Parenting is training our kids to become successful, respectful, responsible adults, while also focusing on building a strong relationship that will last a lifetime. One important area of focus is in teaching life skills. The skills we teach our kids set them up for success as adults. These life skills are much more lasting than any lecture we can give. In order to teach our kids how to thrive as adults, they need to know many basic skills and how to handle themselves. Being an adult is hard and it’s even harder if we aren’t prepared.
I think many adults enter adulthood unprepared for many of the challenges they will face. And it’s impossible to teach our kids every lesson they’ll ever need to learn as kids. But we can make an effort to teach our kids important and necessary life skills. The process of learning these skills is what really matters. The problem-solving and resilience in learning will serve them well as adults.
We want our kids to learn as much (and make as many mistakes as possible) while they are young. Mistakes are usually easier to bounce back from when they are younger, rather than as an adult. This is especially true when they have supportive parents. So, it’s important to allow them to do things themselves and use their own ideas. Safe mistakes are great ways to learn.
When we talk about life skills, I don’t only mean cooking and laundry. Social and emotional skills are incredibly important. Having a good handle on our emotional health can help us when we encounter a physical skill we need to learn.
Start teaching life skills:
Make 2 lists:
Think of life skills you learned as a child that you are thankful you learned.
Think of things you learned as an adult that you wished you’d learned as a kid.
Combine your two lists and find fun, creative ways to teach your kids these skills.
- Create real-life scenarios.
- Avoid rescuing them from struggles, but always be there to consult if they need help.
- Let them handle and do things themselves.
- Have hypothetical what-if conversations.
- Let them help you with everything.
- Let them see how you manage your life.
- Model your own management, skills, emotional-regulation, problem-solving.
- Let them try out their own (safe) ideas to learn the cause and effect of decision making.
- Focus on the learning process more than the end result. The learning process is what will serve them later when they encounter a problem they have never faced.
- Remind them they can do hard things and are capable of learning anything. (Read more on Helping Kids Develop a Growth Mindset here.)
- Kids feel good about themselves when they accomplish something. This can build their self-worth.
These are all important skills to learn, but don’t feel like a failure if you can’t teach your kids everything. Ensuring they have a growth mindset and the belief they can persevere through hard times can greatly help them when they encounter something they feel unprepared for.
- How to motivate themselves
- Manners, being polite
- Dealing with failure
- Growth Mindset and Resilience
- How to handle rude/mean people
- Emotional management
- Conflict resolution
- Impulse control
- Asking for help
- Respect (for themselves and others)
- Apologizing, admitting a mistake
- Problem-solving, knowing how/when/who to ask for help
- Applying for a job
- Banking, checkbook, accounts
- Making phone calls (doctor, dentist, etc.)
- Car care
- Cooking, laundry, dishes, cleaning, yard care, basic household jobs
- Organization of time and material
- Money management, taxes, credit, paying bills
- How to fix things
- Car care, flat tire, oil change, etc.
- Pet care
- Use a fire extinguisher
- Grocery shopping
- Mail, email, send letters
- Follow a map
This may seem like an overwhelming number of things you need to teach your kids. Please remember that it would be nearly impossible to teach your kids every life-skill, and there are some things we want them to learn on their own. The key is that you’ve given them the skills to figure out how to handle a situation they have never encountered.
As parents, we can keep these things in mind as we engage with our kids. We can find times to help them learn a certain skill. One of the best ways to do this is simply living life with them. Allow them to help with tasks and discuss the process. Have fun doing these things together. While we want to instill a lesson and skill, we are also fostering our relationship.
By: Emily Scott, PhD
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