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Last winter an amusing story on social media described how people under threat of yet another snow storm this winter cleared out the shelves of a local supermarket of everything from avocados to orange soda. The impulse to buy things – anything – as a solution to a problem was revealed by this nonsensical behavior.  The author suggested that another quality than panic would be more helpful in a crisis. That quality he said is is resourceful;  as a child of the Great Depression he learned early how to make what he needed or adapt one thing to work in a new situation. But people today aren’t resourceful, are they? Is resourcefulness still useful?

The television show McGyver built its entire premise on resourcefulness. Survivorman, Mythbusters, and other popular programs, including the new Thingamabob, revolve around making what one needs or building something new from what’s on hand. Numerous televised cooking challenges follow this same format. Clearly, being resourceful is still valued, at least as entertainment.

The resourceful person has a huge advantage over the rest of us. Someone who is resourceful is never at a loss. He can always come up with a solution. He exercises his creativity, solves problems, and gets what he needs without relying on someone else to invent, market and sell it to him for a price. The resourceful person has a skill that never goes away but it always ready to make life better.

Why wouldn’t anyone want their child to be more resourceful? It sounds like a wonderful thing!

So how can you help your child be more resourceful?

  1. Stop giving her everything she asks for. Ask her how she can make do, figure out a work-around, or invent her own solution. And when she does, applaud her effort.
  2. Model resourcefulness. Instead of running to the grocery store at the last minute, figure out how to cook what’s already in the fridge. Instead of buying something, use what you already have.
  3. Make your own fun. Instead of always purchasing fun, in the form of admission tickets, sports equipment, and lessons, figure out how to have a good time without spending a dime. Boredom is an invitation to get creative, not to buy happiness.
  4. Notice the resourcefulness of others. Countless stories have emerged in this snowiest of winters about people who made do and helped others by using their wits. Knowing how others stood up to a challenge is inspiration for the next time you have to do the same.

The child who is resourceful has a strength that can’t be bought. It’s a gift that grows with practice. Help your child be ready for whatever life has in store.

© 2014, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Ask for Dr. Anderson’s new book, Parenting: A Field Guide, at your favorite bookstore.