His First Opinel

>> February 13, 2020

>> Blog Post #29

We were having dinner with friends this week and had a little discussion about kids and what to teach them. It all started by one of them noticing that my youngest was using a very sharp knife to cut slices of dry sausage, the kind that is tough to cut through.

I explained that my son had just received it as a gift for his recent behavior, which really surprised everyone at the table as they obviously felt he was too young to be handling such a sharp blade.

I proceeded to explain my reasoning behind the gift of the knife and the expected behavior that my son and I had agreed upon.

The knife he received this week is an Opinel, an extremely popular folding knife made in the region of Savoy in the French Alps. Apparently Opinel sells a knife in the world every ten seconds. It wasn’t his first knife as I had given him his first swiss army knife a few months ago as a reward for some success at the indoor climbing gym. He had seen me use my own swiss army knife, that I’ve owned for decades, a few times recently and I could tell he was curious about it.

As a kid, I remember how my grandfather had taught me how to use a knife and had gotten me my first Opinel. I’ve since owned quite a few. The oldest swiss army knife I own was actually a gift from my father when I was in my early teens. I knew that one day or another I was going to buy one for my son to perpetuate some kind of loose tradition, but I did feel it was too early, much to my chagrin.

However, another friend made me change my mind recently and that’s why my son, at the ripe age of 7 now owns two sharp knives. With the knife, came some very clear and strict rules. I simply copied my friend’s rules and made them very clear to my son.

  1. The knife is my son’s property.
  2. But it must remain at all times in the kitchen drawer.
  3. When my son wishes to use it, he has to ask me if he can use it.
  4. His usage of the knife is done under my supervision.
  5. Once the knife is no longer in use, it has to find its way back to the kitchen drawer immediately.

There is another rule, but it is for me to follow and I did not explain it to my son. The rule for me is that if he asks me to use the knife, I should always say yes and take the time to supervise him. Generally, his play time with the knife lasts for 5 minutes or less.

The reasoning behind all of this is as follows:

  • I strongly believe you can learn at any age
  • There are obviously things that you are more suited for with more maturity, physical strength, experience, etc. But a lot of things can be explained very simply.
  • I am not offering a knife, but really teaching my kid how to be responsible.
  • I would rather have him do things that might be risky under my supervision because he knows I am willing to take the time to do it with him and teach him properly.
  • For example, all of my children know how to start a fire. During winter, I will let them setup the logs and light the fire. I will let them move the logs around and stoke the fire if needed. But this, again, is done under my supervision. The process is the same as with the knife. They are absolutely not allowed to do it by themselves unsupervised, but I will never refuse them the fun of starting the fire if they ask me too.
  • I believe that by teaching them to be responsible, I have less risks of them doing something foolish when I am not around just because of the prohibition.

What do you think about that? I am perfectly aware that some people might have other opinions about that, and I probably consider my view to not be standard, but I will tell you this: I am 100% convinced that my son has followed these rules to the letter so far. And there is something more, the moment he looked the proudest and the happiest wasn’t when he was using it but when he learned that he had earned it. That’s what he likes to talk about. He feels responsible. I believe you should never wait to teach your children what responsible means.

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