Whether our children attend a public school, private school, or a home school, their education must include more than just academics. As parents we need to teach our children “life” skills. While having book smarts is good, having humility and integrity is better. Here are ten things to teach our children that aren’t academic. To keep from being too long, this will be the first of two posts, covering 5 suggestions each.
1. Teach them how to answer the phone and take a message.
With the household phone becoming a thing of the past, this skill is becoming trickier to teach, but children still need to know how to answer a regular phone or a cell phone when needed. Teaching them simple phrases such as “Hello, this is Mommy’s phone; this is Julie speaking” enables children to practice phone courtesy and interaction with adults. I have a friend who has taught her children to answer the phone like this: “Hello, Smith residence. This is Mary speaking, how may I help you?” Now that’s how you answer a phone!
Good phone skills should also include learning how to take a message. Teach your child to write down the caller’s name, phone number and reason for the call. By doing this they will learn responsibility and gain confidence talking to someone over the phone.
2. Teach them how to call someone on the phone.
This obviously has many of the same benefits as #1: Calling other people teaches children to be more comfortable conversing with adults they have never met. It also teaches them how to speak politely and appropriately when they make a phone call. Children may be taught to say something like, “Hello Mr./Mrs. Smith. This is Bobby Jones. Is Jason available to come to the phone?” If Jason is not available then they could respond with, “Then would you please let him know I called?” And then finish with a “Thank you very much.”
Often, before making a phone call, we would sit down with our child and role-play the potential conversation. That way, when our child made the actual phone call they felt a little more comfortable with what to expect.
We occasionally asked our children to call businesses for information, such as their operating hours. Truth be told, they never really liked doing it; it definitely put them out of their comfort zone when they were young. But living out of your comfort zone for short periods of time is not a bad thing. It seemed to help our kids overcome their fears of talking to a stranger on the phone.
3. Teach them how to work
Children must learn to work. Period.
They need to learn to work hard and they need to learn to work well. Working teaches them to serve. Working teaches them submit to authority. Working teaches them patience and perserverance. And work teaches them how to be an adult. If you can endure the inevitable complaining that often accompanies asking your children to do a hefty task, you will hopefully be rewarded with a child who is proud of his/her accomplishments when they are finished.
If the task you are asking them to do is new to them, show them first how it is to be done. Teach by example. If the task you are asking them to do is quite rigorous, work along side them to offer support, encouragement and a helping hand.
We live in an area where most of our neighbors are over the age of 70. Recently my husband asked our children to accompany him outside after a big snow for a court-wide driveway shoveling party. It wasn’t extremely cold, the snow had stopped falling, and shoveling would be good exercise for their home-bound bodies. I would love to say our kids jumped at the opportunity to get some exercise and serve our neighbors, but they didn’t. Our kids were not thrilled to join in this so-called “party” and they reluctantly geared-up for the immense amounts of shoveling they were sure to be doing (so they assumed). It turned out that the snow was light, the weather was pleasant, and the shoveling wasn’t nearly as awful as they envisioned. They even might have had a little fun (though no one would admit it). When all seven driveways were done, the kids returned to the house pink-cheeked and smiling. It felt good to do a bit of hard work and to serve someone else in the process. One of the kids even said, “You know, I’m glad we did that.”
4. Teach them how to meet someone new
It is important for a child to know the polite way to meet someone for the first time. A hearty “Hello, it’s nice meet you”, solid eye contact, and, depending on the age, a good shake of the hand are a great place to start.
Trying role playing this in your home. Have a family member come to the front door pretending to be someone your child doesn’t know (of course, they should not being opening a door to a complete stranger, but we are just role-playing here). Have them welcome the person to your home and have them introduce themselves. When we would do this, we usually got all the siblings involved. The kids usually turned it into a time of silliness where the person they were supposed to be meeting was Captain America or the President of the United States, but we didn’t mind the silliness at all, as long as they were going along with what we were asking them to do.
5. Teach them how to resolve conflict
Being a peace keeper can be a difficult skill to learn, especially when children are young. Grabbing and hollering can be the “modus operendi” of most four-year-olds. When frustrations hit high levels in our home, we would take the two children who were quarreling and sit them down to talk about the issue. In the book “To Kill A Mockingbird”, Atticus tells Scout she should walk around in someone else’s skin for while to understand the other person’s point of view. We would ask our children “How would you feel if (the sibling getting picked on) kept grabbing a toy out of your hand like you keep doing to her?” or “How would you like to be the one that always gets the second choice of things?” or “how would you like to be left out of playing like you are doing right now?” When the child (hopefully) realized their wrong-doing, then they needed to go apologize for their offense. And it couldn’t just be a mumbled “I’m sorry.” The offender had to look their sibling or playmate in the eyes and say, “(Sibling), I am sorry that I (did this particular thing to you). I will try not to do it again. Please forgive me.” If the sibling (or playmate, or parent, etc.) accepted their forgiveness, then a hug was to be offered and the conflict came to an end (hopefully, for at least a little while!)
We’ve covered 5 of them. Click HERE for pt. 2!