Children don't naturally know how to make good choices. Life skills help children know what to do in everyday situations as well as how to make good decisions about more abstract, long-term choices. If you work with your child to teach her life skills, you prepare her to manage peer pressure and and make good decisions as she grows into adulthood.
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Types of Skills
Life skills run the gamut from the concrete skill of deciding what to wear to the more abstract decision about choosing friends. The key life skill is good decision-making. This skill is not innate, says Dr. Jim Taylor, a childhood specialist in psychology. It is learned through repetition and practice. Some other types of skills you can help your child learn include money management, personal hygiene, study skills, social skills and how to make healthy food choices.
Life skills help your child through the turbulence of adolescence and help him steer clear of irresponsible decisions throughout his life. Good life skills enable your child to manage money responsibly, make healthy food choices, stand up to unhealthy peer pressure and be a good parent in the long-term.
Help your child learn life skills by practicing the basics at home. Children as young as 3 can be offered simple either/or choices to practice their decision-making skills. Use grocery shopping trips as an opportunity to educate your child about nutritional choices. Open a bank account with your child and teach her about saving. As she gets older, teach her how to use a checking account and debit cards. Teach teenagers about credit cards so that they can understand the advantages and the downside. As a family, talk about what's happening in the community, and ask your child her opinion. Watch popular TV programs and movies with your child, and talk openly about poor choices you see so that your child can learn to watch with a critical eye.
Younger children are guided very directly by their parents. However, as children get older, they become more independent and life skills become more critical. By working with your children in their younger years, you have more opportunity to practice the skills that will help them as they get older and face more difficult choices. In addition, discussing things with you can become a habit with your kids, keeping the dialog going throughout their lives and enabling you to guide your kids with your experience as well.
Importance of Independence
If you use rigid, authoritarian parenting, providing your children with no choices, you risk not only alienating your children, but also leaving them without basic coping skills as they become more independent. If you never let them make decisions as children, they won't know how to make good decisions when they get older.