Think you got skills?

I watched the movie Turbo with my kids awhile back and this is one of my favorite lines courtesy of Whiplash the snail, “You’ve clearly got the skills to pay the bills….if snails had to pay bills that is.”

There are two very different kinds of skills that we often think about when we think skills. There’s the skills related to academics. This is the skilled individual who is a merit scholar, the one who wins first place in the spelling bee, the individual who earned a full academic scholarship to the school of her choice, or the individual who is able to accomplish all of these things and more – they have the skills that pay the bills. But there is another set of skills that are critical but often not weighed as more important – life skills. I can remember leaving for college and really not having a clue how to do my own laundry, how to balance my checkbook and budget or even what the heck I wanted to do with my life. But I figured it out eventually.

I can remember coming home to visit from college and learning about some of my high school friends who were brilliant academically and left to some prestigious college but then came back home after a year because they missed home. It shocked me. I thought to myself – these people had it so together and were extraordinary in school. They could leave and do anything extraordinary somewhere else. Why did they come back? I learned the reality was that they didn’t just miss home. I learned that when they left home for college, they were so prepared to make it through their academic life with ease, that they were not prepared with the skills to make it through regular everyday life. Their food was always cooked for them, their laundry done for them, their school supplies and materials they needed for their projects were bought and ready for them. Their parents brought them to every event and made sure they had everything they needed. My parents were guilty of this as well in that they tried to take care of all of those things for me and my siblings so we could focus 100% on exceling in our school work. I remember not having my first part time job until I was 19 or 20 because my parents didn’t want a job to distract me from my academic work in high school. But by doing this to such an extreme, they allowed us to miss out on a ways to learn the essential skills to promote confidence in independence. But what my parents did do was teach me how to ask clarifying questions and seek out the answer to things when I didn’t know something. That is what kept me from not picking up and moving back home – that and luckily being surrounded by friends and peers who had those great life skills. I can remember asking some friends in my dorm room to watch me as I did my first load of laundry to make sure I was doing it right. I also remember asking them to help me as filled out my first job application.

Grit is so much more than teaching our kids to persevere academically and involving them in every single school activity and club with vigor and tenacity. It’s also about teaching our kids to fold their own laundry, to make their own lunches, to pack their own sports bag and pull some weeds in their front year with that same amount of energy.

Below is an excerpt from an excellent 2009 article by Melissa Matter in the Yahoo Contributor Network that discussing these same skills. Here is the link to the whole article:

These days children are quite proficient at using a tablet computer and a cell phone. Hopefully, they learn how to read and write at school. Yet, there are many life skills that aren’t taught at school. In my opinion, it is up to parents to teach kids certain life skills. Here are some I believe all children should learn.

Take Public Transportation
I didn’t have a car until I was 21-years-old. Until then, I took the bus to my job and the shuttle to my classes. For a while, I remember having to ride my bike across campus at 5:30 in the morning to catch a bus to take me to a school I worked at. Learning how to use public transportation was an important skill. It allowed me to be independent. When I finally got a car, I really appreciated it. Using public transportation is vital if you don’t have a car. It can also help college students visiting another country.

Do the Laundry
In college, I remember coming across individuals who would wait until the weekends to do their laundry at home. Typically, their mother would do their laundry for them. Doing the laundry is pretty easy. Simply, teach kids how to sort darks and lights. One of the most important laundry rules I have is to never put a towel or fuzzy blanket in with your regular clothes.

Balance a Checkbook and Stick to a Budget
I’ll admit that I hardly ever write checks anymore. However, I believe writing a check and balancing a check book are important financial lessons. Give kids play checks or an old checkbook to practice with. Equally vital is the idea that kids need to be able to stick to a budget and learn how to spend their money wisely. If kids are not taught about finances, it’s easy to overspend and even easier to get yourself into credit card debt.

Check out a Library Book
Yes, digital books are on the rise. However, the library has a ton of free resources. Kids can read to their hearts’ content. They can also find resources for information.

Write a Letter
I always love when I get a card or letter in the mail. Writing a letter seems to be a lost art. Even if you are writing a letter through your email, it is good for kids to know the difference between a friendly and a business letter. Writing a letter is much different than sending a text. Children need to know how to write formally.

Learn How to Use a Word Processing Program
In my 20’s, I remember going to an agency to try to get a temp job. The first thing I had to do was do a typing test. Then, on my application I was asked what word processing programs I was familiar with. Your child may be great at using social media or playing “Angry Birds.” However, being proficient with typing, spreadsheet and PowerPoint programs is helpful for future career endeavors.

Apply for a Job
At some point before kids go out into the “real world,” I think they should have a part-time job. Filling out a job application and going on a few interviews will help prepare them for when they have that big interview for their dream job.

Teaching kids how to prepare healthy meals is essential for their future. Go to the farmer’s market and pick out fresh fruits and vegetables. Then, choose a recipe and make dinner for a whole family.

Swimming is a skill that can save your child’s life. At a young age, get your child familiar with the water. When they are ready, consider swim lessons. Keep practicing and teach your child about water safety too.

Small Household Repairs
Changing a light bulb may seem like a simple task. However, when children move out on their own, they should know how to unclog a toilet or turn off the gas. I don’t know how to repair as much as I should. However, I do have a good home warranty program that has been essential in repairing my appliances.

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