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Michelle Obama’s 4 Smart Tips For Raising Self-Sufficient Kids

In an interview with NPR, Michelle Obama shared her thoughts on parenting, including a few pieces of genius advice on how to raise a self-sufficient kid.

Malia Obama, Sasha Obama, and First lady Michelle Obama listen as Democratic presidential candidate,...
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Michelle Obama has always had a way with words. In her new book, "The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times," the former First Lady offers readers wisdom through lessons she's learned. Now, in an interview with NPR, Obama shared her thoughts on parenting, including genius advice on how to raise a self-sufficient kid — something she has some expertise in, given she raised her two daughters, Malia and Sasha Obama, alongside her husband and former President Barack Obama while they were in office.

Obama spoke with Juana Summers, host of NPR's "All Things Considered" radio program. In their 30-minute conversation, which was posted on YouTube, the two talked about parenting lessons Obama learned from her mom.

Obama spoke about one of the most important aspects parenting to her: Obama’s mom raised her to be self-sufficient early. She took that parenting philosophy on when it came to raising her own kiddos. The conversation is worth a full listen, but here are four great pieces of parenting advice former First Lady Obama shared for parents hoping to raise a self-sufficient kid, too.

1. Give kids responsibilities early on.

Obama shared that one of the first things her mom did to help foster self-sufficiency was having the responsibility of waking herself up for school each day. She explained that her mom gave her an alarm clock in kindergarten, and it was her job to set it up and wake up on time.

Later, Obama's responsibilities were increased, and she walked to school by herself early, too.

"When your parent trusts you, it encourages you," she said. And kids really learn a key lesson: that "if my mom thinks I can do this, then I must be capable."

2. Step back, but be there.

Obama shared that another way she encourages self-sufficiency is to let the kids know your role as a parent. It's not to fix problems or point them out beforehand.

"Let them know your role and stand by the gate and watch your kids fly," she said, adding that she also sees that role as letting the kids know that you'll be there when they come back.

"Let them know you will be their advocate but don't step in and try to live their lives for them," she said. "When I see [my kids] owning all their choices, succeeding and failing on their own terms and growing from that process it is one of the most satisfying experiences."

3. Let them walk into the brick wall.

No parent wishes hardship on their kids, but there will be failures and wrong turns in life, and Obama says that letting kids "walk into the brick wall" builds their skills.

"It is frightening to watch your children walk into a brick wall. But that's what growth is," she said. "Too many parents try to stop that process. But that's the quickest way for them to learn, to learn from owning their mistakes and owning their victories at the same time."

4. Get used to the discomfort and adjust.

Perhaps one of the most important parenting tips Obama shared is one that focuses inward. She and Barack have worries now that their kids are out there in the world, but she says it's important to keep those fears in check and adjust — for the sake of your kid.

"You got to get adjusted," she explained, talking about the fears that keep her and Barack up when it comes to their kids. "When you're letting your kids go, you're letting your heart out there in the world," she said, adding that as parents they're always worried about some piece of information they didn't teach their kids.

"But the truth of the matter is that we don't control that. And as a parent, that's a hard thing to come to grips with as your child grows up and is out there in that big, bad world, is that you can prepare and love them all, all that you can, and you still don't have control," she said. "There are no guarantees that their life is going to work out and something bad may happen."

She continued, “So I have to remind myself of that. You know, when I get the urge to step in. But that's why I tell people parenting is hard. It isn't just hard because it's hard. It's hard because it's emotionally… you are in your most vulnerable space.”