Life skills are something we don’t actually think critically about each day as parents. As we potty train or teach utensil use at the dinenr table, we do so in a natural progression as required by societal expectations.
When toddler days turn into school days, our kids acquire knowledge and learn teamwork and study skills.
But what about those daily tasks we often do for our kids, instead of teaching them to do for themselves? How many times do you clear your child’s dishes from the table? Or buy them candy at the register and then simply hand it to them while walking out the store's doors? How about directions? Does your child know how to ask a waiter to point them toward the bathroom? Does your child know how to answer the phone?
I can admit that one of the above questions was a wake-up call for me. While screaming, "Answer the phone!" a few months ago from across the house, I realized I’d never gone over how to properly pick up a phone call. Needless to say, we are still working on it. Nobody really ever wants to answer the phone, despite desperate pleas for the cellular version with a touch screen!
I’m happy to say that some teaching moments go quite well. When traveling by airplane or train, their dad and I have taught them to check the screens to find terminal and gate numbers. In the car, I usually grab a good, old-fashioned paper map for the kids to follow as well as the glowing blue dot on the Google Maps GPS display. I ask them to look out for certain street signs and highways so they can learn to navigate.
While out shopping or eating, we taught the kids to order their own meals using good manners and, at counter-service locations, they often pay and receive change. Last week, after many an ice cream stop lately, I told the kids we could go for ice cream but they each had to pay for half. Amazingly, their choices were somewhat cheaper. They even chipped in to help each other pay for a treat!
Sometimes a poor Target cashier gets to watch the kids count out dimes and dollars for toy or game. It would be easier and faster for me to just swipe the card, but it feels different to them when the cash leaves their pocket and goes into the register drawer.
There are still things to learn and perfect on my "master skills list." I would love for each of the kids to establish a firm handshake and greeting when meeting people. The art of graceful conversation is next. But that’s another day and another column. For now, they’re still stuck on saying "hello" when they pick up the phone.