As parents, we are bombarded with information on how we should be raising our kids. Attachment Parenting, Internet Safety, Stranger Danger and Sugar Smart are all current parenting buzz words in the UK. They are, of course, all important aspects of parenting, but I sometimes wonder, whether, with so much information out there, do we fail to see the wood for the trees, and forget some of the other equally important lessons we should be teaching our kids?
Here is my list of 20 things all parents should teach their kids...
1. To respect themselves and the values of others.
Recognising that we are all individuals, with different values and beliefs is a fundamental lesson that needs to be learned by everyone. Understanding that others may have a different viewpoint, or experience to our own, fosters respect and open-mindedness in our young people.
It's important to teach kids that we're not all the same, and that treating others with respect means both taking the time to get to know them, and trying to see where they're coming from - we are all different, and that is something to be celebrated rather than fearful of.
2. To take responsibility for their actions.
Learning from the mistakes we make, and more importantly learning to put things right, is a fundamental skill which is invaluable throughout life. We all do stupid things, but the ability to turn a negative into a positive, is a skill that will prove useful throughout our lives.
Kids often say hurtful things to their friends. Encouraging them to make things right, rather than just avoiding the situation, encourages both a sense of emotional well-being and honesty.
3. Learn to negotiate, take turns and resolve dilemmas.
Kids need time with other kids to learn these skills. It is easy, as parents, to get in the habit of acting as referee. Encourage your kids to sort out their own differences, and give them time alone together to develop these skills.
4. Learn to accept disappointment.
We all want our kids to thrive and succeed. But learning to come second, or indeed carrying out an activity purely for the pleasure of taking part in it, is just as important.
Learning to be proud of the effort you have put it, despite the outcome is such positive lesson for kids to learn. Wanting to do well is great, doing the best you can is to be applauded.
5. Make friends and socialise.
Encouraging kids to develop solid social skills prepares them for a lifetime of healthy interactions, and are an integral part of functioning in society. Good manners and communication, being considerate of the feelings of others and expressing personal needs are all essential skills to learn in childhood.
6. How to manage boredom.
It is essential for children to learn for themselves how to use periods of unstructured time, as this not only allows for unstructured play and creativity, but it also helps develop time management skills.
7. Question things in the right way.
We should all have the confidence to question things, even as children. Learning that adults are not always right is a valuable lesson for kids to learn. The key is learning to do it in a way which is polite and respectful.
8. Hard work and practice.
In my opinion, developing the mindset of trying your hardest, and doing your best is a skill that will help you succeed throughout your life. Even in tasks that we don't immediately excel in, practice makes all the difference. Kids need to learn that you can do almost anything, if you’re willing to work really, really hard at it.
9. To take responsibility for their health and hygiene.
As a nurse, I have always found it frustrating how many people refuse to take ownership of their own health, referring to the medical profession for the mildest ailment. Of course, if you feel you are seriously ill, you should seek medical advice, but it is important that we take responsibility for our own bodies, and this, I believe, starts in childhood. Teach your kids if they are getting itchy or sore to wash and dry themselves properly. If they feel tired and run down to take time out, and rest. Our bodies are our home - learning to listen to them, and care for them is an essential part of taking responsibility for oneself.
10. To take responsibility for their Safety.
Children face challenging situations every day at home, at school, online, and out and about. We cant, as parents, always be there to protect and guide them. Teaching kids the skills of assessing situations, and how and when to seek help, teaches critical thinking and equips them with invaluable knowledge - one simple exercise you can try as a family is to talk through a 'what would you do if...' scenario together, perhaps once a week over a family meal.
11. Learn to swim.
Around 400 people needlessly drown in the UK every year and thousands more suffer injury, some life changing, through near-drowning experiences. (Royal Life Saving Society UK)
All kids should learn to swim. As well as it helping them to maintain their safety around water, swimming is a brilliant all-round exercise.
12. First Aid.
Medical emergencies and dangerous situations can happen at any time, and as kids become more independent ,there is more chance of them coming across a situation without an adult there to take the lead.
First aid training can literally save people’s lives and there are many other benefits to learning it - learning to assess a situation and maintain your own and others safety, increased knowledge of how the body works and maintaining health, and the confidence that learning a new skill develops. First Aid for Free offer an online First Aid course which is free to everyone.
Everyone should be able to cook, and nutrition is fundamental to our health. Cooking is not only fun, but it teaches us to follow directions, maths and science skills, motor skills, as well as helping us learn the basis of good nutrition, time management and money management - it seems daft not to learn!
14. Tie a knot.
Tying up gates, washing lines, boats, shoe laces, fishing lines, your brother (don't do this, you get in trouble!) and making dens - there must be thousands of times when you need a knot. All kids should learn to tie them.
15. Write a letter.
Emails, texts and communicating through social media means that we no longer write letters so often, and many believe that it's becoming a dying art. There are still times, however, when writing a letter is appropriate, and its important to have the skills to hand for when the need arises.
Thank you letters may seem like a waste of time to kids, but to our older generation they represent respect, contact and good manners, and are a joy to receive. Do your kids understand that this is why we ask them to write them?
16. Read a map.
Exploration is a huge part of human nature. The skill of reading a map not only allows you to know where you are, and see where you are going, but also allows you to put your surroundings in context - opening your eyes up to the bigger picture. Studying a map is a pleasure, as well as fabulous exercise for your brain, and they document our past as well as our present.
17. How to use tools/sew/fix/iron/make a cup of tea/light a fire.
Kids are extremely capable, much more so than we give them credit for. It's a fact of life today, that we live in a busy world, and it is often much faster to do tasks ourselves as parents, than watch our toddlers spend half an hour peeling a potato. There is also the concern of safety - I have injured myself on an iron, making a cup of tea, hammering... in fact on all the things I am suggesting kids should be doing. Those injuries I sustained through childhood made me more careful and learn to carry out those tasks, and use those tools properly.
18. How to approach animals.
Young kids seem to be instinctively drawn to animals, and it is important to teach them to approach with respect and care. They should be taught to always ask the owners, before approaching someone's pet. It will not only help keep them safe, but also educate them on how to treat animals for life.
19. Managing money.
We have all heard stories of adults spending beyond their means, and getting into financial difficulty. Money management is a crucial skill needed in today's society, and on that basis, it is crucial that kids get the opportunity to develop the skill. Encouraging kids to portion their money, spending some, while setting some aside, gives them the opportunity to start practising this skill.
20 . Road safety.
Worldwide, an estimated 1.2 million people are killed in road crashes each year and as many as 50 million are injured. (World Health Organisation)
Kids need to know how dangerous roads are. They need to learn how to behave around them, and as they get older, on them. Teaching kids an awareness of what is going on in their surroundings is vital for their safety, and there are plenty of online resources to help facilitate this.
This is not an exhaustive list, but they are all skills and lessons that I believe are essential for kids to learn. I would love to hear if you agree, disagree and what you would add to it - please leave a comment and let me know.