Which Life Skills to Teach and How to Teach Them
My kids are currently 1, 2, 9 (step), 14 and 15 years old. We’ve been through a lot.
They’ve learnt many life skills already but I want to be sure when they enter adulthood they are strong, confident, independent, capable, compassionate and reliable adults.
Here are 11 life skills I have and feel are important for them to have.
Let me know what you want your kids to learn or what you think people need to know to be capable adults.
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1. Money Management
Knowing how to manage money is crucial. Not only how to budget but also ways to make money on the side, information about tax, business all of it.
I was pretty proud when the teacher of my then 12 year old asked a money question:
They have their own money and are currently saving for the technology they want as well as a car and some experiences. They buy art supplies and things they really want rather than wasting a lot of their money on junk food. When I was a kid, I blew so much of my pocket money on junk.
That’s not to say they haven’t done that. They have. But now, they have learnt those lessons young and have clear goals.
How to Teach Money Management
I have a whole post on how to teach your kids about money here. As well as how to get your family on board with finances here.
One of the biggest things for me growing up was how open my parents, uncles and everyone in our lives were with money, business, and relationships. I grew up in an environment rich in opportunities to learn.
Be open with your kids about money without stressing about it. Meaning, if you’re broke, don’t be stressed out in front of or around them.
Kids don’t need that stress. They do need to learn to budget and learn money skills at home though.
Use books and podcasts, I have a list of 23 books that will change your life. My parents had loads of books and I do too.
While there are libraries, I enjoy owning books we will read again or I feel my kids will learn from. This means I have the physical books as well as audiobooks and Kindle.
In the car, or even at home, we often play podcasts that are relevant to life and money which always prompt discussions.
Recommended Money Books
It can be hard to know where to start. We had a home library and here are a selection of books I have in my home. They aren’t aimed at kids, they are more for adults because if you have a handle on your money, you can teach your kids.
- The Barefoot Investor or The Total Money Makeover – Similar books one with an Aussie slant, the other is more American. Both give a good overview of the steps to take to do better with money.
However, they are basic and designed for beginners. There are better ways to manage your money but these have worked for millions of people.
- The Psychology of Money will show you how and why you do things plus how to change.
- The Richest Man in Babylon – a biblical style story so not for everyone but it teaches basic principles to follow for wealth. Get it free on Kindle.
- Unleash Your Inner Money Babe – 21 days to manifesting $1,000. It is more woo woo than others but I love it and every time I do it I make significantly more than the $1,000.
- You are a Badass at Making Money – Jen has a few books and this one is more about money, confidence, mindset etc.
- The Ultimate Guide to Make and Save Money From Home – an eBook outlining ALL my best tips to make and save money including frugal recipes, how to budget, how to get out of debt etc.
- Chill and Prosper or any by Denise Duffield-Thomas. She’s Australian and a lot of her books are about mindset plus filled with loads of tips for making more.
- The Automatic Millionaire – David Bach outlines how to automate your finances and why. Doing it, you can be a millionaire.
2. High Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence has been a focus of mine pretty much since becoming a mum. The desire for confident adults who understand others is strong.
Teaching them to love themselves while loving others, being able to regulate and articulate their emotions rather than keeping it all bottled up, feeling they can talk to me about anything etc. All of it connects and is more important to me than academic intelligence.
How to Teach Emotional Intelligence
Leading by example is important. My kids see me writing in my journal things I am grateful for. At dinner we all say 3 things we are grateful for and a compliment to each other (e.g. something we saw someone in the family do well at or achieve etc).
Using the correct words to identify emotions and express them, having a safe environment to feel all our emotions and seeing me be open about my emotions all help.
Being present with others, talking with them, allowing them a safe place to express themselves (my kids have seen this with complete strangers. If I see someone upset, I always stop to offer assistance).
Read this article with 7 Habits of Highly Emotionally Intelligent Kids. Genmindful shares 5 Ways to Nurture Emotional Intelligence in Kids. You can also find 50 Ways to Strengthen Your Kids Emotional Intelligence by Raising Independent Kids.
As mentioned, we have a lot of books. A few which have helped my kids with their emotional intelligence include:
The Last Lecture – this is my 14-year-olds favourite book which she has read a few times since she was 9. He weaves his life story and lessons into a wonderful book.
Not Just Lucky – this was eye-opening when I read it. Women dismiss too much of their success and achievements. It was gifted to me as I would often refer to my success as luck.
However, going from homeless single mother to multiple international award-winning CEO is not luck. It is hard work, determination and some luck/privilege.
The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck – It has a lot of swearing but the message is good.
The Whole Brain Child – Is a fantastic read as a parent to help you with the many ups and downs of parenting while helping your child develop too.
Living in Australia, this is essential. Both my kids learnt from a young age as my parents had a pool. Growing up on the beach I learned to swim in the surf and loved it, I wanted my kids to be able to do the same.
It shocked us how many kids at their old school in the middle of Melbourne didn’t know how to swim. Given the risks of drowning, getting caught in a rip and how easy it is to drown in a pool, I can’t imagine not teaching my kids this.
Plus, now they are learning to surf, they can do any water activity without me worrying if they will be ok. Canoeing, kayaking, fishing, snorkelling etc.
We were able to snorkel some amazing WWII wrecks in the Solomon Islands despite currents because they knew how to swim well.
How to Teach Swimming
Get lessons professionally or at the very least, teach them yourself in a pool. Be safe, be aware and don’t let them be alone near water.
Make sure they know the signs of drowning, how to be safe and to follow the rules wherever they are. For example, our beach always has a sign from the lifeguards about the current, where to swim, how deep is safe etc. It is placed in the middle of the flags so you know where and how to swim.
4. First Aid
The first time I did a first aid course I was 10 years old. Obviously, I have done it a few times since then as you need to do refreshers to stay relevant. First aid saves lives.
It is incredible what you can do when needed. While we haven’t often had to use first aid for major emergencies, there have been times it has helped.
How to Teach First Aid
First aid should only be taught by qualified professionals. What you might have been taught 10 years ago has changed. Doing first aid wrong has serious consequences so look up your nearest course provider and do it through an accredited teacher.
Every week my kids are cooking new recipes as well as cooking things they already know. They’ve loved trying different recipes with HelloFresh as they are easy to follow (get your first box free with HelloFresh) plus they enjoy searching Pinterest for recipes and ideas.
Both of them have expressed how much they enjoy it, the confidence it gives them and that they want to do more.
Teach them the basics and give them tips as you do it. While teaching my eldest, who has autism, I discovered how much I know which I just assumed she would. With autism, she needed specific step by step instructions. I don’t usually cook like that so had to change how I cook to enable her to learn.
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How to Teach Cooking
Even if you aren’t a cook now, you can find easy recipes or use videos to help you. Get the kids to start by peeling veggies, grating, mixing and seeing what you do. Let them pick recipes, help with the shopping and the whole process from planning through to eating.
Teach them about safety in the kitchen and watch them closely as they learn then give them more room to experiment as they learn more.
Wether it is the basics of sewing on a button, doing small mending jobs such as fixing a seam or hem, sewing is a skill for life. My mother taught my siblings and I (including my brother) before she passed away and we are all grateful for the knowledge.
My kids have done a few basics and when I have a sewing machine again they will learn more. They can do basic mending and made some pillowcases but then we moved and I didn’t have my machine for a while.
Sewing saves money mainly through repairing items I found. My sister sewed her wedding gown though which would have cost $5,000 so if you have the talents it can save even more!
She also made a ball dress for me once. Another sister has made heaps of skirts, PJ’s, scrunchies, pillows, presents and does mending.
How to Teach Sewing
Start with sewing on a button to teach finer hand skills. Cross stitch and similar are good crafts to learn these skills as well. Then, if you know how to sew with a machine, teach your kids some basics. Use tutorials online and start with something simple such as a pillowcase.
7. Basic Repairs
How to fix a hole in a wall, change a washer, clean the filter on the air conditioner, use tools and do what needs to be done. My kids did a few things when we were in Vanuatu, helping with repairs on the home. They loved being able to use the tools and learn about it all.
How to Teach Basic Repairs
You’ll need some tools for yourself but even if you don’t know how to do much, there are numerous video tutorials showing how to do whatever it is you want to know.
Whenever you are doing a repair, let your child watch and help. Have them hand you tools so they can get to know the names of them, let them put putty on the wall and smooth it, get them involved.
The more kids see and are involved in, the easier it is to learn. All these skills will save so much money as well.
8. Survival Skills
My kids can crack a coconut with their elbow or a rock so could survive on an island. They learnt that in Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, along with using a machete, much to their delight.
Knowing how to light a fire, keep warm, find food, purify water, all those things might not seem essential but they go so far. Knowing these skills gives confidence and ensures they are well prepared for emergencies.
We never thought we’d need a lot of these skills then this year we got evacuated from bushfires, flooded, stuck on a remote island overseas because of the pandemic and had to do a lot we were not expecting. You never know what will happen in life.
How to Teach Survival Skills
If you don’t know how to light a fire, watch a video tutorial then give it a go. There are a few different methods. The same goes for water purification, foraging, plant identification etc.
Check to see if there are courses in your local area too. Many Indigenous communities offer guided walks to identify bush foods and teach.
My partner grew up in Vanuatu so he has been teaching them how to crack a coconut, use a machete, repair cars, build, fish, free dive etc. He learnt all of it at a young age.
Similar to emotional intelligence but it is so important to me, it deserves it’s own section. Some might argue this isn’t a skill but the amount of people I know who lack confidence and how that impacts every area of life shows it is something we need to learn.
My aim has always been to ensure my kids are confident about their bodies, their intelligence, their goals, everything.
There is a difference between confidence and entitlement or selfishness. Raising kids to be confident while also understanding is key.
We’ve had our ups and downs, I struggle with confidence in certain areas and do not want my kids to feel how I do about some things.
Their teachers have commented on their confidence, knowledge and overall world views being so mature and different to any children they’ve ever taught. In a positive manner, of course.
Plus, confidence directly connects to finances and choices we make. Some of my poor life choices stemmed from poor self-esteem and a lack of confidence.
How to Teach Confidence
Teaching kids to be confident comes down to how you parent. Be encouraging, have a strong connection, let them talk to you about anything and be completely present when they do. Put your phones away and let them know they are important to you.
I encourage them when they try new things and teach them what I know. Praise is specific, not just “Good job!” but rather “The way you marked the ball, looked for your teammates then kicked it in one smooth move is exactly how the pros do it! That was fantastic!” (I was the Auskick coach for a while).
My kids know they can come to me about anything, ask me anything and constantly say how grateful they are they can. Most of their friends are not comfortable talking to their parents and that needs to change.
10. A Love of Learning
Being given the opportunity to direct their own learning and interests when we were travelling enabled my kids to learn more. When they came back to school here on the Sunshine Coast they were quite far ahead in various areas, much to the surprise of the teachers.
Learning should be fun, make it interactive instead of just doing the theory. Being able to put what they learnt into practice helps solidify the concepts and is more enjoyable to most kids.
Encourage kids to read. For some, it might take a while to discover what they enjoy reading but once they do, it is life-changing.
How to Teach a Love of Learning
Lead by example and follow their interests. Show that we are always learning, no matter our age. If they express an interest in a particular topic, assist them in learning more about it and experiencing it.
Be open to opportunities for learning. Travel when you can. Use homeschooling resources (there are so many free ones and Facebook groups out there for this).
By having those resources, my kids were able to go deep into topics of interest to them such as engineering.
Have resources available and make time to be present with them.
11. Car Maintenance
My dad tried to teach me when I was a teenager and I barely listened. I know it frustrated him but I never thought I’d need to know these things. However, even though I didn’t pay attention properly, it helped.
I’ve done some repairs myself when needed. My Camry had electrical issues but it turned out to be a fuse. When I Googled the issue, the fuse was suggested and it only cost $2 to fix.
How to Teach Car Maintenance
There are car centres which teach car maintenance to you. We shared some tips in this post. Changing a tyre, checking oil, cleaning the car, replacing windscreen wipers, checking fuses, these are all things anyone can learn easily.
Look up tips on Youtube, ask your mechanic or do a course to learn more.