Proverbs 22:6: Train up a child in the way he should go; Even when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Helping our children develop attitudes, skills and habits that will allow them to have confidence to cope with the challenges they face in school will also have lifelong benefits. Last year, Margaret Dwyer published a short article titled “Useful Life Skills for School” and I would like to share some of her thoughts with you.
Students need important life skills, both ‘soft’ skills that involve direct communication, and the routines that establish independence. These are the skills that will allow for more successful learning in the classroom and a greater sense of belonging at school and in the greater world.
Addressing others respectfully
Email is a common form of written communication between teachers and students, and, unless told otherwise, students should begin with “Dear Mr/Mrs/Miss…” and not “Hey” or “Hi”. Students often have very limited interaction, electronically or otherwise, with adults who are not relatives or friends of their parents. They can be unsure how to address and interact with older people and authority figures. Doing it right isn’t difficult, as long as they choose their words more carefully than when talking to their friends and don’t put their feet up on the furniture.
Managing their own schedules
Students who have organised their own schedules — getting themselves to school or practice, showing up for events or simply getting home for dinner on time — are more confident at school. Let your children learn by managing their own schedules. One parent kept track of the number of minutes spent waiting for her constantly late son, and deducted those minutes, times five, from his weekly screen time. When he had a good (not perfect) week, he got bonus minutes. Screen time, game time, play time — whatever is valued can be used to teach this lesson.
Getting around, especially on public transport
How many students manage their own transportation, whether it’s driving themselves or knowing the schedules of public transport or using cycle ways? Cycling with someone who rides every day is a fast way to learn about safe routes. Parents can get their children into the habit of using public transport where it exists rather than taking them everywhere in the car. Make it a family routine to plan not only an event but the best method of getting there.
How would your child get on if they had to start work today?
No matter how smart your children are, if they are trying to learn life skills at the same time they are taking on the load and pressure of a new year at school, they will be at a disadvantage.
When students are not able to get to class because they can’t get up or don’t manage their time well, when they miss assignments or take late penalties because they don’t know how to prioritise, when they are not paying attention or are just rude to their teacher or to their classmates because they are distracted by hunger or uncertain how to act, all of those things affect their grades, and others’ assessment of them.
Ask yourselves how well your child would fare if their working life started today. And if the answers make you unsure, you’ve got time to change them. Demonstrate good manners, especially when talking to other adults or people in positions of authority. Insist your children look adults in the eye and greet them, answer questions clearly and make conversation. Let your teens organise their own after-school time, maybe just one day a week. Let them find out the consequences of spending all their time on a phone instead of getting work done. Let them organise their own transportation for one element of their lives.
Every young person will find their own way; every parent will let go in their own way. But moving forward is easier for everyone — parent, student and teacher — when life skills are passed on before they are needed.