There are many things you're trying to teach your child to help him grow up and be independent. However, there are some life skills that many children lack today. A recent article in Psychology Today says, "Too much parenting cripples children as they move into adulthood and renders them unable to cope with the merest setbacks." That doesn't mean to pull back so much so that there's too little parenting, it just means to let him do things on his own sometimes.
Here are 10 life skills that you must teach your child early on:
1. PROTECT HIMSELF FROM HARMFUL OTHERS
Kids are so trusting. Provide your child with emotional support from a very young age so he’ll feel free to talk to you about anything. Teach him to be mindful of his surroundings, how to recognize a stranger versus someone he knows and how to run away if someone tries to hurt him. Also, teach him to memorize your phone number and address. Learn more at safekids.org.
2. PREPARE A MEAL
By the time your child’s in high school, he really should be able to do just about everything that relates to his own care. You can start this off when he’s little by teaching him to crack an egg and scramble it on his own by the time he’s a kindergartner. Let him do simple cooking activities with you in the kitchen, concentrating on teaching as you go.
3. WAKE UP ON HIS OWN
School kids sometimes have to be up by 6 a.m. or, as they get older, they may need to get up early for a workout or service project. Help him pick out an alarm clock that’s easy to use and watch him set it on his bed stand and plug it in. Monitor that the “a.m.” or “p.m.” is set accurately, then leave him alone. Avoid the mom “wake up call” service.
4. DO HIS OWN LAUNDRY
This is NOT just for teens. Little kids can sort “whites” from “colors,” throw clothes in the wash, pull clothes from the dryer and start the machines after measuring detergent, too. Let them!
5. FIX THINGS
Some kids learn fixing skills from savvy DIY parents, but some don’t. Teach, teach, teach. Provide kid-sized tools for little kids (and gloves for avoiding “ouchies”), and let them try to hang a poster on the wall of their room or fix a broken toy themselves.
6. PACK A BAG
Don’t do it for him! If he’s going somewhere, let him pack for himself. You can give him a list of what to bring so everything’s covered, but only give it to him once. Of course, you will need to inspect that he has what he needs if he’s little, but empower him to take care of his own belongings.
7. TALK TO PEOPLE
Instead of jumping right to thoughts of stranger danger, know that almost everyone your child meets he doesn’t know at first! Help him to tell the difference between someone who gives him a normal feeling and someone who doesn’t — most people are good people! He should be able to ask for assistance at a store, purchase something at the store, etc.
This is a life skill that can’t be underestimated. Every child needs to know how to swim because he will come into contact with water. Starting lessons earlier is best. Some classes are designed with babies in mind.
9. HOW TO CALL 9-1-1
The basic tenets are the same as for an adult: know when to call (what is an emergency, what is not); make sure the call-taker knows where you are; and don’t hang up. Teaching him to be a good listener and to not panic in a stressful situation will go a long way if he ever needs to make this call.
10. HOW TO USE MONEY
Whether you believe in giving your child an allowance or not, sooner or later you’ll be shelling out for him. If you teach him money skills from an early age, he’ll get a good head start (a savings jar, a spending jar). By the time he’s in middle school he should know how to use an ATM and even how to write a check. By high school he should know how to pay a bill and what credit is.