In the era of helicopter parenting and spoon-feeding, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of overparenting. While we ensure that our children get to be children and make the path ahead of them as smooth as possible by protecting and cultivating them, it is equally important to remind ourselves that we are raising adults and preparing them for success.
Even with the best intentions, over-helping your little ones can hinder their proper development and deprive them of a chance to amply face the real world. While we can’t possibly teach every skill and trick in the box, you can (and should) still let them learn the following essential life skills by age 10, which would help them better cope in the world and grow into responsible and valuable members of society.
1. Pack (And Carry) Their Own Bag
It is an all too common sight – domestic helpers or doting mums lugging their child’s schoolbag en route to school. Some parents even help their kids pack their bags the night before out of fear that they may miss out something. While not necessarily a skill, packing one’s own bag builds the skill of doing inventory and fosters responsibility from a young age. They can also learn about taking ownership of their belongings.
2. Take Public Transport
At first glance, it may seem like kids who get to be ferried around before and after school enjoy a great privilege. However, what they miss out on is the skill of troubleshooting and figuring out directions that comes with independence. Taking the bus to and from school is a good start, from remembering bus routes to managing their own time so as not to miss their ride. The little ones can also learn how to be more streetwise and develop a spirit of exploration.
3. Talk To Strangers
In today’s context, it is perhaps time to reconsider the popular parenting rule “don’t talk to strangers” and instead teach children to speak to the right ones. Learning how to distinguish threatening strangers from the vast majority of ‘normal’ ones is itself a skill. They can also learn valuable communication skills that comes with putting themselves out there and having a voice.
4. Ordering Their Own Food
In the same vein as talking to strangers, training the skill of placing an order at a restaurant is one of the essential things to learn from a young age that comes in handy as they grow up. Rather than ordering for them and assuming that they’ll like your choice, train them to make decisions for themselves. Just remind them to look the service crew in the eye, be polite, communicate their request, and say, “thank you”.
5. No I In Team
In today’s global village, the value of teamwork is highly emphasised. Encourage them to strive towards achieving common goals as a team, and to work well with people holding divergent views. Mastering this skill will enable them to consider the opinions and feelings of others from a tender age, allowing them to learn the importance of empathy.
6. Laundry Time Is Family Time
Kids are never too young to help out with the laundry. From pushing the timer button to loading the washing machine, doing laundry together helps the family bond, while letting the kids learn how seemingly boring chores are actually essential the day-to-day function. Be careful not to snap at them if they make mistakes or mess things up; just show them the ropes again.
7. Prepare A Meal
This one may make some mums anxious, especially domestic goddesses where the kitchen is their sacred place. But letting your child learn the process of putting food on the table teaches them not to take meals (and mealtimes) for granted. The chicken doesn’t prepare itself, and neither do the dishes wash themselves. Involving them in the cooking process builds confidence in their ability to create. Even if it is a plate of nuggets from the air fryer, the lessons learnt from their parents’ approving nods and smacking of lips can prove invaluable in the long run.
8. Get Dressed
Watching our little ones get themselves into a heap over wearing their sweater the right way can be hilarious, and it helps to build competence in them too. Our busy schedules may prevent us from having the patience to let them sort themselves out, but think of it as a one-time lesson; once they can differentiate right shoe from left, it becomes all about practice after that.
9. Go Grocery Shopping
Does your kid have a long wishlist of sweets and chocolates? Rather than making a beeline for the candy section, try getting your little shopper to assist in picking out the fresh fruits and vegetables instead. Teaching them how to pick a ripe papaya or fresh seabass may seem a little premature for their age. But when kids learn and absorb information like a sponge, these little life skills will give them much needed confidence and street-smarts to set him apart from his peers in the future.
10. Plan A Family Day
Give them the reins once in a while to plan an outing for the family. Granted, their options may be limited (or far-fetched), but this trains their event planning nous and spread their wings. They will learn that the world, while big, is not a scary place. Let them get the tickets for the theme park, or buy the popcorn for the movie – all you have to do is to sit back and relax.