9 Essential Things Kids Need to Learn

I recently came across this blog post written by Leo Babauta on Zen Habits and loved it. Goose bump kind of love. So much so that I just had to share it with you!

Leo Babauta believes that “kids in today’s school system are not being prepared well for tomorrow’s world.” Uhhhhh, yeaaaaaah. I couldn’t agree more, especially when it seems as if “teaching to the test” is omnipresent (Grrrrr).

Babauta wonders, then, “how to prepare our kids for a world that is unpredictable, unknown? By teaching them to adapt, to deal with change, to be prepared for anything by not preparing them for anything specific.” I love this philosophy!

No, we are not pulling Sweetly Six out of kindergarten. She happens to be in a fabulous class in a wonderful educational environment and loves going to school!  What I know for sure is that we parents (& other loving adults in a child’s life) have a wonderful opportunity (& responsibility!) to augment school life.  I happen to think that these 9 ideas are a Silver Lined start!

1. How to ask questions. What we want most for our kids, as learners, is to be able to learn on their own. To teach themselves anything. Because if they can, then we don’t need to teach them everything — whatever they need to learn in the future, they can do on their own. The first step in learning to teach yourself anything is learning to ask questions. Luckily, kids do this naturally — our hope is to simply encourage it. A great way to do this is by modeling it. When you and your child encounter something new, ask questions, and explore the possible answers with your child. When he does ask questions, reward the child instead of punishing him (you might be surprised how many adults discourage questioning).

2. How to solve problems. If a child can solve problems, she can do any job. A new job might be intimidating to any of us, but really it’s just another problem to be solved. A new skill, a new environment, a new need … they’re all simply problems to be solved. Teach your child to solve problems by modeling simple problem solving, then allowing her to do some very easy ones on her own. Don’t immediately solve all your child’s problems — let her fiddle with them and try various possible solutions, and reward such efforts. Eventually, your child will develop confidence in her problem-solving abilities, and then there is nothing she can’t do.

3. How to tackle problems. Work on projects with your kid, letting him see how it’s done by working with you, then letting him do more and more by himself. As he gains confidence, let him tackle more on his own. Soon, his learning will just be a series of projects that he’s excited about.

4. How to find passion. Help your kid find things she’s passionate about — it’s a matter of trying a bunch of things, finding ones that excite her the most, helping her really enjoy them. Don’t discourage any interest — encourage them. Don’t suck the fun out of them either — make them rewarding.

5. How to be independent. Kids should be taught to increasingly stand on their own. A little at a time, of course. Slowly encourage them to do things on their own. Teach them how to do it, model it, help them do it, help less, then let them make their own mistakes. Give them confidence in themselves by letting them have a bunch of successes, and letting them solve the failures. Once they learn to be independent, they learn that they don’t need a teacher, a parent, or a boss to tell them what to do. They can manage themselves, and be free, and figure out the direction they need to take on their own.

6. How to be happy on their own. Too many of us parents coddle our kids, keeping them on a leash, making them rely on our presence for happiness. When the kid grows up, he doesn’t know how to be happy. He must immediately attach to a girlfriend or friends. Failing that, they find happiness in other external things — shopping, food, video games, the Internet. But if a child learns from an early age that he can be happy by himself, playing and reading and imagining, he has one of the most valuable skills there is. Allow your kids to be alone from an early age. Give them privacy, have times (such as the evening) when parents and kids have alone time.

7. Compassion. One of the most essential skills ever. We need this to work well with others, to care for people other than ourselves, to be happy by making others happy. Modeling compassion is the key. Be compassionate to your child at all times, and to others. Show them empathy by asking how they think others might feel, and thinking aloud about how you think others might feel. Demonstrate at every opportunity how to ease the suffering of others when you’re able, how to make others happier with small kindnesses, how that can make you happier in return.

8. Tolerance. Too often we grow up in an insulated area, where people are mostly alike (at least in appearance), and when we come into contact with people who are different, it can be uncomfortable, shocking, fear-inducing. Expose your kids to people of all kinds, from different races to different sexuality to different mental conditions. Show them that not only is it OK to be different, but that differences should be celebrated, and that variety is what makes life so beautiful.

9. How to deal with change. This will be one of the most essential skills as our kids grow up, as the world is always changing and being able to accept the change, to deal with the change, to navigate the flow of change, will be a competitive advantage. Rigidity is less helpful in a changing environment than flexibility, fluidity, flow. Again, modeling flexibility, fluidity and flow for your child at every opportunity is important, and showing them that changes are OK, that you can adapt, that you can embrace new opportunities that weren’t there before, should be a priority. Life is an adventure, and things will go wrong, turn out differently than you expected, and break whatever plans you made — and that’s part of the excitement of it all.

Hope you enjoy these 9 life skills as much as I do!  Come to think of it, I think that they are wonderful reminders for adults…as much as they are for kids (Silver Lining).

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  1. Kate says

    I totally agree with your list, but there's a problem with your premise – since when is it the sole responsibility of schools to raise children? Of COURSE parents should be teaching their kids these things! Of COURSE schools cannot teach these values on their own, nor should they be expected to!

    Your kid gets a teacher for 10 months a year, but they get their parents for a lifetime. "Teaching to the test" is the logical response to high stakes testing that places all the consequences on teachers and NONE of the consequences with children or families. We should all be outraged at how public education has been co-opted by lazy parenting and how educators are paid no better than a babysitter.

    • says

      Dear Kate,
      THANK YOU for your thoughtful comment! I couldn't agree more with your thoughts.
      Teachers are the great unsung heroes in our society. We need to do more to celebrate and honor them.
      Thank you, again!