Coach the Life Skill Spirit
How to impart vital life skills in growing children
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The role of education is to prepare our future generations to take their rightful place in society, as future learners, professionals and citizens. Yet, there is often a fundamental mismatch between the skills students are taught in classrooms and those they will need to function effectively in the wider world. Take, for instance, a recent study conducted by a leading research company found that less than one out of every five surveyed employers considered graduates as "work-ready'. To the contrary, most employers reported graduates as lacking key employability skills, such as teamwork, communication and the ability to cope with pressure. In another survey, more than 60 per cent of bosses claimed that graduates were unable to handle customers professionally, while 50 per cent said that graduates were not equipped to independently take charge of their professional duties. This is worrying because many of these skills are vital not just for our children to earn their place as competent professionals but to take advantage of the many opportunities presented to them in the wider world. For far too long, students have been taught with an almost exclusively razor-sharp focus on exams, without due consideration to the kind of transferable skills they will need once they exit the world of academia.
With the world evolving faster and workplaces becoming more competitive than ever before, it becomes especially important for educators to equip students – especially those preparing to undertake further education or to enter the workforce – with key life skills, so that they are better equipped to face the challenges that the future has in store for them. Key among these are:
Seed emotional intelligence
Emotionally intelligent children eventually grow into well-adjusted, strong and self-aware adults. To teach your children emotional intelligence, begin by first acknowledging their perspective and communicating empathy, even if you do not necessarily agree. Accepting a child's emotions, rather than denying or minimising them, enables him/her to accept the emotion, resolve their feelings and move on. In the long term, this teaches children to self-regulate their own emotions and allows them to move on to the next step, namely problem-solving.
Facts and figures are important, but not enough for the bulk of children's education to be centred on memorising data. Children must also learn to think for themselves – to use evidence, logically evaluate available information and form their own opinions. This will play a crucial role in their higher studies as well as their future careers. A good way to inculcate critical-thinking skills in children is to regularly talk to them about topics that aren't restricted to their textbooks – encourage them to share their views on current affairs and news and to look beyond headlines and investigate what they find. At the same time, encourage healthy debates as this will improve your child's ability to reason.
Written and oral communication skills will eventually play a key role in every sphere of your child's life. Improve your child's written communication by encouraging them to participate in writing-based extracurricular activities. Oral communication can be strengthened with regular, consistent practice – have children discuss their problems with you, rather than only telling them how things should be done. Children also learn far more effectively from positive role models, which makes it vital for you to demonstrate your own communication abilities and freely discuss any communication challenges you may have faced.
Teach Work Ethic
Good work ethic will prove to be a key differentiator for children as they mature into young adults. It is therefore important to never stop stressing on the importance of them performing any task they take up to the best of their abilities. In school, this could mean submitting projects and assignments on time and making sure they prepare for tests and evaluations. Have children know that they must always strive to achieve what they are truly capable of, instead of making do with good enough. Praise children for the hard work they put into achieving something, instead of only focusing on the results. Also encourage children to take complete ownership of projects, within and beyond their academia, to teach them accountability.
Train in Time Management
Professionals, today, are expected to do more with the limited time and means they have, in order to truly differentiate themselves. This makes it especially important for children to be taught the basics of time management at an early age. A good way to begin is by having them buy a planner, which they can use to make a note of upcoming deadlines, goals and key milestones. This exercise can also teach children to prioritise – they may often have to choose between doing something they like and something else that is important. Finally, help children to identify potential time-wasters and eliminate these so that they can be more productive and efficient.
Most adults will eventually have to learn to stand up for what they believe in or what they think they rightfully deserve, whether in their personal or professional spheres. These situations will always be tricky, which is why giving children enough practice in self-advocacy through their growing years is especially crucial. Instead of always intervening for children, take the backseat so that the child can take the lead and stand up for him/herself. Be willing to listen and offer advice when asked for it. You must also lead by example and give your child enough exposure to self-advocacy through your own behaviour.
I also strongly advocate the six-calibration model, to ensure that the child is able to learn and retain these lessons for life:
A Lifestyle Choice: Children often model the behaviour they see around them. In order to make a lasting impression on a young mind, it is therefore important for you, as an educator and caregiver, to change your own outlook towards life.
Courage with Belief: Believing in children's abilities and talents give them the necessary positive reinforcement to continue demonstrating appreciable behaviours.
Build Capability: Your role as an educator and caregiver is not to hand-hold children through challenges, but to build their own capacity to adapt and learn.
Confidence: Demonstrate confidence in the child's ability to learn and provide enough positive verbal reinforcement for them to repeat desirable behaviours
Commitment: Be committed to the task at hand, in your teaching and in your own actions.
Consistent: Consistency is key to eliminate confusion in the child.