This article was first published on #Womensweb and won me the Orange Flower award for 2020 for parent blogging
Essential Life Skills for your kids
When my kids turned 10, my husband and I decided to start giving them monthly pocket money. Oh, it was a paltry sum of ₹ 250/-. But the idea was to teach them budgeting, money management and also to learn to live within their means. We impressed upon them the fact that they had to make do with that amount only for the entire month. A few trials and tribulations later, they sunk into a routine. Around this time a friend decided to take them shopping with her kids. When my kids got home that evening, they came back empty handed.
When I asked why, they said, ‘Mumma, everything was too expensive. We checked the price of all the games like you taught us. We even tried to pool our money but it was not worth spending so much n one thing only.’
The same evening my friend called me up and said, ‘Sonal, I don’t know how to be delicate about this but is there a financial problem? Are you and your husband cash strapped?’
I was surprised. I asked why she thought so. What gave her that impression?
She replied, ‘your kids picked up a lot of games at the mall, turned the package over, read the printed price and put it back saying it was too expensive.’
A lot of mother’s may find the above story insulting or even too harsh. Not me though. I was incredibly proud of my kids. That one visit to the mall wherein in practice they understood the concept of money management made me a proud mother. Needless to say, they did get the game they wanted. I bought it for them later. after all they had learned their lesson.
The reason for the above story is that as parents it is our endeavour to send our children to the best schools. We want them to get a good education. But, is that all that a child needs to learn? What about life skills? You know those essential skills that every person needs to learn to navigate through life? Now I know a lot of you will agree with me when I say that life skills trump any other skills, any day. They help you learn things that you are actually going to use in your life.
So what are these life skills? What are the most essential ones? And, why are they so important?
Well, here is a list that I have stuck to in order to help my kids navigate life better. I classify it broadly into 2 categories – Skills required inside the house and skills required outside.
SKILLS REQUIRED INSIDE THE HOUSE.
Every day we execute a plethora of tasks to ensure that our household runs smoothly. A home is like a well oiled vehicle. All the wheels have to churn in tandem; all the gears need to engage sequentially in order to make the vehicle run. Now I agree that not all the tasks that adults do at home can be executed by children but there are some that should be taught so that they do not face a problem later in life. Irrespective of the gender, children should be encouraged to perform them in a non-gender specific manner.
- Household chores – be it dusting, mopping, swabbing, washing utensils, or doing laundry etc, children should be encouraged to help out with all. Doing household chores teaches children responsibility and empathy. Kids should also be encouraged to walk the pet (if you have a dog) and be responsible for its upkeep. They should be taught how to deal with vendors like the dhobi, milkman etc.
- Light a match stick/cooking – once children are old enough to manage they should be taught how to light a match. Every child needs to know the basics of cooking. They must know how to prepare simple meals like salads or even boil water. They can be made responsible at this stage for both setting and clearing the dining table both pre and post meals.
- Operating and repairing electrical appliances – at around 10 years of age, most kids turn inquisitive about electrical appliances. So, this is the right time to teach them about irons, hair dryers, juicers etc. Anything that is not too cumbersome to install or operate. The care of these products should also be emphasized so that the kids learn to not only use them but also maintain them.
- First aid – although schools stress upon this as a chapter in class VII or VIII but adopting a practical approach at home always helps. Help your child to make a first aid box that he/she can maintain at home. Teach them about the various ointments, solutions or lotions to be used and emphasize on the importance of first aid.
- Etiquette – I have always firmly believed that the seeds of etiquette are sown at home. Teach your children how to answer the phone in a polite manner, how to take a message. Teach them how to greet other people in your housing society. There is no shame in wishing an adult they do not personally know if he/she is a resident. Teach them how to behave when you have guests over. Etiquette breeds courtesy. So, teach your child how to greet people, thank people and be courteous to them either verbally or non-verbally.
- Making to-do lists – encourage your children to go shopping with you for household utilities. Dictate a list to them. Ask them to go check the bathroom, utility cupboard etc for supplies that may be running low. At the store, ask them to search for the item, compare different brands and finally select one after checking the price and benefits. This may seem like a lot of work because most mothers are quite hard pressed for time while monthly shopping. But, a bit of patience and guidance on your part can go a long way in helping your child to learn how to weigh pros and cons.
SKILLS REQUIRED OUTSIDE THE HOUSE
Since our children spend a substantial amount of time outside the house so it’s important to teach them about skills that they will need to employ outside the house. A child of 10 may be too young to teach these to so depending on when you feel your kid is ready (generally between 12-14 years), you can start with these.
- Using public transport – The times that we live in can be dangerous for a young child with poor navigational skills. So, teach your child how to use a GPS. Teach them how to hail an auto rickshaw or get into a bus. Teach them how to purchase tickets, what routes to take, when to raise an alarm etc. These may seem like insignificant things and I have seen many parents ignore them too but trust me when I say that navigating through this world requires this skill the most.
- Bank work and managing money – My children have had a bank account in their name since they were 5. Every month my husband and I deposit some money into their accounts. The monetary gifts that they get from relatives are also deposited in the back, as are their savings from their pocket money (whatever is left). Once my kids turned teens, we taught them how to check their bank balance. We taught them how to use their ATM card (in our presence and with our permission) and also how to read and decipher a bank statement. Kids should be encouraged to pay the vendors who come home for deliveries. Let them count the money and calculate the change amount. Teach them how much to tip and whom.
- Time management – I feel this is one of the most essential life skills that a child needs. The school curriculum now leaves children with little time to indulge in social activities. Once back from school kids are either juggling tuitions or busy with studies. In such a scenario it becomes important to teach the kid how to manage to accomplish a lot in a minimum amount of time. Start them off with making lists and prioritizing the tasks. Teach them the merits of smart working vs. hard working.
- Dining out – Once in a while, take your kids out to good restaurants and teach them how to read a menu and order food. At home you can teach them about dining etiquettes – role of table napkin, which cutlery to use for which food, how to place crockery correctly etc. But, I have always found it advisable to follow up on table etiquette in an actual external setting. Fine dining restaurants maintain an ambience and expect even young guests to maintain decorum. A formal style to dressing is often also followed. Teach your children these nuances so that they are not at a loss if ever thrust into such a setting.
The above is not an exhaustive list. After all every parent knows what is best for their kids. But, the above is definitely something that I have followed when it came to raising my kids and it has helped them.