Raise a survivor

Essential skills that every child needs to master

Father teaching his son to in tying a tie

Do you remember how typing was a rage when you were younger? With the typewriter in the grave, the typing skills you learnt then, help you even today as you work your way on your laptop. With technological advancement and the changing state of affairs in the world, the skills that we require to be successful are constantly changing but any skill once learnt never goes waste. Here are some skills that stand the test of time and will help your child ride the tide of life at all times.

Asking questions and finding answers

William Allin said, “Education is not about answering questions, it is about questioning answers.” We need to encourage our children to think critically and question what they observe around them, rather than become passive recipients of what life offers. Every child’s brain is held hostage by innumerable questions; however, parents should not extinguish this desire for learning and discovering.

As children grow, we must teach them how to find their own answers and path. In fact, many schools and systems now have adopted an inquiry based approach to learning in order to augment these skills in children.

Educating future work-force

One of my friends once grumbled that the worst part of not having domestic help was having to organise her kids’ toys after they scattered them around at the end of the day.

In another instance, at a party I once attended, a little girl didn’t budge from her seat and waited for her maid to dispose her paper plate. On probing why she didn’t toss the plate herself she exclaimed, “How would I know where to find the garbage bin?” I wondered what’s behind this dependence from a five-year-old?

We either complete all our kids’ chores or hire help for them to such an extent that they never learn to be independent in running their own errands. As they grow, we sometimes fail to educate them to be independent in their thoughts too. Get a hold on your desire to do every thing for your child, because he will have to be on his own someday.

Home economics

Understanding that parents work hard to earn a living doesn’t require a mature mind, it requires communication. It’s important to make your child aware about the importance and management of money.

Money is important and the management of the same even more so. Learning how to make a budget and sticking to it, saving, frugality, paying bills and investing are some of the money related skills that children must know.

For a toddler, saving money in the piggy bank and buying a treat later can introduce the concept of saving. For a school going child, opening and operating a bank account teaches the same. For a teenager, letting him invest his savings reinforces the concept. Similarly, an allowance can be a very effective tool. Introducing any other age appropriate money concept should always be welcomed.

Winning ways to communicate feelings

From toddler-hood, it is important for parents to teach children how to recognise and communicate what they are feeling. This goes a long way in building the personality of the child and relationships with others. Children must be able to tell parents when they are happy, excited, upset, sad, scared, jealous, stressed or tired. For example, your child must be allowed to say, “I am feeling jealous that my friend has this toy and I don’t.” The moment the child recognises, accepts and expresses this feeling, you will be able be handle it as a parent by gently explaining the fact that it is okay to want things that others have, but it is not always possible. This situation would be easier to deal with than having a child throw tantrums over a toy.

Our behaviour is a manifestation of what is going on in our minds. When children can communicate feelings to the significant people in their lives, it helps them to become better at all the relationships that they will built in the course of their lives.

Integrating information effectively

With Google at our fingertips, we are loaded with information at the drop of a hat. However, having information is one thing and using it is another matter all together. Teach children to sieve the relevant from the irrelevant. Education is becoming more application based and many schools are already implementing this skill. They give students the tools and the information and expect them to synthesise and use the same to show their learning.

Get a hold on your desire to do every little thing for your child, because he will have to be on his own someday

Charity and the larger good

Schools and teachers often focus on core-mandated curricula and forget to enlighten children on the significance of philanthropy. Teaching your child to be charitable towards the less fortunate right from an early age will not only sensitise his mind and make him a better human being but also empower him. For a young child, feeding animals or gifting something to a less fortunate person introduces this concept. Older children can be encouraged to donate stuff to orphanages. Teenagers can volunteer in causes that are dear to them and take charity to an entirely new level. Plus, their act will have an incredible impact on their peers too.

Ways to go about it

Now that you know which skills you need to target, the next question is how can you impart these skills to your children? There are four ways of doing this successfully and generally a combination of these techniques works for any given skill-set.

Set an example yourself: You need to know you’re a pastor of your home and your children are your congregates. And the best and most effective way to teach them anything is to set the right example. If your child observes you donating things or helping needy people on a regular basis, you will never have to teach him that. It will come instinctively.

Talk and discuss: Make ‘discussions’ your ally. Sometimes having an open two way chat [not a lecture] with children helps impart skills. Discuss different subjects with them and get their opinions and share your views too. If the discussion is honest and two-sided it will definitely benefit your child. For example, discussions about the importance of right investments can make a big difference to financial skills of teenagers. Take newspaper reports and examples from all around you to talk about issues such as safety and abuse.

Formal learning: Enhance and expand their skills by being on a constant lookout for new kid-friendly, interactive and age appropriate workshops and courses. Workshops on specific skills such as first-aid, etiquette, personal defence, managing finances, internet safety and so on can be worthwhile for every child. Formal training to learn skills is appropriate for older children.

Be age appropriate: Don’t try to imprint a significant skill by giving children sermons but keep a spark of novelty alive in every lesson, at every age. For example, as a toddler you can teach your child to be safe and distant from fire and sharp objects. For a young child, you can also add road safety measures to this skill. And for a teenager, talk to him about safe driving, substance abuse, protecting oneself from danger and so on. The same technique can be used for all skills.

Based on child’s requirements and age, a parent must take a decision and tailor the concepts as to what level of the skill must be addressed.


A version of this was first published in the December 2012 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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