Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Repairing, instead of replacing, items sets a good example




A weak economy has a way of turning “fixing” into a better option than “replacing.”

Yet it seems fewer and fewer of us are growing up knowing how to fix things.

If you’re not handy around the house, it’s probably because your parents didn’t teach you how to fix things when you were a kid – so you might believe you don’t have the know-how to show your own children how to do simple repairs. That’s not necessarily true.

Even if you don’t feel you have a lot of fixer-upper skills, you can still help your children value what they have so they will take care of their things and do what they can to salvage whatever breaks or wears out.

The first lesson you can share is that they should.

Every Wednesday evening when my six kids were very young, I encouraged them to bring their broken toys and radios and bedside lamps to the dinner table. As we ate together, we talked about why their little treasures broke and how we might try to fix them. After dinner, we all worked together to piece their cherished childhood possessions back together.

We snapped heads back onto Barbie dolls, replaced batteries in transistor radios, glued picture frames together and sanded splinters off kid-sized furniture. I showed them to how to handle screwdrivers and hammers and nails. Those are basics that any parent can teach a child.

Eventually I taught my children how to do more advanced repairs, like splicing wires to fix broken radios and lamps. Plus, I showed them how to safely use power tools at a fairly young age. If a repair was adult-sized, I’d let them watch and help me do the job so next time they could try it on their own.

Today, all of my kids – five of them are grown with homes of their own now – are pretty handy. They’re also more apt to repair than replace, and all of them pay attention to maintenance practices that are frugal and smart during any kind of economy but especially during a time when everyone has to be more careful about spending.

Have you noticed that fewer young people can diagnose and repair even simple, ordinary breakdowns, like a clogged toilet or a flat tire? Their lack of “handiness” is bound to land them in more than a few tight spots – and lead them to pay a lot of money to others who have these basic skills.

Make a point of introducing your own children to the joy and wisdom of fixing something broken rather than buying something new. Here’s how to start:

• Build something together, like a bird house. Or enlist your child’s help as you assemble a store-bought bookcase or chair.

• Let your kids help whenever you do maintenance or repairs around the house and yard or on the car. Even a small child can hold a flashlight or help pull weeds.

• Give toys that encourage kids to make things, from crafts to woodworking projects. It’s in the making that we learn how things work.

• Enroll your children (and yourself, if you need some help in the handy department) in classes that home-improvement stores offer.

• Teach safety when they’re young so your kids will know how to properly handle tools, climb a ladder and tinker with electronics when the time comes.

• Let your children listen in when you talk with service technicians so they understand how much it costs to hire help, when it’s really necessary and how to get what they’re paying for.

• Most important, resist the impulse to discard damaged and broken possessions before you try to repair them. Buying a new one often isn’t necessary – and it’s rarely the best example you can set for your children.

Rosie Romero has been in the Arizona homebuilding and remodeling industry for 35 years. He has a radio program from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays on KNST-AM 790. For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. For more do-it-yourself tips or to contact Romero, go to rosieonthehouse.com or call 888-767-5348 during the show.

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