Independent, successful, happy, kind, and fragrant. Aren’t these the things we all want for our children? While the following five life skills are by no means a comprehensive guide to teaching your kids all they need to know in life, they provide a great head start.
1. Teach Your Children Money Management
Your child asks you to buy her a rather expensive toy. You sigh and say it’s too much money. She looks up at you with big questioning eyes, and suggests you just go to the bank and get some more money. This would be adorable if it were coming from your four-year old, but your daughter is twelve.
The sooner kids understand that money is a result of hard work, the better chance they will have respecting and managing their money well as adults. Parents can help their children respect the family’s finances by not purchasing every little thing their child’s heart desires, even if it fits within the budget. Give your children the opportunity to work in order to earn money to buy the things they want. Setting up a savings count for your child helps him to become financially aware at an early age. Parents can also bring attention to the fact that they have to pay bills and budget for groceries, clothes, and entertainment. Showings kids how careful you are with your own money will encourage them to value the almighty dollar, and will encourage them to become managers of the small incomes they incur.
2. Teach Your Children to be Independent
If you should, heaven forbid, suddenly disappear, when your kids became hungry, would they A) eat all the cereal and then proceed to the peanut butter container, B) make themselves a sandwich or some eggs, or C) starve to death. If A or C sounds like your kids, it’s time to teach them to learn to be independent.
Let’s use food preparation as an example. 6-8 year olds are capable of pouring their own cereal, making their own sandwiches, boiling pasta or eggs, peeling fruits and vegetables, and frying eggs or frilled cheese. By the time they are 12, they should be able to work in the kitchen with sharp knives and specialty appliances, and baking foods in the oven. Don’t balk. Your children can do more than you think they can. And if your kids complain that they are too young to prepare their own food, remind them that Mesopotamian kids were picking wheat from fields, grinding it up with stones and then baking bread over fires in caves. Making their own PB & J should seem pretty easy in comparison. Teaching kids to be able to take of themselves on the most basic level inspires confidence, and fosters independence.
3. Teach Your Children to Read for Pleasure
Children who are read to at home have a higher success rate in school. Parents who do “all the voices” while reading are guaranteed to have children who will become either brain surgeons or astronauts. (Research on the latter statement is pending.)
Seriously, reading for pleasure has been linked to really good things, like better mental health, a reduction in the risk of dementia, increased mental concentration and agility, and reduction in stress. Reading for pleasure is “more important than wealth or social class as an indicator of success at school.” Reading grows imaginations, allows kids access to different cultures, ways of thinking, and even teaches them to be more empathetic. And since libraries offer books to anyone free of charge, well, the playing field for success just became a lot more even.
A love of reading is best fostered in the home, and kids who read for pleasure are better able to read and comprehend content in a variety of subject areas and formats. Start reading aloud to your children as soon as possible, then provide them with ample material in order to encourage their reading skills. The library card should be the first card your kids ever apply for, and regular visits to the library ought to be the norm.
4. Teach Your Children to be Hygienic
Because when your son goes off to college, you don’t want him to stink up Seminar in Freshman English. The best way to make sure your kids lead hygienic lives is to help them form habits at a young age. Flossing and brushing regularly could save you (and them) hundreds of dollars in dental bills down the line. (It could also save them from leaving bad impressions on every one they meet. No one forgets the person with the dragon breath.) Washing hands after going to the bathroom, showering regularly, using deodorant, clipping nails, looking tidy, and wearing clean clothes are habits that should be practiced on a daily basis. If you make sure your child never leaves the house without brushing, they will eventually not be able to stand to leave the house with unclean incisors; it will feel wrong and uncomfortable. If you teenager feels wrong and uncomfortable when they aren’t clean, you have succeeded as a parent.
5. Teach Your Children Empathy
Empathy is considered to be the most important of all the emotional intelligence life skills. Empathetic people have the ability to not only monitor their own emotions, but are able to imagine themselves in another person’s shoes. Becoming empathetic is easier said than done, however, when you’re a self-absorbed kid.
While we might blame selfishness on our kids’ not-yet-developed prefrontal cortex, there are actually scientifically backed ways to teach your children to be more empathetic. From modeling empathetic behavior to giving kids the opportunity to serve others, parents can help kids become more compassionate people who are better able to regular their own emotions. Empathetic people are better able to maintain friendships, be a part of strong communities, and are happier and more content than those who put generally put themselves first.
Parenting is a tough gig, but growing up to be independent, successful, happy, kind, and fragrant adult might be harder. Luckily, knowing how to pass on the aforementioned skills helps you succeed as a parent, and gives your children the resources they need to handle whatever life throws their way.