PARENTALK: Important life skills to teach the kids
In the race to make our kids employment-ready, we often worry about imparting academic skills to them. Every once in a while I come across frantic parents who are worried that their 3-year-old doesn’t know numbers or cannot write letters. However, it is very rare to come across parents worried about teaching their children to cook or to wash their clothes. This mentality is driven by the assumption that we will always be around to help kids with these tasks. We focus on making them ready for college or board exams but not handling the challenges that life throws at them. Do not forget that when your child gets that coveted admission after putting their academic skills to use, they will have to deal with money, wash their clothes and nurse their wounds.
I have never come across a school-going child who didn’t learn to count but has met at least a dozen adults who cannot do first aid or make themselves a snack. It is thus important for kids to learn life skills. As parents we often wonder about the right age to teach life skills. Well, it is never too early to begin life skills education. If one can expect a 4-year-old to read, it is certainly not too early to load the washing machine or to fold a few clothes. Many parents think that it is the age for children to play and you wouldn’t want to burden them with chores. However, kids enjoy these activities. Teaching them early ensures that they do not perceive it as a burden later in life.
Here are top life skills you can teach your kids to equip them to handle real-life situations:
Decision-Making Skills: You may think that your little one is too small to make their decisions, but the opposite is true. Decision-making skills inculcated in childhood will last them throughout their life. The ability to make their decisions will also make them more confident. Start with small decisions like the color of dress they’d like to wear, the flavor of ice cream, or if they’d like roti or rice. Do not overwhelm with a lot of options and value their choice, even if that means they’d end up looking like a clown. As they grow up, you can trust them with bigger decisions. Help them with the process of decision-making by evaluating the pros and cons together and deciding.
Making their snack: Children over the age of 3 can learn to handle knives under supervision. At this age, you can teach them fireless cooking. They can make simple sandwiches, milkshakes or cut their salad. You can also start by teaching them to heat stuff in the microwave. Teach them more skills in the kitchen as they grow and you will soon have a child ready for hostel or marriage.
Laundry: My aunty always urged her kids to wash their undergarments. They also had a weekly ritual of washing their outfits with their hands. While we have modern washing machines now, hand washing is an important skill that I have struggled without. Teach them to wash and dry clothes for that rare day when they may not have access to a washing machine. Or, they may grow up to be mountain climbing and hiking enthusiasts who cannot carry machines to the trek. Even with washing machines, let them help you load, unload, and hang the clothes to dry. Children over 4 years of age can also fold small clothes and help to keep them away. Now that is one benefit of having kids 😉.
Cleaning up and organization: If you are sick of hearing of people living in clutter, start teaching children early to stay clean and organized. Have a designated space for everything in the house and direct little children to keep things where they took them from. Repetition and routine will train them to keep everything where it belongs. Insist them to throw the wrappers in the dustbin, to keep their plate in the sink after they finish eating, and to make their bed after they wake up. This can start as early as 2.5 years of age. Remember, they will do a shoddy job at folding the blanket and the bed won’t look wrinkle-free but they will learn and imbibe cleaning and organization as a part of the routine. You can make a daily cleaning schedule and make cleaning fun for the child by doing it along.
Personal Hygiene: It may seem obvious for you to teach them to brush their teeth or to wash their hands before eating. However, many adults still do not have these healthy habits. Yes, you read that right. One of my friends is struggling with a husband who doesn’t brush his teeth when not reminded and doesn’t wash his hands or mouth. Imagine, your child being that adult with a poor sense of personal hygiene. Apart from reminding them to do their chores, also talk to them about the importance of hygiene. Make a visual checklist that they can refer to. This will help you to reach a stage where you do not have to remind them about these basic tasks.
Financial management: A lot of us adults struggle with finances, impulse control, and huge credit card bills only because we haven’t been taught money management. Apart from spending and taking back change, we also need to teach our children the importance of controlling our urges, distinguishing between needs and wants, budgeting, saving etc. A piggy bank can be a helpful tool to teach this. You can start having the need vs want discussion right after they start speaking and start sending them to run the errands around 8 years of age. You can also start with the basics of budgeting around 6-7 years of age.
Punctuality and time management: Sticking to schedules is an important skill that helps one to be successful in time. The habit of procrastination is a constant struggle that many of us can relate to. While it may seem difficult, modeling punctuality is the only strategy that works here. If children see you reaching everywhere before time, they are likely to follow suit. Also, create a daily routine and make sure you stick to it.
Household maintenance tasks: There is a lot more to do in the house than cleaning and cooking. Involve the child in age-appropriate maintenance tasks like changing the cover in the dustbin, changing the bathroom towel, changing light bulbs, etc.
Communication: I remember trembling when one day on my way back home from school, a construction worker asked me what the time was. I ignored and walked past and now think about how unhelpful I was. While talking to strangers can be risky, you cannot cut your child from communicating with the outside world. You cannot be with them always either. They must know how to talk to people outside the four walls of the house. Teach them ways to greet, say goodbye, politely answer questions, and disagree when required. Also, equip them with words and actions to use when they sense danger.
Adaptability: To keep our children comfortable and to avoid tantrums we often ensure that everything is how they expect it. However, this cannot go on for life. They will have to face the world and will not get the same yellow plate or the same temperature of the bedroom. While you keep them comfortable, ensure that they are used to everything. Do not carry the house when you travel and expose them to different ways of living. You may have a few issues in the beginning but later you will have a child who can adjust in all situations.
There is a lot more to raising kids than just educating them and making them employable. Focus on the life skills above to make their life easier.
Smriti is a freelance content writer and an avid reader. She quit her 6 year-long IT career to embrace her love for writing. She writes content across genres and takes pride in her ability to research and carve magic with words. She passionately writes about parenting and is currently working on her book. When not writing or reading, she can be seen running behind any of her 2 kids or learning Deutsch.