Research done by top universities like Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Columbia and IIT show that children with a strong foundation of life skills are motivated, resilient, confident and successful
By Aparna Samuel Balasundaram
See your child ten, fifteen, perhaps twenty years from now. What kind of person would you want her or him to be? In my experience, more than fame and fortune, most parents hope and pray that their child will be happy and successful in life.
What would constitute a recipe for happiness and success? The answer is ‘life skills’, which are social,emotional and cognitive skills. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines life skills as the ‘abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life.’
If you think that success and happiness are linked to mere academic performance, just look back on your own lives and schooldays, and you will probably see that the classmates who got the highest grades are not necessarily happy or successful! No text book teaches life skills, nor do most schools shoulder the responsibility of imparting them. As parents, we invest time and money in sending our children for tuitions, hobby courses, sports and other after school activities. While these are good avenues to develop skills for success, as parents you will also have to make a conscious effort to live out these life skills, before imparting them in your children, for the best results.
There are many life skills that children need to succeed. Here are the 7 most essential:
Self-esteem is a foundational life skill and is reflected in how we value ourselves and our worth, to our families, friends and the world around us. The way we see ourselves is more crucial than the way the world sees us! This would explain why some famous people (like movie stars,sportsmen, musicians) who seem to ‘have it all’ as far as worldly fame and money are concerned,still struggle with substance abuse, low self-worth or loneliness. As you invest in developing your child's self-esteem, you will see that he is willing to take risks, deal with failure, stand up to bullying, welcome challenges, work on his weaknesses and is even able to laugh at himself.
While it is important for a child to be self-aware, and know that she is unique and special, the idea is not to create‘self-centred’ and selfish children. For a child to be successful in life, it is crucial for her to believe that while she is special, so are others! This lays the foundation for respect and empathy, one of the most humane skills. It helps her to think about the needs and feelings of her parents, siblings,grandparents, extended family members, friends and those working in her house and school. This also helps her to be more aware of the need for conservation, environment protection and cruelty against animals. A child who demonstrates these life skills of being caring,kind and empathetic will always be respected and happier in life.
Failure and disappointments are a part of life. As a parent, do not shield and overprotect your child. It is important for your child to learn how to ‘bounce’ back from these failures and not take them to heart or let it define them for life. They have to learn that after the thunderstorm the rainbow will come. Developing these life skills helps them to persist, set goals, motivate themselves and look for the silver lining, even when faced with negativity or challenging circumstances.
Do not shield and overprotect your child. It is important for your child to learn how to ‘bounce’ back from these failures and not take them to heart or let it define them for life.
Our children are growing up in an interdependent world and will have to work with people from different cultures, religions and countries. To be successful in working with such diversity they will have to learn the life skills of collaboration, effective teamwork and negotiation skills. As parents,we should start preparing children for this globalization by exposing them to different kinds of art forms,music, literature, foods and talk to them about the rich diversity of people, beliefs and ideas in India as well as in different regions of the world, and current global news. The idea being that our children should grow up neither feeling inferior or superior to any other culture or race,rather they should see themselves as effective contributing members of a global society.
The pressures that our children face today on the social and academic front are intense, and leave them feeling frustrated, irritable and sometimes drawn towards substance abuse and other high-risk behaviours. As parents, we need to talk about these pressures, and how they manifest themselves in a negative way, to our children. We also need to help them develop strategies to manage their emotions, impulses and negative thought patterns.
How many times have you wished that your child would be better organized! These cognitive-based life skills of decision-making, problem-solving, goal-setting and time management bring more purpose and order into your child’s routine today, as well as into their future. As parents, especially in our Indian culture, we tend to make decisions for our children, pick up after them, keep their rooms and personal belongings organized and act as their personal timekeepers! Just let go a little, and give your child the space and clear guidelines to learn and appreciate the benefit of these skills. This provides an opportunity for them to develop a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment for achieving positive outcomes from decisions they made - and learning from the hard consequences of poor decisions.
If we want our children to grow up to be positive contributors of change, they have to be encouraged to think outside the box. All children are born with imagination and immense power for creativity and innovation; remember how they played for hours with just a cardboard box! Unfortunately, we then start forcing them to think within strict lines and create a ‘cookiecutter’ mentality. By not proactively encouraging free-thinking, we rob them of becoming inventors,scientists, authors, music composers, movie directors and great visionaries. We do not want to create a nation of ‘copycats’ and mere ‘implementers’, we need to help our children be on the cutting edge of research and innovation, as the new world will belong to those who can dare to think different, be curious and ask ‘why’ and ‘why not’?
So parents, there is no time like the present to help your child develop these life skills as this will help them to flourish and be the best versions of themselves – and create a solid foundation for success and happiness in life!
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Aparna Samuel Balasundaram