express yourself in some way. At least get a hobby such as gardening, sewing, photography, model building, cars, computers, but something. Watching things and consuming things doesn't count. Getting through a computer game or crossword puzzle doesn't count. Those are other peoples creativity. And they don't call them cheats for nothing. Some people are fortunate enough to work at something that they can create too. It is a rarity in the world. In working with professional artist and musicians, they always have the consumer version of stuff and when they get the chance, they work on their own creations.

3. Relationships
Both casual and intimate, which underscores honesty, integrity, dependability, cooperation, and doing things because it needs to be done. Learning to be aware of other people.

My wife was run over by a drunk as a kid and spent time in a handicapped school. She said one of the basic things taught was to help others and pay attention to how you could help. It was a big shock when she went to a regular school and it seemed it was everyone for themselves.

Keep a confidence. When friends trust you with the intimate details of their life, they are expecting you to honor that, even when you get angry, and not use it against them. This is doubly true when you get married. Love is demonstrated when the chips are down. How do they treat you when they have been hurt by you. How this is demonstrated when growing up is formulated with families of origin and friends we grow up with. The housewives and other reality shows are rarely about real friends, love, integrity and decency. How do you know when you see it? It will make you cry with empathy.

4. Work
It is what you do for society, that it pays you for. To be good at it you need to be dependable, reliable, have veracity, follow through, and follow up. Did this have the results I intended?

I see school as children's work. 6-8 hours a day. That is one of their jobs. There is an implicit agreement in the relationship. The teacher will be prepared and teach in a way I can learn something. The student's job is to put in the time and focus, in order to learn the material by doing the work required to understand it.

Work at home. Chores and contributing to the house should be a given. One of the things that happens in the passing of culture is the farm. Five year olds would get responsibility to bring in the eggs. If they broke them, breakfast was reduced. It had its own natural consequence impact. What I see going on for the most part are children not having jobs at all to help the common good of the family. When they do, it is usually a scut job that rudely interrupted the time line of the child. So each event builds on resentment, creates opposition, and is having to be monitored by the parent. If jobs are the norm and expected, then everyone just accepts it and joins in. But children need support and guidance as they learn.

5. Health
Both aspects. Our bodies are on loan. They all get factory recalls. Take care of it and it should last a hundred years.

  • What you ingest, turns into and becomes part of you. Learn what food, drink, and mood alterants really do. You only need enough food to get to the next service station, otherwise you body stores it for the supposed coming drought. More than likely, it isn't the last time you're ever going to get to eat one.

  • Exercise keeps the energy flowing through so you don't stagnate and putrefy. Similar to when water is dammed up and it sits. The astronauts say they would have to exercise around 21 hours a day just to keep the muscle mass we get with walking around with one G. Learn a routine for aerobic functions to metabolize your intake and stabilize your output.
  • 6. Curiosity Never stop learning. Educate yourself. Be fascinated with the wonders of the world. One of my friends is a hundred and three year old federal judge... that is still working and sharp as a tack. His constant phrase is; "I learn something new every day." When I saw children fascinated and hungry for learning, slowly have the curiosity suppressed in them, it seems a crime. Pay attention to what turns them on.

    One of the most serious programmers I worked with, would quietly sneak into his dads' bedroom in the middle of the night and work on the computer next to his dads bed. He was dedicated.

    7. Discipline
    Managing yourself. Just do it. There is no argument internally or externally. It's time. Time to get up, time to do the bills, time to study, time to relax. When you go to college and ask what discipline you want to take, they aren't asking how you want to be punished. If all you do is the assigned work. You won't really learn the discipline. It doesn't matter if you're a gymnast, artist, mathematician, scientist or binary freak. If you aren't there after hours, you won't really learn the skill well.

    8. Organization

    • Time. Learn not to squander it and schedule a life that includes down time or re-creation. Have some time set up to invest in relationships that matter. Put up visual schedules to manage it by seeing what is coming and sort priorities.

  • Record keeping. Everything from nostalgia, to bills and receipts. Organize it into functional containers. Start kids on scrap books.
  • Environment. There are common areas you should leave better than you found them, both in the house, public, and in nature. In private areas learn to make the bed and keep your room clean enough to function, not lose things, become a health or a fire hazard. Remember there is such a thing as visual noise. Clean for guests periodically.
  • 9. Fun
    Down time, How to get off the clock and just play naturally. One of my step sons was 12 when he was lamenting not playing with his trucks any more because his friends started thinking it was childish. It was a Saturday morning and I went out in the back yard of the house and dug up about a 5 foot square of the lawn down to about 12 inches. He saw me and asked what I was doing, I just said, "digging a hole." And he went on his way. Later on, I went into his closet and brought out a bunch of his trucks then carried them to the back yard. I made ramps, tunnels and roads in the fresh dirt. Pretty soon he saw me, came out, and asked what I was doing? I just said, "Playing trucks." He then squatted down and joined me as we designed a neat environment. After about an hour I went back into the house and started on my Saturday chores. I never said anything else and he played with those trucks another year.

    So many people I see have learned to use artificial poisons to relax enough in order to have fun, to stop the harangue in their head and not feel guilty. Poisoning your rational self to quit harassing you, says you have not learned how your internal systems work and they definitely are not working as a teem. Artificial chemical blocks may be efficient but they will insidiously trap you by not being able to learn how to do it naturally. All children start out with doing it naturally.

    10. Communication
    Learn how to truly listen. Listening starts when parents tell stories and read to the child. It turns on their imagination and requires them to be quiet. It is learning the skill of "reflective listening" to create a sense of acknowledgement in the other.

    Learn to use "I statements" to not alienate the person whom you are talking to. Own what you are saying.

    The rim
    It is where the rubber meets the road. The practical dynamics where you live your life. Your environment impacts on you and how well rounded (balanced) you are, determines how you handle it. When the spokes are weak or not in place, the ride will be bumpy.

    The hub
    This is where all the spokes collect and it binds them together. It is where your belief systems emanate from. The reason you want to see tomorrow and don't kill yourself. It is the place, some people say, the soul resides. What's my purpose in life?

    This cannot be taken from you unless you have been brainwashed or gave it away yourself . One of the processes I have seen is suicides. Whenever there is one, I eventually discover they have taken a spoke concept and used it for their hub. The problem is, then it can be taken from you against your will. If that is your meaning for life....why are you still living. Part of my work with people that have given up, is to identify what that is, and find a hub that will give them a sense of purpose again.

    A parent's job is to instill what I call "The blessing" in the child's hub/heart.

    You are wanted, Unique, Loved, Protected, Valued, Belong here, and are not alone. With this instilled, The kid can tackle anything.

    And the best book I have ever found on this bar none. How to Behave and Why by Munro Leaf. He was upset after World War II as to how people could treat each other so badly. This book is good enough I made it into a power point.

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