Creative Child

9 Life Skills Every Child Should Learn

by Deborah Song

Many life skills just can’t be learned in the classroom. They require the active and conscious involvement of a parent. Being involved in sports and other extracurricular activities can help tremendously, but having them enforced in a child’s daily life at home will be essential in making these skills stick. Here, we outline twelve essential life skills that will help your child to navigate life with success, whatever success might mean to them.

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1. Learn to introduce yourself.

Meeting someone for the first time, or being the new kid in school is scary. But if your child knows how to introduce herself and get at least a small conversation going, it may be all the confidence needed to forge new friendships and create a foundation on which to build future networks. Introducing yourself is simple enough, but there is a technique to it.

For starters, teach your child to smile, make eye contact, say her name clearly without mumbling, and follow up by saying something nice about the other person such as, “I like your shirt.” Like everything else in life, remind your child that she will become better at it with practice.

2. Learn to be happy alone.

Parental instincts might make us prone to coddling our kids. As tempting as it is to relieve them from the discomfort of loneliness, allow your child the opportunity to comfort himself when he feels left out. Otherwise he may grow up not knowing how to be happy alone, becoming codependent in relationships, and maybe even engaging in unhealthy activities just to be accepted. If a child learns to entertain himself through art or leisure sports, he will be on his way to master one of life’s most valuable skills.

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Teaching a child to be happy alone requires more than leaving a child unattended. A child needs a fortified support network, so that when he does get left out, he can take comfort in knowing he is loved and accepted elsewhere. Avoid placing all of his eggs in one basket. Encourage your child to build a support network of family and a diverse set of friends — from school, the neighborhood, and extracurricular activities, too.

3. Learn to say no.

It’s important to know how to say no politely. You can’t make everyone happy, and it’s perfectly okay to disappoint someone, especially when your beliefs, safety, or identity are compromised.

4. Learn to ask.

When we’re young, our natural instinct is to ask questions and ask for help. As we grow older, we become self-conscious and fear the rejection that can come from asking too many questions. Re-learning this skill enables a child to approach people but also to question them, even those in authority, instead of passively accepting something they may disagree with.

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The next time your child wants a different color balloon, encourage him to ask for himself. And the next time he’s at a doctor’s office, encourage him to address any concerns or ask questions for himself. When he does ask questions, reward your child instead of discouraging him (you might be surprised how many adults discourage questioning!).

5. Learn to be heard.

Oftentimes, it’s not what you say but how you say it that gets you heard. When my daughter told me about rough play at school, I asked her to demonstrate how she’d asked the boys who were bothering her to stop. Lo and behold, she had a smile on her face, was swinging her arms playfully, and not making eye contact when she said, “Please don’t do that.” I showed her that if she wasn’t stern, they wouldn’t be convinced of her seriousness.

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