Creative Child

9 Life Skills Every Child Should Learn

by Deborah Song

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6. Learn to listen.

Listening skills develop with age, of course, but every child can start by making eye contact with the person who is speaking to them. Teach your child the value of hearing what others have to say and why their opinions will be better heard when they first seek to understand.

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7. Learn to wait.

In the famous Marshmallow Test, which was started in the 1960s by Dr. Walter Mischel but has since been replicated many times, four year olds were asked whether they wanted one marshmallow now or two marshmallows later. The study revealed that those who waited longer for their marshmallows were also able to pursue other goals more successfully. As adults, the children who were able to wait longer achieved a higher education level, were less likely to engage in bully behavior, and reported less drug use. While the children who did not wait were in no way doomed for life, the study points to the significance of the life skills of focus and self- control for children.

How do kids learn to be patient? Rather than resist the urge to eat the marshmallow, these children distracted themselves by turning their backs to the marshmallows, sat on their hands, played with toys in the room and even sang songs to themselves. In a real life application, delayed gratification could mean making your child wait for a treat at the end of the day, after dinner.

8. Learn to face your fears.

When your child is afraid of something, it’s easy to simply tell them that they have nothing to worry about. But refusing to acknowledge your child’s fears is very belittling.

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Confronting your fears, however, is an empowering learned skill that requires a multi-step approach. First, you must ask questions to get to the root of your fear. Secondly, you have to focus on what you can control and learn to let go of what you can’t. Finally, it may require asking for outside help—which, in and of itself, is a fear for many (see #4).

When my daughter was frightened of going to her kindergarten class each morning, I sat her down and asked her what she was afraid of. Her answers were vague at first, but eventually we got at the root of the issue: she didn’t know who to talk to before class started and this intimidated her.

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We solved her problem by making a strategy about who she could talk to and what she could talk about. We came up with a couple of names in case a particular friend wasn’t feeling responsive that morning. After figuring out what her exact fears were, not only could she better assess whether or not her level of fear was warranted, but we found a solution by focusing on those factors she had control over. This proved to be way more effective in calming her than simply telling her she had nothing to worry about.

9. Learn to be tolerant.

Too often we grow up in or create an insulated environment by surrounding ourselves with people who are mostly like us. When our kids finally come into contact with people who are different, it can be uncomfortable — shocking, even. Exposing your kids to others with different cultural backgrounds will provide them the opportunity to become more respectful and tolerant of other people and their experiences. In other words, they will have open networks, a topic we covered in 7 Things Creative Children Do Differently.

Deborah Song is a Canadian-born, Los Angeles-based writer, who obtained her master's in journalism from New York University. She is the founder of, and is passionate about helping parents find better work-life balance and proper support through community.

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