Catch Them Young!

Teaching Children Self-Reliance

My daughter, Aripo, has a larger-than-life personality.

In 2023, she finished her Grade 1, the starting block of her education. During the Grade 1 year, I noticed some unusual patterns of behavior not akin to a “normal” seven-year-old.

First, my daughter loves waking up early and getting ready for school. Her happiest days are really at school, learning from the teachers and the other students. You can only imagine how falling sick derails this world of happiness.

So on days when my daughter is sick, as parents, we engage in some dutiful work of persuasion. We are parents from the “old school”: recovery is best at home and in bed. To our daughter, recovery is best on the battlefields of the classroom.

Second, my daughter loves giving hugs and being affectionate. In her world, love conquers everything, and this is better shown by providing a nice, warm hug. To my daughter, it costs more to be angry, and it is cheaper to be cheerful. The teachers adore her for this, the type of civic citizenship behavior they want all kids to model. As parents, we also enjoy and bask in the thought that we are doing a great job in raising such a thoughtful individual.

A third aspect, and linked to the previous two traits, is our daughter loves saving money rather than spending it. She uses every occasion to find ways to earn money and then keeps it for future use. This could be for “rainy days” in the world of a seven-year-old. Such a rainy day is using her savings to support her school activities, including showing those around her that she cares for them.

The portal in which the money is saved is a transparent container with a blue lid. Upon inspection, one cannot miss the brown and silver coins mixed up with a few banknotes.

As the year progressed, we noticed that the transparent container was beginning to fill up. We sought to understand the sensemaking processes accompanying what was to be of this money that was being saved up.

One Sabbath morning we asked Aripo a critical question: "How would you like to spend your money?"

Her response was generous and forthright: “I can use some of the money for the offering today," came the first budget allotment from the mouth of a seven-year-old. "The rest I can continue to save and even use for my school events," retorted Aripo.

The school events in question are those she attends, and it is the responsibility of the parents to pay for them. In her world, she was trying to assist us parents in meeting the costs of her school events. In reality, the amount saved was not even close to funding the school events. The thought was just amazing though. At such a young age and through activities of play, our daughter was exhibiting behaviors of self-reliance.

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 22:6 to “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (NIV). This is such a bold clarion call to parents, pastors, lay leaders, and the entire church community to be serious about raising children.

Further, the depth of contribution to this request for parents, pastors, lay leaders, and the entire church community is emphasized in what the verse calls “the way.” It is in directing children in “the way” that will give surety of their success for the future.

How can this be done?

Tip One: Teach Children That God Is the Creator and Sustainer of Everything

Some nuggets can be drawn from Genesis 1:28: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (KJV).

The blessing of God was laid upon Adam and his family. Coupled with this is the instruction to fend and live a productive life within this blessing; a life of responsibility and care for everything around.

From a young age, children must be taught that God is not just the Creator but also the Sustainer of everything. Our efforts to be self-reliant do not eliminate the need and presence of the Omnipotent One. In practicing self-reliance, we are merely fulfilling and living within the blessing of Genesis 1:28. However we mustn't lose track of our Creator and the One who blesses us.

Tip Two: Create a Context in Which Children Learn Skills About Self-Reliance

As parents, pastors, lay leaders, and the church community, our work is to create a context in which children learn skills of self-reliance. This can be done through activities that children are engaged in. An aspect of interest is the role of how children play and learn of the world around them can be used in imparting issues related to self-reliance.

The home is the only significant place where such learning can start. This is aptly captured in the book Child Guidance by Ellen G. White: "It is in the home that the education of the child is to begin. Here is his first school. Here, with his parents as instructors, he is to learn the lessons that are to guide him throughout life—lessons of respect, obedience, reverence, self-control” (p. 17).

As we have learned with our daughter, activities of role-play, malleable as they appear, could lead to the forming of a more concrete framing around themes of self-reliance as she grows older. Paul encourages all who are raising children by saying, "Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4, ESV).

Tip Three: Exhibit a Life and Influence of Example to Children

As they grow older, children look for role models from which they can fashion their lives. An exciting study coming from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology considers this. The study focused on a sample of children learning a language. The findings of the study concluded that rapport with an advanced peer assisted in language development.[i]

A fascinating aspect of this study is that the advanced peer in the intervention was in response to children's emulating a robot for language development. Imagine what the efforts of our being deliberate in assisting children learn aspects of self-reliance can have. The human touch becomes a crucial life example in influencing children.

Tip Four: Teach Children to See Efforts of Self-Reliance as Crucial to Mission Work

From the book Conflict and Courage by Ellen G. White, we are called to reflect on the life of Paul. He had a decorated career as a tentmaker in which “he supported himself” and used the opportunity to share “the gospel.” Consider further through these efforts of self-reliance that Paul “supported his fellow workers” and “himself suffering from hunger” (p. 342). Children can be taught through a life of example how efforts of self-reliance can be crucial in also supporting mission work.

There is no better time to impart crucial life skills than now, catching them young!

[1] Kory-Weslund, Jacqueline M., and Cynthia Breazeal. “A Long-Term Study of Young Children ‘s Rapport, Social Emulation, and Language Learning with a Peer-Like Robot Playmate in Preschool.” Frontiers in Robotics and AI 6, no. 81 (2019): 1–17, doi:

[i] Kory-Weslund, Jacqueline M., and Cynthia Breazeal. “A Long-Term Study of Young Children ‘s Rapport, Social Emulation, and Language Learning with a Peer-Like Robot Playmate in Preschool.” Frontiers in Robotics and AI 6, no. 81 (2019): 1–17, doi:

Willie Chinyamurindi

Willie Chinyamurindi works as a professor in the Department of Business Management at the University of Fort Hare in South Africa. He is a member of SummerPride SDA Church in the Cape Conference, South Africa. He is married to Sifungile and is the father of Anochengeta, Aripo, and Asante.