Life Skills (Raising Our Children to Become Responsible and Kind Adults)
Our children are only children for a short while. Let us enjoy and appreciate the innocence of our children, but at the same time, train and prepare them to be responsible, kind, compassionate, functional, and independent adults.
I have compiled a list of Life Skills that I have been teaching my boys over the past year. There is so much more we can add to the list, but here is a start. Feel free to add your life lessons in the comments.
Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day but teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime. Food is vital to our survival. We need to know how food affects our bodies. The first thing we should learn is how to go grocery shopping properly. Where are items located? Do we know anything about food expirations (when in doubt, throw it out to avoid food poisoning)? Fresh foods vs. frozen foods, sugar intake, seasoning, food storage, heating temperatures for cooking, boiling water, opening a canned good, preparing a simple dinner and cleanup, and what does not go in the microwave (metal, aluminum foil) are all things that need to be taught.
Knowing how to grow foods is also important. I challenge you to start growing one vegetable with your child. Make it their responsibility to water and grow it. Once it is ready, use it to make a yummy meal.
- Discuss different foods and how they fuel our body differently (fruits, vegetables, starches, dairy, sweets, etc.)
- Go through refrigerator and cabinets to check expiration dates on all items. Organize the pantry and place like foods in a manner that enables the oldest to be used first (throw away expired items and make this a monthly habit)
- Let them choose what they want for dinner, write down the items needed to make that meal (Ex. Spaghetti needs pasta, sauce, ground beef, sausage, etc.)
- Teach them how to grocery shop (give them a list of dinner items and let them find where they are in the grocery store); have patience.
- Teach them how to make dinner (with assistance) from scratch
- Visit Lowe’s or Home Depot’s plant section, and let them pick out a vegetable to plant (do not forget a pot and potting soil)
- Teach them how to plant the vegetable, water, and care for it (once it is ready in a few months, use it in a meal)
Laundry can be a simple task, but one drop of bleach in the colored clothes can make a simple task devastating, especially if it is your favorite shirt. Knowing how to separate clothes (darks-cold, whites-hot), washing, drying, folding clothes properly, ironing, hanging clothes, and drawer organization are all-important when dealing with laundry.
- Show them what bleach, laundry detergent, and fabric softener looks like and explain their purpose
- Teach them how to separate clothes by darks, lights, and whites
- Teach them how much clothes, detergent, fabric softener, or bleach to add to the washing machine
- Show and explain what the different buttons and icons mean on the washing machine and dryer
- Teach them how to wash and dry a load of clothes
- Show them where the lint trap is in the dryer so they know to empty it after every dryer load (educate them on how fires can start if the lint trap is never emptied)
- Teach them how to properly fold clothes and put them away in their drawer or hang them in the closet
- Teach them about their appropriate clothing size (when clothing no longer fits and how to donate them)
- Take them to a clothing store and have them pick out an entire outfit according to their size (you do not have to purchase the outfit)
How can we be responsible for our money? I did an article about Financial Freedom (www.itsabusylife.com/financial-freedom) that talks about the importance of money and have complete control over your finances. The same needs to go for our children. Saving, the importance of money, using the ATM, consequences of irresponsible spending, tipping, taking out loans, and monthly budgeting is important conversations to have.
- Explain the value of money, why we save, and what we use money for
- Get them an inexpensive piggy bank or savings account and start showing them how to save
- Teach them how to use an ATM and the importance of a PIN
- Teach them about tipping (how much is necessary and the reason why we tip someone)
Haven’t we been spoiled by technology? Remember when we had to ask someone for directions and prayed, we found the location? Knowing what a map is and how to orient it will expand your child’s knowledge of navigation. Booking a flight and passports should also be a topic of discussion. There may be a time when our children will need to take a flight instead of drive. What is a terminal, what are the steps to check-in, what can and can’t I take on the plane with me? Car symbol familiarization may sound simple, but they will most likely remember as they get older if they are taught while young. These are all particularly important.
- Teach them how to read and orient a map/where is north (there are maps in Walmart and Target for around $5)
- Teach them how to use a compass
- Teach them the meanings of street signs and lights
- Explain to them what a passport and plane ticket are
- Walk them through the steps of checking in for your flight (TSA, security, what you can and cannot take through the security checkpoint)
- Teach them what the icons in a vehicle mean (low tire pressure, gas, oil, signals, etc)
- Show them how to tell which side of the vehicle the gas tank is located
- Teach them how to properly pay for and pump gas (let them do it after you teach them)
I was raised in the south where yes ma’am, no ma’am, yes sir, and no sir was second nature. We should be teaching handshakes, manners, etiquette, and communication. If our children do not use these manners as parents, how are they treating their teachers, other adults, and friends?
We must also discuss bullying and how to intervene or handle a bully if they see it. Bullying is something that is not talked about that much but should be. You never want your child to be bullied, be the bully, or not tell an adult if they witness bullying. Bullying can sometimes lead to suicide, and again these are conversations we need to have.
- Explain to them what bullying is, how to identify a bully, and what to do if you encounter a bully
- Teach them how to introduce themselves
- Teach them about handshakes (No dead fish), eye contact when communicating, and public etiquette
- Teach them about inappropriate and hurtful words and the power of our words (sticks and stones may break our bones, but words can definitely hurt us)
You’ve Got Mail
I know some of us learned this in school, but some schools do not teach how to write a letter. Heck, they do not even teach cursive anymore. Imagine your child sitting in front of a college recruiter asking them to sign for their scholarship, and they print their name. That is not the moment to teach your child the difference between printing and signing their name.
Learning how to write and mail off a letter, checking and sending emails, setting up signature blocks for email will come in handy as your child gets older. Teach them now.
- Teach them their address
- Teach them how to write a letter to a family member
- Teach them how to address the envelope with their information and the person they are sending it to
- Explain to them what stamps are and how many are needed to mail something
- Go to the post office and have them communicate with the mail clerk on purchasing stamps to mail their letter
- Teach them how to mail the letter and either place it in the mailbox and raise the red flag or place in an outgoing mail slot if you are in a community that does not have individual mailboxes
- If you have teens, teach them the importance of email, how to set up, check, and send an email
Self-care is not selfish. Your child needs to understand their bodies and how their bodies feel. What hygiene products do I use and need, and what is their purpose? What to do when you feel sick, simple home remedies (hot water and lemon), basics of over-the-counter medications are essential. Advil, Tylenol, and Motrin are painkillers. None should be mixed with alcohol. Follow the dosage directions on the bottle and take the smallest dose that helps you.
Tip: Go to Walgreens! The pharmacist is a great resource and is almost always happy to help if you have any questions.
- Discuss body odor and what is needed for hygiene daily from head to toe (toothbrush, toothpaste, facial wash, brush/comb, deodorant, bodywash, loofa, lotion, etc.)
- Have them make a list of all their hygiene needs and go to the store to locate them
- Teach them about basic over the counter medications and when to take them (natural remedies are also something to go over because not everything requires medication)
- Teach age-appropriate children about menstrual cycles (how our bodies feel, what products to use, etc.)
- Discuss massages, manicures, pedicures, exercise, and sleep (discuss the affects on our bodies if we do not take care of it)
Each child has their own style. I know my boys do. We must teach what to wear to an interview, tie a tie (YouTube helps), hair, and casual vs. business casual. These may seem like minor things, but trust, they will go a long way as our children grow up.
- Discuss weather appropriate clothing
- Discuss interview appropriate clothing
- Teach them how to tie a tie
- Teach them how to iron their clothes
- Teach them how to check their appearance in a mirror
- Teach them about grooming standards (haircuts, clean nails, etc.)
Although we do most of the cleaning as parents, our children must know how to clean independently. Safety of products, kitchen, bathrooms, etc. Using gloves and not mixing products is a good way to start.
- Teach them how to use a broom and mop/wet Swiffer
- Teach them about different cleaning products and how to use them safely
- Discuss using gloves to protect their skin when cleaning
- Teach them how to wash dishes and how to use the dishwasher
- Teach them how to clean the bathrooms (sink, bathtub, toilets, etc.)
- Teach them how to clean and wipe down common areas
Our identity is vital. There are so many scams going on in the world, and they seem more real every day. Knowing your social security number by heart and its importance is a great way to start this conversation about identity. Your social security number is sacred and should not be shared loosely.
- Show them the movie Identity Thief (just kidding)
- Discuss why we have social security numbers and birth certificates
- Show them yours and their IDs, social security cards, and birth certificates
- Discuss the importance of protecting your social security information
Although it is so easy to make a call to schedule a service appointment for almost anything, knowing how to fix things on your own can come in handy and save you money. Changing a light bulb, or God forbid, the batteries in the TV remote do not work!
- Show them different tools and discuss their use (screwdriver, hammer, nails, etc.)
- Teach them how to change a light bulb
- Teach them the different types of batteries and how to change a battery in a remote, toy, etc.
- Go to the store and get inexpensive materials to build a birdhouse together
Although this list could go on forever, there is so much in life that we will be teaching our children through trial and error. Heck, there will be things in life that our children teach us, and what a blessing that will be. Let me know in the comments how these Life Skill teachings have helped you and your family.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6