From the time you find out you’re adding a baby to the family, you have hopes and dreams of what your child will become as they get older. During their childhood, you spend countless hours teaching, training, correcting, and adding values into your child’s character. As they get older and begin to shape their identity, some skills will serve them well in the classroom and beyond. Here are 10 soft skills to teach your child that have real-world benefits.
From the time your child is born, they’re communicating. Those coos of approval when they feel good or tear-filled outbursts when hungry are ways babies communicate. As children get older, they learn words, vocal inflection, and nonverbal ways to express themselves.
Teaching your children how to communicate with various types of people is one of the best soft skills to instill. Whether in the classroom, on the playground, or at their job, your kids need to know how to address, work with, and speak to other people of various statures, positions, and experience levels.
Children are naturally curious about the world around them. This comes out early in life when your toddler or preschooler peppers you with that three-letter question, “why?”
Teaching your child critical thinking is as simple as flipping that question right back at them. Instead of answering back when they ask where mud comes from, ask them where they think it comes from. In volleying the question back to them, you’re allowing them to think and come up with potential answers. When they share their thoughts, you can fill in the gaps and increase their learning.
Helping older children and teens use critical thinking leads them to independent research, creative problem solving, finding new ways to do things, and learning to troubleshoot problems for and with others.
Leadership begins at the home. Children learn to lead by watching you. Everything from how you assign chores, manage schedules, and do housework is a display of leadership. Sports is another arena where children learn leadership.
At home, give your child opportunities to exert leadership skills. That can be in the form of providing them a list of chores and having them tell you their plan for completing them at a set time. You can try a night of role reversal where the child lead and the parents follow. Allow them to assign you chores and tasks and, in doing so, you’ll get a reflection of how they are interpreting your leadership. Another way to allow them opportunities to help with siblings and to teach their sisters and/or brothers knowledge they gained firsthand from you.
Outstanding leaders learn by being good followers and for our kids, that begins when they’re small.
Having a positive attitude goes beyond “good vibes only.” People with positive attitudes can see the best in others and situations, even when they’re not ideal.
Positive attitudes are infectious and those with positive attitudes can provide much-needed grace and encouragement to others. With your children, it can come in the form of consoling friends or loved ones, helping someone see the bright side of a hard situation, or complimenting someone for their effort on a school project or an outfit they’re wearing.
We all know the old saying, teamwork makes the dream work, and it’s true. Helping your child understand the value of being a team player will make them an asset in the classroom, on their sports teams, and on the job someday.
Start teaching this principle by working alongside your child as they do their chores or as you do yours, give them tasks while grocery shopping, pair them with a sibling to complete larger chores.
Play is another way to teach teamwork. Playing a two-player video game, assembling Legos, and group games like Pictionary or Charades are great ways to teach teamwork.
From the first time you teach your child the clean-up song, you’re instilling work ethic into them. They’re learning that life isn’t all play and that once play is over, they must clean up.
Work ethic isn’t simply the how, but also the why. Explain why you give the tasks you assign to your kids and how it benefits them. Knowing how their work contributes to the greater cause (taking care of the home, the car, their possessions) leads them to a greater sense of pride and responsibility for what they have and in the amount of effort they put into caring for it.
It’s also good to remind kids that in the working world (and academia), a strong work ethic is a good reflection of their character and is often looked upon favorably.
Creativity & Imagination
If we have anyone to thank for adding massive value to creativity as a soft skill, it’s Steve Jobs. He made it cool to be imaginative in the workplace.
Kids are born with an innate sense of creativity and imagination that manifests itself in how they use play to learn. Rather than discouraging this as they get older, harness it, and teach your children how to use their imaginative nature in any field. Professionals from Patch Adam (a doctor) to Elon Musk (an inventor) use creativity to bring joy into the lives of others while carrying out their specific jobs.
My grandmother used to have a saying when someone would show up for holiday dinner late. “You’re going to be late to your own funeral,” she’d quip. Punctuality and time management go together. Helping your children learn to structure their schedules and adhere to them is a soft skill useful in every arena in life. While school bell schedules train them away from home, at home, walk your child through evening and weekend plans. Teach them to use reminders and calendar apps if they have cell phones. For younger children, use timers that count down and challenge them to be ready before the timer reaches zero. On weekends, have a visible time-based agenda in full view where kids know what time to start and end chores, when they have free time, when certain activities happen, and when to begin the night routine.
Your child doesn’t have to be a neat freak to be highly organized. For small children, instill this by showing them that their toys have a home in the toy box and not all over the floor or the living room. As kids get older, bookshelves, desks, and dressers become new classrooms for parents to teach organization. During the school year, small things like color-coding folders by academic subject, designated folders for completed homework, and learning to keep their agenda current are ways to help reinforce this soft skill.
Things change. As we’ve seen over the past 18 months, the world as we know it can change without warning. Helping our children to be adaptable to change will help them be successful at school, work, and in life, where things change rapidly.
One way to teach children about change is to use examples found in nature. Insects, like caterpillars, change to become beautiful butterflies, trees change between seasons, skies change, the moon changes, etc. Each of these endures some level of change while staying constant in its structure. The moon does not cease to shine because it’s not full. Trees don’t stop providing shelter because they don’t have leaves in winter. The same is true of people. Remind your child that no matter what happens in and around them, change is part of life and to be embraced.
These are just 10 soft skills you can teach your children. What are some you’ve been actively working on and what are some you want to instill in your children?