My wife and I had a revelation recently. We’d been asking our kids to unload the clean dishes from dishwasher but weren’t requiring them to load it back up with the dirty ones from the sink. “They’re little,” we thought to ourselves. “Simply unloading it is enough.” What were we thinking? We added the second half of that household chore to their plates and freed up some time for ourselves. Not only that, but we also gave them a chance to master a new skill that will serve them well once young adulthood comes around. Win-win!
Figuring out how to manage chores is a good thing, obviously. But, we have more important skills for our children to learn while in our care than how to fold clothes, mow the lawn, and scrub a toilet properly. My kids are old enough that they should be practicing the life skills that will build them into loving, caring, mature adults. Here are 5 must-have life skills for every child.
1. Know how to apologize.
Unless your child never does anything wrong (please, stop laughing), then he or she will get plenty of opportunities to say, “I’m sorry.” In our house, we hear apologies almost daily. A sharp word hurts someone’s feelings. Spilled juice ruins a school project. An ill-timed soccer ball kick causes a black eye. The list of accidents goes on and on. When kids apologize, they demonstrate that they can be tenderhearted. I don’t think anyone wants to raise a selfish child. Raising kids who care about peers should be our goal as parents. Teach them how, why, and when to apologize. Model it with them, your spouse, and your friends. Set an example with this must-have skill, and they will follow.
2. Give respect to all viewpoints.
Remember the Golden Rule? Pretty much every kindergarten classroom in the country has it posted on the wall. “Treat others the way you want to be treated” is a great lesson, one that Jesus taught in Matthew 7. Treating others well is the foundation of respect and one of the life skills for kids that we must encourage, because it often leads to harmony, unity, and open-mindedness.
3. Care for the less fortunate.
One of the most fulfilling things I’ve done with my kids was driving around town and handing out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the homeless. Offering a meal to people who often get overlooked was impactful for my kids. Proverbs 14:21 says, “Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.” I want my kids to develop the life skill of not only seeing the less fortunate people around them but being a light in the darkness for them, too.
4. Notice when someone’s hurting.
It’s obvious when someone is physically in pain. Identifying emotional pain can be much harder. But, good friends and neighbors know how to spot someone who is in need of a pick-me-up. When someone is acting socially withdrawn, sighs audibly, chooses isolation over community, communicates less than before, or generally seems disinterested in things that once brought them joy, we should be teaching kids that these red flags need addressing. Your child may be the friend a shy or lonely peer needs.
5. Know and explain your worldview.
Do your kids have faith? Do they know why or how to explain it people who don’t share the same outlook? They should, according to 1 Peter 3:15, which says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Your children have to know what they believe but also why it’s worth believing.
Sound off: What life skills did you learn as a kid that you still use as an adult?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is the most important lesson you can learn?”