When people think of life skills in an educational setting, they often assume that these are the easy classes for underachievers. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The reality is that our children need life skills today more than ever. So much emphasis has been placed on academia, that we can often forget that certain life skills are just as important for setting our kids up for successful and happy lives.
No matter how academically intelligent your children are, if they don’t know basic life skills they will come up against struggles in life that could have easily been avoided. As home educating parents, its important to remember that even though society seems to place a higher value on academia than life skills, in reality, giving your children basic life skills can make all the difference for them. So what are the top life skills that will make your child’s life better? Well that might differ slightly from one child to the next, but here are a few suggestions.
Communication and Personal Skills
The ability to work well with others is arguably the single most important skill necessary for success in life. Of course, we have all met that one wildly intelligent doctor with terrible bedside manner. And while he may be successful, the truth is that not many patients want to see him. It doesn’t matter to them how intelligent he is if he cannot communicate in a compassionate and effective way.
This is true in almost every line of work. While there are a few jobs in which people work alone, most careers involve interactions with other people. And that requires communication and personal skills. In the working world, these skills are referred to as “soft skills” and employers value these skills just as much, if not more, than they value a prospective employees GPA, IQ, or academic intelligence. Unlike IQ, soft skills are things that your children can learn and develop. Soft skills include the ability to communicate effectively, to listen to other people and ideas, and to work together with others as a team. There are countless opportunities to teach your children soft skills
Trust building and teamwork games are some of the best ways you can teach your children soft skills. And the best part about teaching with games is that your kids won’t even know they are learning. They’ll be having too much fun with the game to even realize they are picking up on vital life skills. The internet is full of examples of these games and activities, but there are a few really good ones.
The human knot is one of the best teamwork activities. For this game, you do need a good number of participants. If you have a big family, it is possible to play this game on your own. If not, you may want to save this game for a get together with another family. In this game, you stand in a circle holding hands, and you mix yourselves up by stepping over and under arms, and turning this way and that until you have created a human knot. The one person left outside of the circle tells each person what to do in an attempt to untangle the knot. This game requires listening skills, communication, and the ability to follow directions exactly.
Another game you can play is the blanket game. In this game, your children stand on a blanket and they have to figure out how to flip the blanket over without moving their feet. It is more difficult than it sounds, and it requires communication and teamwork. There are a lot of games your children play on their own that are also promoting these soft skills. Any rendition of the age old game “house” usually requires a working out of who will play whom, what situation they are playing out, etc. Playing with other children is one of the best ways to teach your children communication and personal skills.
If you do not have a big family where your children are exposed daily to the need to communicate through play, you will want to be intentional about play dates and allowing your children to be exposed to situations in which they will need to communicate and problem solve with their peers.
Practice Listening and Communicate Feelings
This is just a good habit for all of us to get into. Few people really know how to listen to others. If your children know how to listen attentively, they will stand out from their peers. This can begin at home with the way you handle disagreements between your children. When you mediate, encourage each child involved to speak, one at a time, while the other child listens. Praise your child’s listening skills as much as you praise the communication of feelings. Teach your children how to use “I” statements, explaining how something makes them feel. If you can teach your children to listen empathetically and speak their emotions clearly, you will be well on your way to raising children with excellent interpersonal skills.
Few things are more important in life than money management. Teaching our children the way that money works is vital for their success in life. This involves teaching them about more than simply how to keep to a budget. Teaching our children money management looks different depending on the ages of your children. Even the youngest kids can be taught about money.
Financial advisor Chris Hogan says that he puts his kids on commission. He explains what that means. His kids have a certain number of chores which they are expected to do for no pay. However, he keeps a chart of extra chores he needs done around the house, and his kids can sign up for these. He pays them extra if they do the job exceptionally well. This instills in them the value of a job well done. This will follow them throughout their lives, likely resulting in an excellent track and glowing references. This will open more doors for them in life than a high GPA alone could.
Chores and Earning
For the youngest students, simply learning the value of money and work ethic is enough to get them on the road to one day being great money managers. If your children already have chores they must do, make a list of extra chores they can do for money. Then, when they ask for something, you can look up the cost of the item and then count what they have saved. You may choose to give them the option of doing even more extra chores to get to their goal faster. This will teach your children that hard work pays off.
If you have students in middle school or high school, you can take advantage of some of the best money management books ever written. I highly recommend that everyone reads The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Danko. I also recommend Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. If your son or daughter has access to this information before college, he or she will have an incredible head start on building wealth.
Robert Kiyosaki developed a board game that he used to teach finances to college students. It’s called the CashFlow game. This game takes all of his advice about money and investing and puts it into a game so students can see the way that it plays out. It mimics real life circumstances and teaches students how to get their money to work for them through money management and smart investment strategies. Cashflow Jr. is now available as well, so you can start teaching your younger children the value of money through this game.
Managing a Household
It is simply astounding how many young people have no idea how to cook or clean or manage a household. While these things may seem self-explanatory, it actually requires teaching and practice to develop these skills and habits in your children.
We have mentioned chores as a way to teach the value of work and money, but chores are also valuable in and of themselves, for the effect they produce: a cleaner home. Far too many young people who are out on their own for the first time simply have no idea how to keep a home clean. Because of this, they make terrible roommates and messy spouses. You can teach your children that everyone needs to be a part of making the home a nice place to live. This skill will follow them in life, and they will likely have an easier time living with roommates and/or adjusting to married life.
Cooking is simply a life essential. People who don’t know how to cook for themselves will end up spending exorbitant amounts of money on take out and eating out. This will in turn affect their ability to manage their finances and budget well. If you can teach your kids how to cook meals they will actually enjoy, they will be better equipped for life than many of their peers. This is also a fun thing that you can do in your home education.
You can give each of your children a night to be in charge of the meal. As they get older, you can slowly step back and allow them more and more autonomy until they can eventually make the meal themselves. Allowing your child to choose which meal he or she wants to make will also help motivate them to learn to cook it. If it looks delicious, they will want to make it! By the time your children leave home, they will have their favorite recipes under their belts. This will give them a head start as they leave the nest and embark on their own life journey.