Home is where the heart is, home is a haven and for our children home is the preparation ground for stepping out into the world one day. We have this idea as moms of young children that our children will be with us forever, that we will be in the rut of diapers and dishes forever. Eventually one day our children will leave home. They will launch and we will instantly transition into empty nesters. Turns out the transition is not quite so cut and dried and our children launch and integrate into the world, almost unseemingly as they move forward in one direction and then another and then another… always onwards and upwards and out into the world. It is good that they spread their wings – I am all for it, and by the time they actually launch I am hoping they will be equipped with the skills they need to survive.
Much as I would like to have my kids around forever and right now I cannot imagine an evening without bedtimes. But I am actually in the business of raising adults… not confident teens or curious kids… I am hoping that our kids launch one day as responsible adults. It just so happens that because we homeschool and I happen to be their primary teacher that I hope they leave home able to do a little math, write comprehensively, communicate well and generally know how to research a topic that interests them. But more than that as their mum, I have to hope that they possess a number of life-skills: they can do laundry, make their bed, clean a bathroom, shop and feed themselves, not to mention maintain friendships. All of these skills are built upon other skills and take time and training. The skills however that appear to be most important are the skills that are harder to pin down, those illusive life skills that are somewhat harder to define. I have learnt that these skills are also harder to master and they require the utmost patience and creativity to teach.
I realise as our older kids stride onwards and upwards and think about things like drivers licenses (yikes) and holiday jobs… that I need to get more than a little intentional about raising adults. This past week was Remembrance Day and it always reminds me that we are training our children and raising them to be men and women of honour. In the scheme of life they will be called to rise above, again and again. Our kids need to face trials, because through trials comes perseverance, and through perseverance, well James 1:2-4 says it perfectly:
Se7en+1 Life Skills We Can’t Afford to Forget to Teach Our Kids
- Accountability: When the going gets tough they need to step up to the plate. There is no point in having a whole lot of skills if you can’t follow through with your word. My kids need to know that if they say they will do something then they will, in fact if they should do something, then they ought too. It is easy enough to give our kids a break and do their chores for them, in the scheme of getting everyone a timeous dinner. Let’s face it, in the scheme of life our kids need to step up to the plate, so to speak, and get beyond saying, “It wasn’t me” whenever anything goes wrong.
- Learn from their Mistakes: Admitting you have made a mistake is huge, but learning from your mistakes and moving forwards is so much bigger. I know when my kids fail at things I really want to dive in and rescue them, but for obvious reason they need to be left to find working solutions. A little discomfort, a little instability and a little changing of plans is all good preparation for the life they are hoping to lead. Not to mention that often when we make mistakes, not only do we have to admit to them, but while we are about that we have to ask someone for help. This is a good life skill… it is all very well to say, “I’ll work it out myself,” but there is a time and a place when our kids need to know that it is time to ask for help.
- How to Cope with Disappointment: Our children need to learn to cope with disappointment, long before they have to deal with the bitter disappointment of not getting into the college they have dreamed of, or the disappointment of a lost love. Our kids live in a time when they get rewards for everyday things, they are rewarded for attending class, and they are gifted even for giving gifts (who invented the party pack?). But lets be honest as long as our children are receiving things at every turn they are not learning about how to cope with disappointment and they are certainly not learning to wait until the next birthday for a treat, or one day waiting until the next payday to get something they need right now. And we all know, even our kids know, that there is a vast difference between the things that we need and the things that we want.
- How to Survive a Confrontation: This is a hard one, and I don’t know anyone who likes a confrontation. Our kids need to master the communication skills they need to feel confident about confrontations. Debating where you sit at the dinner table or who gets to fetch the mail from the mailbox today are all part of the training ground and the less we step in and rescue them from these situations, the better. One day our children are going to have to stand up to unfair workmates, not to mention they may themselves have opinionated children… this is not a bad thing, but they need to be able to cope with that and the intense feelings that arise when you wrongfully accused or rightfully wronged.
- How to be a Team Player: My kids have to work in a team everyday. They may not be on the local football squad but they have to work as a team to prepare meals, to get the laundry done. And it isn’t all drudgery. There is a lot of team work to learnt while out hiking or building a world out of lego. You have to work hard together to encourage folk of vastly different ages and abilities to get from one side of a mountain to another. Just like any well running team, our kids have to spend lots of time together, not just working but playing too. It is very easy to scatter our kids to all sorts of activities to keep them all busy. I am all for our kids spending hours and hours of their lives together. I firmly believe that shared memories will provide the ties that bind them, later on in life they will have siblings to back them through thick and thin and at the same time they will have developed the necessary skills shared memories. Our kids need to spend hours and hours of time together in order to work as a team.
- How to Manage their Time: We are so working on this, especially with our teens: Getting up timeosly, getting assignments done on time and just going the distance, until the job is done. We cannot emphasise enough how critical it is to be able to break a big project into smaller projects and so meet deadlines… smaller deadlines like finishing an exam in the given time or large projects like finishing an assignments on time. In the world of entrepreneurial self-employment our children need to know that a project left undone won’t just mean a fail, it will mean they will not receive a salary, with serious ramifications not just for themselves but for their families.
- Make a Decision: So many young people get into trouble because they simply follow the crowd, and the follow the crowd because they can’t really decide on what exactly the right or wrong thing is to do. Honestly I am hoping that my kids grow up terribly opinionated about what is right and what is wrong… and that they are not afraid to do the right thing, even when it means going against the grain. This is harder than you think… next time you walk past a group of teenage gamers that want to meet up on a Sunday afternoon to play, it isn’t that easy to say, well we don’t play online on a Sunday. There are so many times when our kids will need to make a decision, we need to give them plenty of opportunities to make choices, pick one thing and go with it. Honestly, it is easy when our kids get to the road block of a decision, to step in and guide them through it. Really they need to practice following through with one thing and doing without the other…
- Continue in the Habits of a Life Time: It is all very well to follow through with daily habits of the people around you, but what about when your friends and family aren’t around you to keep you on the straight and narrow. Lets face it healthful eating, getting outdoors, getting enough sleep, spending time with God, and staying curious are lifesavers, not to mention job savers. Apart from the obvious of life preservation. Nobody wants to work alongside someone who hasn’t taken a shower and nobody is going to provide employment for a grubby student. These habits of a lifetime, need to be just that, daily things that get done because they must be. We are not helping our kids when we excuse them from getting the basics done from day to day. They need to do the right thing because that is the way they have always done it, not because someone reminds them or because they were told to do it. They really do at some stage have to clean their teeth and put their things where they belong… just so that they can get to work on time.
and se7en + 1th Life Skill:
I am sure there are many more things that our children still have to learn, I have still have so many things that I need to learn. We have to know that even if we were the most absolutely perfectly devoted parents, that our children are going to have certain skills that they need to learn on the fly. And this is where their only advantage will be, to be comfortable with discomfort and to be easily adaptable. Armed with enthusiasm and an eagerness to try new things… they should be able to launch and launch well.