Our number one goal as parents is to raise happy children who are capable of taking on the adult world. We want them to have a strong sense of purpose, positive relationships, and an enriching career.
However, helping our children reach these goals is difficult.
We try to help by sending them to the best schools, hiring tutors, and paying for ACT and SAT prep courses. These are great ways to boost their academic achievements. But they neglect important life skills children need to overcome challenges and find opportunities.
If you want to raise a happy and capable child, teach them these six life skills.
Being assertive is a critical skill your kids will need throughout their life. They will be able to stick up for themselves, their ideas, and their loved ones.
Being assertive is a two step process. First, your child needs to understand their needs. Then, they need to clearly communicate those needs to others.
Tuning into their emotions can be uncomfortable for your child. But you can encourage them through the process by sitting with them and asking questions. Validate their feelings. Try using some of the following phrases:
— “How did that make you feel?”
— “That would be challenging.”
— “That sounds painful.”
— “I can see why you would feel that way.”
— “That must have been hard for you.”
How you react to your child’s emotions is how they will react to their own emotions. If you are validating and compassionate, then your child will embrace how they feel. If you ignore their emotions or punish them for how they feel, your child will push away or neglect their emotions, too.
Next, help your child learn to communicate their needs. They can share their needs and emotions by using “I” statements. Examples of “I” statements include:
— “I feel __ when…”
— “I need ___ when…”
— “I didn’t like it when…”
Because they’re still developing, this step may be challenging for children. Especially when emotions are running high. When my four year old is flooded with emotions, I remind her to “take a few deep breaths.” My husband and I will do them with her. Once she’s calmed down, we encourage her to “use her words.” This process helps her regulate her emotions (“deep breaths”) and reminds her to express what she needs (“use your words”).
Regulating emotions and expressing what they need is key to being assertive. Teaching your child to be assertive will help them in their relationships, at school, during hobbies, and in their careers.
Creativity is our number one innovator. All new problems and challenges require a creative solution. Without being able to imagine a new solution, we get stuck in our old problems. Einstein himself believed that, “creativity is intelligence having fun.”
It’s important to cultivate your child’s creativity. Organized institutions like school can unknowingly discourage creativity. By leaving no child left behind and trying to maintain high standardized test scores, school can feel like a factory. Creativity is neglected as teachers and staff focus on academic achievement and maintaining funding.
Keep your child’s spark of creativity alive by encouraging them to engage in creative activities outside of school. These can include:
— Arts and Crafts
— Building (Legos, blocks, wood work, etc.)
— Board games
Creativity is the tool your child will use when faced with new challenges. It will help them imagine new dreams and believe in brighter futures.
Self-care is an important way to manage the wear and tear of our daily lives. It manages stress levels, emotions, and fatigue. However, children don’t inherently know how to recognize when their stress and emotions are leading to fatigue and burnout.
As parents, we need to pay attention to our child’s stress, emotions, and fatigue. Then we need to help them practice self-care when these levels rise too high.
Examples of self-care include:
— Attending Therapy
— Drinking water
— Taking the day off
— Eating a nutritious meal/snack
— Reading a book
— Going for a walk
— Asking for help
— Saying “no” to activities/commitments when feeling overwhelmed
As they grow older, life for our children will only get more challenging. Developing self-care practices while young will support their mental and physical needs throughout their life.
Emotional regulation is a skill that your child will need at every stage in life. We touched on emotional regulation a little bit while discussing assertiveness above. But let’s dive a little deeper.
Managing your emotions helps you interact with others, overcome life’s challenges, and chase after your goals. If your child can learn to manage their emotions, they’ll be better able to handle life’s challenges.
Helping your child regulate their emotions can be tricky. It requires you to regulate your own emotions, too. When trying to prevent our toddler’s meltdown in the grocery store, we also need to prevent our own meltdown. Which can be quite difficult when your child is screaming and people are staring. As you read about these emotional regulation techniques below, try using them in your own life as well.
To help your child learn to regulate their emotions, start by validating how they feel. They need to understand that it is okay to feel angry, sad, happy, frustrated, scared, anxious, and so on. Once they can accept their emotions, they can begin to process them.
Next, teach your child positive regulation techniques. These can include:
— Taking deep breaths
— Repeating a mantra
— Practicing self-compassion
— Expressing how they feel
— Engaging in self-reflection
— Participating in healthy outlets, such as: exercise, sports, writing, art, music, dance, yoga, volunteering and more
Children will develop their own emotional regulation techniques, with or without your help. However, without your positive influence, they may turn to negative outlets. These can include emotional eating, violence, drugs, self-harm, sexual promiscuity, and more. As a parent, it is your responsibility to teach your child positive emotional regulation techniques.
Remember, emotional regulation is not the same as emotional rejection. Emotions are a normal part of life. They help us navigate the world. They tell us when our needs and goals are being threatened or fulfilled. We need our emotions, both the good and the bad. And teaching your children to reject them can cause big, unhealthy problems.
Stanford professor, Carol Dweck, describes two mindsets: growth mindset and fixed mindset. These mindsets affect the way we lead our lives.
Those with a fixed mindset believe their skills, talents, and personality are limited to a specific capacity they were born with. You’re either smart or you’re not. You’re athletic or you’re not. You’re charismatic or you’re not.
However, individuals with a growth mindset believe that they can change and grow. They can improve their skills and talents through their efforts, application, and experience.
It’s important that you teach and model a growth mindset. Help your child understand that they can improve their skills and get better if they work at it. They are not limited to whatever comes natural to them. They can work, grow, and develop any skills they are lacking.
While modeling a growth mindset, it is important to be specific with your praise. When a child does well on a test, try to avoid platitudes such as, “You’re so smart.” Phrases like this can cause a child to think they are not smart if they struggle the next time. And if they aren’t smart, then there is no point in trying to do well. This is a fixed mindset.
Examples of growth mindset praise include:
— ”You worked really hard.”
— “You stayed after class to review problems that you didn’t understand.”
— “I like your choice of colors you used in your painting.”
— “You seemed to enjoy that challenge.”
— “I’m proud of you for doing your best.”
These compliments will help them to cultivate a growth mindset. They did well because they worked hard, not because they were naturally talented. This will inspire them to continue to work, grow and push past challenges.
Love of Learning
As backwards as it sounds, school can lead children to dislike the learning process. With standardized tests, required subjects and competitive classrooms, children may exchange their love of learning for fact memorization.
But loving to learn is a life skill they need in their tool belt. Learning fuels creativity and helps find answers. Life is full of questions: What career should I pursue? Who should I marry? How do I do a handstand? What house should I buy? How do I change a tire? How can I stay healthy? How do I tie a tie? What healthy habits should I work on? Why do leaves change color in the fall?
When these questions come, a love of learning gives your child the confidence to find an answer. They’ll read books about nutrition. They’ll watch YouTube videos to learn how to do a house repair. They’ll listen to podcasts about space. They’ll work with a couples therapist when they are considering getting married. Loving to learn is the backbone for developing the five other life skills we’ve discussed above.
Some ways to instill a love of learning in your child include:
— reading books
— going to the zoo
— visiting the aquarium
— watching documentaries
— touring museums
— visiting planetariums
— spending time in nature
— touring historical sights
— going to libraries
— Trying new experiences, like snorkeling or kayaking
Life is challenging. And we are often sent off into the adult world underprepared. Our society’s high emphasis on academic achievement glosses over the important life skills we need to make use of those achievements. What good is a high GPA if we can’t control our temper? How beneficial will our PhD be if we can’t assert our needs?
Our children need these six life skills to make the most of their opportunities. These skills will help them find a sense of purpose, positive relationships, and an enriching career.
If you enjoyed this article by Brindisi Olsen Bravo, you might also be interested in these: