Build Life Skills

“If we want to raise resilient children, our words and actions must convey to them that none of their questions are silly or irrelevant.”

Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein - Nurturing Resilience in Our Children (2001)

Hi everyone and welcome to my Blog. If this is your first experience, then please make sure you read my previous Blogs. I’ve been writing a series of Blogs relating to raising resilient children after being inspired by a book called “Real Kids in an Unreal World” by Maggie Dent.

This weeks chat is about building life skills in our kids.

I’ve been pondering the term “life skills” and casting my mind back to when my children were young and what I consciously did to teach them skills to get on in life.

The first thing which came to mind was having to let go of my need for things to be done “properly” and in a timely manner. As I write these words, I feel a bit like a control freak. I guess I was in a way, before kids came along. I was used to doing things myself and my way.

Two areas which I really needed to let go in were tidying up (toys/ rooms) and cooking. I found that I had to practice patience as I taught my kids these tasks. I remember almost twitching and wanting to take over pouring the cake mix into the muffin tray so that we didn’t have spillage. Yep, a bit controlling! Anyway, I managed to resist the need to take over as I witnessed the joy and pride in my childrens’ faces while they cooked. It was a great achievement for them and their joy, as always, was infectious.

Skipping back from memory lane………

I think I can safely speak for all parents when I say, we want our kids to manage what life throws at them well and to be happy. And, unless we plan to be the parents who live with our children forever as we continue to look after them, the way to achieve that is for us to teach them some basics. So here’s what my research (and life experience) has uncovered.

By the time they get to pre-school, they really must be able to dress themselves, clean their teeth, go to the toilet and wash their hands, get their own snacks and drinks and tie their own shoe laces.

As the children get older, ideally more and more skills should be introduced such as washing dishes, cooking, gardening, washing clothes, cutting with a sharp knife, mowing the lawn, washing a car and of course, cleaning up after themselves. Sounds easy and perfect doesn’t it???? Ha!

I must say that even though there were times when my kids weren’t in the slightest bit interested in doing some of this stuff, they did learn the importance of us being a team and each of us doing our bit so no one person had a huge task load. Having said that, I did experience severe anxiety when my boys enthusiastically took to the roof to check out an issue with the chimney. I’d become too afraid for such tasks and they were fearless!

Side note…..neural pathways were not a topic of discussion when my children were growing up, but I have since learned that children have to do things many times over before the neural pathway is established for learning to occur. So let’s remember to wear our “patience hat”. :) And please don’t assume your child just knows how to do something that you think he should.

Apart from the domestic chores, there are other ways in which we can teach our kids the skills they need to get on in life.

Children need to experience failure and disappointment before being comforted straight away. It’s also a good idea to allow kids to experience death/ loss of a small pet, like a goldfish, guinea pig or mouse.

Kids also need to learn how to think for themselves and solve problems, so encourage them to think situations through without offering them an instant solution. See what they come up with and create a conversation around the issue and how it can be resolved.

Here are some phrases out of Maggie Dent’s book which would encourage children to think and process things:

“How might we resolve this?”

‘What do you think needs to happen right now?”

“I know you can handle this.”

“Different people have different need.” (In response to, “It’s not fair!”)

“Sounds like you/ we have a problem.”

“There is a conflict here. How can I help you sort it out?”

and one of my favourites:

“Check it out inside. Does it feel right?”

Have faith in your kids. Given the time and the right encouragement and tools, they are capable of some amazing problem solving.

It’s important for kids to develop a sense of humour, so share some jokes with them, encourage them to laugh at themselves at times and be sure to teach them what humour is appropriate.

Bullying is a HUGE topic now, so I think children also need to learn the difference between bullying and normal childhood unpleasantness.

Do you ever find yourself comparing your child/ren to either their siblings or other kids their age? Please try to nip that in the bud. Being constantly compared to an older sibling can be demoralising, humiliating and frustrating. I speak from experience and urge you to refrain. Because, aren’t we also trying to teach our children that we are all different and beautiful in our own way?

In closing, can I just add that even though my beautiful kids are all functioning adults without a need for parental intervention, I still have to stop myself from offering solutions and helping “too much”. The need to rescue our children is all ours and we do them no favours by jumping in and doing too much for them.

Love them, play with them, laugh with them, teach them and help them to grow into amazing, resilient, happy adults.

My next blog will be about meaningful involvement with positive adults. Join me!

Until then…….

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I love helping families feel happier! If you would like to chat about how I can help you, and you live in Melbourne, follow this link to my “Contact Me” page.

This piece is written with the intention of helping parents create happier and more resilient children and is subject to copyright. Please contact the author if you wish to publish elsewhere.