10 Life-Skills That Give Your Child A Huge Advantage Life-skills are innate knowings of how to deal with different life challenges

Instilling life skills in a child is as critical as teaching them how to spell and count. Life skills are inextricably linked to achieving true adult maturity.  They enable the child to better interact with their environment and effortlessly navigate challenging situations.

Unfortunately, the life-skills one needs to succeed in life are not always inculcated in kids. Parents and the schooling system are only concerned about performance that can be quantified, high grades, sporty athleticism, and musical ability. Sure, having these skills may help a child do well in school. However, once outside the safe and coddling environment of home and school a child needs a certain skill set in order to survive and thrive in the real world.

These skills have to be honed gradually from the time they are young. Moreover, you cannot instill these skills through verbal instructions. They get encoded in a child’s brain by being given opportunities to regularly practice and watch the adults mirror these actions.

10 Life-Skills That Give Your Child A Huge Advantage
Cooking and meal prep are important life-skills kids need to learn

Here are 10 life skills that need to be inculcated in every child:

1) Self-Care and Hygiene and Order

As parents, it becomes automatic to do things for kids. However, kids must from an early age learn how to clean themselves, brush their teeth and maintain general body hygiene.

Keeping themselves and their surroundings clean is an important aspect of being orderly. Disorder brings chaos and confusion. Keeping one’s toys in the box after play or putting one’s shoes in their proper place is a good place to begin the lessons of taking care of oneself and one’s things.

2) Self-Protection and Safety

Most often we raise our children to be nice, sweet kids who don’t raise a ruckus even when they feel unease. However, this can be a dangerous motto to live. If they are uncomfortable with someone don’t force them to be tolerant and accepting. Honor their feelings and pay careful attention to what is being said and unsaid.

Most parents, tend to ignore the misbehavior of close family or friends even when a child is showing signs of distress. This kind of overlooking of intrusive and disrespectful behavior is what makes children easy targets for abusers. Teach your child to stand up for yourself, make a fuss, and scream NO, STOP, if someone tries to violate their boundaries, it does not matter if it is uncle, grandpa, or the priest.

Teach them to fight back and run don’t be docile, nice – the good girl/boy. Nevertheless, knowing when to fight, run, and hide is very important in a dangerous situation. In the recent Texas school shooting one remarkable 11-year-old girl survived by smearing blood on herself and playing dead.

Make it clear you are always there to support and protect them come what may.

3) Emotional Regulation

Managing one’s emotions in difficult situations hugely determines your child’s success in the social and professional sphere.

Children become capable of calming and self-regulation through co-regulation with their primary caregivers. Co-regulation involves attuned responsiveness to a child’s distress signals – cuddling, holding, rocking gently, cooing softly. This releases oxytocin, the love hormone which inhibits the release of cortisol. Lots of physical touch in the first years of life creates calm regulated humans.

As they grow older, they will need the language and safe space to express their feelings – anger, sadness, and jealousy all should be acceptable and discussed. Slowly, they learn that emotions are not bad in themselves, and expressing them in a safe setting is key to not staying stuck in the limbic response— fight-or-flight, or freeze which impinges on the functioning of the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain governing self-control.

Teach them how to shift their mental state by doing things that are grounding. There are many options like swinging, painting, playing a bongo drum, or throwing a ball through a hoop. All these actions help shift their focus as well as release the emotional energy in their bodies. Remember you will not always be around to soothe them in tough times.

Emotional regulation is about how quickly one recovers from distressing emotional states and switching one’s thoughts from negative to more positive ones.

4) Self-Reliance

The one thing that this Covid epidemic has taught us is to be more self-reliant. Ensconced in our own bubbles we had to find ways to deal with being alone and meeting our needs.

Everyone needs to know how to make basic meals, clean up the counter and wash up the utensils, and do the laundry.  These basic housekeeping chores should be part of every child’s life from a young age.

Putting their dirty clothes in the basket to graduating to loading the washing machine.

Cleaning veggies can graduate to cutting and later cooking. By  10-11 years a child both girls and boys should know to cook at least for themselves without having to depend on anyone to provide them food.

5) Social Skills and Clear Communication

A child has to learn the social skills to navigate his environment. It is imperative that a child learns the polite way of interacting in the society they live in. Saying please, thank you, excuse me, should be part of they their daily practice. Teach kids to speak for themselves, answer questions and introduce themselves whether in person or on phone.

Clear, precise, and direct communication is a necessity. A child should know how to ask for what she wants or does not want.

Children learn their communication skills from their parents. Don’t accuse and rant at your child when they don’t put their things away. State directly what is upsetting you and give them ultimatums if rules are not followed. Additionally, don’t shy away from expressing your love for your child, be open be expressive.

When communication is ambiguous, it breeds anger and frustration. Brené Brown says, “clear is kind, unclear is unkind.”

6) Decision Making

Life is full of decisions, there are big decisions and small ones. There are reversal decisions and non-reversal decisions.  The earlier a child learns to make decisions for himself, the better they will fare in life.  However, most parents don’t allow their kids to make decisions at all as a result later they are debilitated by doubt and indecision.

Learning to make decisions begins with giving a child the autonomy to make their own choices. Start with small things – like do they want to eat beans today or tomorrow. Never say ‘you have to eat beans.’

To avoid any tantrums at the supermarket, I’d tell my son to decide what he wanted within the stipulated amount, a toy, food item, or knick-knacks. As an adult he is quite adept at making decisions, sorting through the pros and cons quite quickly to arrive at the best choice.

One thing we must assure our kids even if they make a wrong decision it is not the end of the world.  There is always a  lesson to learn so no need to feel ashamed of making an error in judgment.

7) Conflict Resolution

In any healthy relationship, there will always be some kind of conflict. Knowing effective conflict resolution skills will give children the opportunity to feel competent in handling situations and relationships.

Conflict resolution does not mean staying silent when someone intrudes on one’s rights or hurts one’s feelings. Neither does it mean attacking the person who has hurt us? Rather it means assertively standing up for yourself and stating what you need. It also means listening, understanding, and coming to a compromise with the other parties involved.

Conflict resolution education instills persuasion and problem-solving skills in children.  Knowing how to resolve difficult situations helps them get what they want without overriding the rights of others. Later in life, they are better able to handle interpersonal dynamics without feeling the need to give in or cop out.

8) Negotiating Skills

Teaching a child how to negotiate for what they want is an important life skill. When they throw a tantrum or whine for some toy, listen, ask questions and negotiate. Okay, if I get you that, how will it help you, what do I get in return.

All healthy relationships have equal serve and return. Children need to know from an early age, in some areas, you have to give to get. Like you will get a bike but you have to paint the garden gate. Depending on their age discuss the trade-offs.

When we were kids, my brother was passionate about his mini poultry farm, so he’d ask me to help with the clean-up. I’d always counter back with what he’d do in return. Once that was clear I would help him and he’d play what I wanted.

All negotiations should be honored, a person breaking her promise should be shunned and kept out of one’s social circle.

Being clear about one’s bottom line and not compromising on it is critical if one does not want to be taken advantage of.

9)  Time Management

Children need to be taught the importance of time management. Encourage them to plan their day, what time they should awaken in order to be in time for school when they do their homework, how much TV time, etc.

Planning how to fit into their day all the things that need to be done should be taught early.

Being on time and being able to stick to schedules is what determines a person’s success.

10) Money Matters and Saving

Living within your means and saving for a rainy day are very important life skills.  Even though you may have the money to buy something for your child, defer doing so, let them wait. Or better still, let them earn it. Waiting teaches them the ability to delay gratification which is critical for success in life. It also makes them value the object and be more grateful.

Teach them how to save for what they want. It is a good idea to give them a piggy bank when they are small and later you could open a bank account.  Let them deposit money received as gifts or if they earn some tasks besides their regular chores. Nonetheless, be judicious when doling out money. Don’t ever pay them for tidying their room or washing dishes which are mandatory requirements.

Not wasting money and learning to save will help your child remain debt-free in adulthood.

Life Skills That Will Last A Life-time

Raising confident and successful human beings does not happen overnight. It begins in early childhood by instilling the right skill set. How to deal with all the situational challenges they may encounter.

Even though, life is constantly evolving and changing. Quite a few things will become redundant by the time kids grow up. However, adapting and maneuvering through tricky situations are all dependent on having the right skills to do so.

These skills cannot be instilled with just pep talks.  Kids also need a safe space to practice them. More importantly, they need to see these skills modeled by the adults in their life, particularly their parents.

Image Source: Pixabay

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