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.
My daughter who started college this year had a significant speech delay when she was a young child. Since then, she has had to work twice as hard as her peers to complete her school assignments. Her biggest obstacle was processing some of the instructions that were being given orally by her teachers - if they were speaking too fast, she had great difficulty comprehending what was being taught.
As early as third grade she had to stop the teacher and ask him to repeat what he had just said. At first she was made fun of by other children, but because we role-played at home on how to appropriately ask for help, she became very confident in her ability to get clarification on anything she wasn't understanding, even in front of a large classroom. By the time she reached high school, kids loved being in classes with her because she was one of the fewy students brave enough to raise the questions that others were thinking, but didn't have the courage to ask.
Skill #6: Manage Money
Most kids leave home and head off to college without knowing the difference between a debit and credit card or how to balance a checkbook. (I know, because I was one of them!).
We spend tons of time teaching our kids to tie their shoes, to read, to ride a bike, to drive, but we don't often invest effort in teaching them how to manage their money. And that's a big mistake.
See also: How to Teach Your Kids About Money
As soon as your kids start earning an allowance or working a part-time job, you can start teaching them how to save and budget their money. My colleague, Laura Adams, aka Money Girl, has some great advice about helping your child learn this crucial skill. If your kids get a solid foundation about money management while they are young, they have a great chance of becoming fiscally responsible as adults.
Skill #7: Empathize and Apologize
Just as it's important to teach kids to have manners and gratitude, it's also imperative to teach them how to apologize when they've said or done something wrong. In my episode called 7 Ways to Raise a Caring Child I share my top suggestions for instilling empathy and compassion in your child right from birth.
Skill #8: Make Healthy Choices
As a busy mom who also has Type 2 Diabetes, I can't stress enough how important it is to teach your child about healthy nutrition. Believe me, I know how challenging it can be to prepare a healthy meal at the end of a long day when it would be much easier to grab take-out instead.
But like all the skills we discussed before, kids learn many of their eating habits from what they witness while growing up. If they see us munching on fat-laden cookies the minute we walk in the door because we're stressed and starving after a long day at the office, we're giving them the green light to do the same thing.
On the other hand, when we incorporate smarter choices, like having a bowl of fruit on the kitchen island instead of cookies, they will learn that this is a better way to fuel our bodies. My colleague, Monica Reinagel, the Nutrition Diva, has many wonderful episodes about how to keep your family eating healthy and delicious foods. Check out How Nutrition Affects Your Brain, Get Kids to Eat Healthier, How to Fight Childhood Obesity, An Easy, Stress-Free Way to Plan Healthy Meals and many others.
Skill #9: Choose Happiness
As corny as it may sound, true happiness really is an inside job. Our families, friends, careers, homes, cars, wardrobes, vacation destinations and anyone or anything else we interact with or have possession of cannot determine whether we are happy or miserable - that's all up to us.
In my opinion, this is definitely one of the best lessons we can teach our kids - that we have the power to choose whether or not we let our circumstances dictate how we feel. It may not be easy, but if we can teach our kids to focus on silver linings when life isn't being so kind, they'll be better equipped to roll with the unexpected ups and downs that they'll inevitably have to face in adulthood.
What are some of the important life skills you want your kids to learn? Share your thoughts in the Comments section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy, post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT.