9 Crucial Life Skills to Teach Your Child

Mighty Mommy shares the 9 most important skills and values that you can teach your children at a very young age to help build and strengthen their character into adulthood. 

Cheryl Butler
6-minute read
Episode #299

As my older children head off to college, I've found myself reflecting about how quickly the time goes.  Even though I have spent over 20 years in the trenches of parenting with my 8 kids, it still amazes me at how little time we parents have to impart valuable life lessons to prepare our kids for the real world.

So today I'm going to share the 9 most important skills and values that you can teach your children at a very young age to help strengthen their character as they grow into adulthood..

Skill #1:  Good Manners

As Modern Manners Guy will tell you, the value of having good manners cannot be overestimated.

In fact, even newborns are old enough to begin learning the basics of good manners.  The simple gesture of saying "Please" and "Thank you" is a great place to start. Use the phrases when you're swaddling, feeding, or any other time it's appropriate. 

Continue the practice as your baby grows into toddler-hood. When she excitedly brings you her favorite toy, say "Thank you for sharing your doll." Even at this very young, non-verbal age your child will be observing and soaking in all of the interactions like a thirsty sponge.  The more you exhibit the basics of good manners, the more likely these examples will become a routine way of life for your child.

Skill #2:  Learn to Swim

I grew up on the ocean and around pools, so my parents made sure my 4 siblings and I learned to swim before we headed off to kindergarten.  

The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that children between the ages of 1 and 4 may be less likely to drown if they have had formal swim instruction.  Each of my kids was introduced to basic swim lessons starting at the age of 3 and it has always been a comfort to know that they could survive if they were ever faced with an emergency situation in the water.

Skill #3:  Show Gratitude

Raising kids in this very materialistic world is not always easy, especially when they are constantly surrounded with hundreds of cool new items such as the latest electronics, brand name clothes, toys, and everything else in between. 

Sure we want our kids to have the best things in life, but we also need to teach them that even though they may not have the latest and greatest gadgets and top-of-the line basketball shoes, they do have plenty to be grateful for.  Like good manners, instilling a sense of gratitude starts at a very young age. Start with simple reminders such as pointing out how lucky they are to have warm jackets in the winter or a car to drive them to their after-school activities. Remind them how fortunate they are to have grandparents who love to read them stories or siblings to support them through life.

Plant the seeds of gratitude when they are young so they can learn to appreciate the many gifts they have.

Skill #4:  Tell the Truth

Teaching the value of honesty to a child is one of the best gifts parents can give.  There are so many gray areas when it comes to telling the truth which allow for rationalizing what honesty is all about. 

Kids are inundated with opportunities to be dishonest at school, at home, with their friends, and in dozens of other places that make up their daily lives and it's our job to teach them right from wrong and the consequences that come from lying. 

As we know, children learn from example so when they see their parents stretching the truth, it sends a message that it's OK to say one thing and do another. For example, if you tell the PTO president that you can't help at the book fair because you have to be away that evening - and then you go out to dinner with your husband instead - your child will internalize that a white lie is no big deal.

Instead, let your actions demonstrate that telling the truth is always the best decision and you'll be laying solid ground for them to follow suit.

Skill #5:  Advocate for Themselves

Whether you have an overly sensitive child or perhaps a child who learns differently and has a tough time keeping up with his peers in the classroom, you will not always be there to intervene when the child needs help. 

Teaching a child to stand up for himself or to speak up when he doesn't understand a lesson that's being taught in school will serve him well in many areas of his adult life if he learns to do this at a young age.

See Also:  How to Teach Your Child Independence  


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.