Back To Basics: 5 Life Skills We Forget to Teach Our Kids

As my friend and business associate Hugh MacLeod likes to say, “we live in incredible times…”  And really, we do.  Despite the many hardships we face – from financial and civil unrest, to the unexpected and destructive wrath of Mother Nature – we still enjoy so many simple luxuries that it is easy to take much of our modern lives for granted.  It is easy to forget how good we really have it, even when we think things are at their worst.  Just search Twitter for the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems to see how potentially spoiled we are.

As a parent raising kids during these incredible times, it is also easy to get caught up in the fast pace of our uber technical lives, so reliant on the “net” and our myriad connected devices.  In a world where toddlers are touch screen wizards, and teens can text more eloquently than they can talk, it is easy to lose sight of some basic “life skills” that have no connection to being “connected.”

My kids are now in their twenties and starting their own adult lives, and as I look at the things that are truly important to them on the journey into adulthood, I am reminded about some things they need to know that ultimately may be more useful than how to manage their Facebook presence.  With that in mind here are…

5 Lifeskills We Should Remember To Teach Our Kids:

1. Cooking and Nutrition – If you look around you with open eyes it is impossible not to see the serious problem we have with health and fitness in this country.  Our Fast Food nation is fast becoming an unhealthy nation.  Teaching kids to cook for themselves is a great way to get them to understand basic nutrition, and to get them to eat better.  Naturally, you don’t want toddlers touching the stove, but responsible kids from around 9 or 10 on up should be able to prepare a few basic, healthy meals on their own, and start to understand basic cooking techniques and best practices.  I’d be remiss if I left exercise out of this category.  Few things could be as important as teaching your kids to make daily exercise, even as simple as taking walks, an essential part of their daily routine.

2. Doing Laundry – Sure, it is a chore.  But it is a chore that one day or another we all have to do.  Do your kids know how?  Can they add detergent to a load without causing a suds tsunami in the laundry room?  Do they understand the concept of separating colors, and hang drying vs. the dryer?  Unless you are truly a glutton for punishment, one day your kids will go to college or move out and have to do their own laundry.  The sooner you get them used to it, the better!

3. The Automotive Trio: Filling Up, Using Jumper Cables, Changing a tire – When your kids hit age 15 or 16, one of their primary objectives will be learning to drive, and before you know it, “can I borrow the car?” will replace “can I have some money?” as the number one phrase you dread hearing from your kid.  Many of us get a kick (albeit a stressful one) from teaching a child to drive.  We show off our prowess and years of experience as we guide them through this modern right of passage.  While we stress proper signaling, and turning heads to look past the blind spot, we often don’t bother to show our kids how to do three basic things every driver needs to know: How to properly put gas in the car (you’d be surprised how many kids don’t know what to do the first time), how to safely use jumper cables, and how to properly and safely change a tire.  Take the extra time to teach your kids these and save yourself a few frantic calls in the future.

4. Basic First-Aid – If your kids have been Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts maybe they have this one covered, but even younger kids should know basic safety and first-aid skills, and where you keep the first-aid kits, fire extinguishers, etc.  Even if they won’t be administering first aid themselves, if they have an understanding of band-aid basics (and other things, like applying pressure to a cut, keeping it clean, etc.) they will react better when they get their next “boo boo.”  Needless to say, as young as possible kids should understand the proper use of dialing 911 in an emergency.

5. Basic Finances – Even if we rarely use checkbooks anymore, our kids should understand the basics of balancing a checkbook and managing a simple budget.  In my experience, it is not something they get a good handle on in school.    They should know the difference between a credit card and a debit card, and they should have an interest in what interest means and how it impacts their financial health.  As soon as you feel they are old enough, include them in appropriate discussions about purchases. If you are dealing with mortgages and car loans or leases, explain to them how it works.  Allowance, used properly, can be a great learning tool.  Teach your kids about money and it will pay off (pun definitely intended) when they are finally off on their own.

What do you think?  Do you agree with these 5 life skills?  Are there others you would add to the list?  Please do so in the comments!

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 24, Ethan, 22 and Olivia, 21).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads,  Wunderkind!  and Gape Into The Void podcasts.

Photo Credit: © bofotolux – Fotolia.com

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  • http://www.bloggerfather.com/ BloggerFather

    I grew up in lesser times, but I still can’t jumpstart a car. Just one of these things that can’t stay in my brain.

  • http://www.jeffreysass.com sass

    :-)  Negative to negative, positive to positive  Connect the negative last.  Let the engine on the good car run a few minutes before turning over the bad car. That’s how I learned it (and I’ve had LOTS of practice since).  Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1081256654 John Potter

    I don’t know if you’ve heard, but auto makers are no longer going to include spare tires. They say it’s to save fuel, but I honestly feel it’s because so few people know how to do it anymore.
    http://autos.aol.com/article/eliminating-spare-tire/

  • http://www.mochadad.com mochadad

    I’ve made it a point to teach my kids all of these things.

  • Divorcingdiva

    One more thing. Kids should learn how to drive a stick. If they travel to Europe it’s a must!

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