We have all heard about helicopter parents. The ones who hover constantly, directing every action and taking care of every detail so that their kids don’t have to make any decisions for themselves or face anything at all that’s unpleasant. The unfortunate result is a teen or young adult who feels entitled, but is actually lacking in self-confidence and entirely at a loss when confronted with the challenges he or she is going to face in the real world. Here are some tips from Tiffany Rowe, mom of 2, on How to Equip Your Kids with the Life Skills They Really Need:
Kids need guidance, but they’ve got to be given the freedom to try things on their own and to occasionally fail at them. It’s the only way they learn to be adaptable, solve problems, and overcome obstacles.
Most kids succeed on their own in a supportive family setting. Others – because of behavioral or developmental issues – need more assistance from outside. Either way, providing kids with the opportunities to gain the skills and the confidence to go out into the world is the best gift you can give them as a parent.
Here are some basic things a kid needs to learn on his or her way to becoming an independent adult:
Learning hard facts is important, but developing interpersonal skills is easily as necessary. From things as seemingly simple and common sense as good manners to the more illusive concepts like empathy and compassion, knowing how to get along with other people is key in every environment where there are, well, other people.
Participating in school, the workplace, and the greater community all require knowing how to cooperate and collaborate, how to compromise, and how to communicate clearly and respectfully. You want your child to be confident when meeting new people, and to be able to maintain relationships over time.
Some kids seem to be born with a natural gift for it all, and others need coaching either subtle or direct. It’s all to the good if they have role models whom they can emulate, and the best of those would be you.
Tip: teach your child how to introduce themselves to a stranger and ask them a question to break the ice.
You’re not going to be around every time your kids run into a difficult situation that requires quick thinking and focused problem solving. And even if you were, it doesn’t do them any good for you to leave them out of the process.
It’s not enough that they know how to phone you or dial 999/911. Kids need to know how to keep a cool head instead of running in all directions when something unexpected happens. They need to know what to do if something breaks or doesn’t work or if something doesn’t go as planned. They need to know how to behave and how speak to adults in a law enforcement or medical setting.
Kids old enough to drive need to know what to do if they have a fender-bender. Most importantly, they need to know that every problem isn’t an emergency, every emergency isn’t a crisis, and there are ways to work through things that happen.
Tip: discuss with your child how to handle different scenarios and make sure they know what to do if something happens.
Even the youngest kids have calendars that are hard to keep track of. By the time they’re older, kids often have so much on their plates that they and you both are in a perpetual juggling act.
Now’s the time to set good habits of time management so that they’re not doing three things at once, putting off homework until the last minute, and leaving chaos in their wake.
Time needs organizing just like everything else, and while some people are great at multi-tasking, not everyone is. If there’s a choice that has to be made, kids need to know how to prioritize and make logical decisions about how they spend their time.
Tip: get your child to fill in their own calendar so they are on top of it too.
Money Life Skills
As long as you’re the chief financial officer, your kids may well think that money grows on trees. They need to learn the basics of budgeting, the importance of saving, and the value of a dollar. They should know:
- how a credit card works
- how to write out a check
- how to pay a bill
- what it means to spend more than you have.
Tip: If you give pocket money, have 2 jars or piggy banks – one for saving up and one for spending. And take them regularly to the bank or credit union to deposit the money they have saved.
Practical Life Skills
By the time they leave home, there are some practical things that kids should be able to do:
- shop for groceries
- prepare a meal
- change the sheets
- do a load of laundry start to finish
- do basic household cleaning
- change a lightbulb (no kidding)
- use a screwdriver and a hammer
- negotiate his or her way through the sometimes dull but necessary activities of daily life.
Over to you now. Do you have any tips on teaching children life skills? Share them with us in the comments below.