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How to Teach Your Kids the Most Important Soft Skills That Aren’t Taught in Schools

How to Teach Your Kids the Most Important Soft Skills That Aren’t Taught in Schools

Ever ask a teenager a question and they shove their hands in their pockets, avert their eyes and mumble some incoherent answer. It makes you irritated, maybe even suspicious, but before you jump to any conclusions, that teen may not have learned the soft skills necessary for childhood development. These set of interpersonal skills are usually not taught in schools, but learning them in childhood can prevent future problems.

Unlike hard skills, like math, reading, science and social studies, soft skills revolve around communication, relating with others, and self discipline. Like balancing a check book and figuring out a mortgage rate, these essential skills are usually learned outside the classroom from their families and peers. Sometimes these necessary soft skills aren’t learned at all.

The Soft Skills They Won’t Teach You in School

Did you think that self-confident class president learned how to schmooze his way to victory from his history class? More than likely, he learned from mimicking a family member or through a mentor. But just what exactly are these soft skills[1]?

Social Skills

Social skills may include greeting adults and peers and interaction with people outside their immediate family, peers, and adults.

Manners

Please, thank you, you’re welcome, yes ma’am, no sir. Polite manners are all soft skills that usually aren’t addressed in the school curriculum. Ever hold the door open for someone? Who taught you to do that?

Communication

How to speak to someone. How to get your point across, clear and concise, with no mumbling, no hands over the mouth, or averted eyes and slouched posture.

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Listening

Listening is as important as communicating, and due to our reliance on electronics, this soft skill has fallen behind for many.

Building rapport

Making friends and alliances. Again, due to our technology, we rely more on texting than face to face communication, which is necessary to build good rapport with others.

Empathy

Seeing things from another person’s perspective. When you face an issue from another person’s point of view, you are less likely to barge through that situation without concern of how the outcome may affect others.

Problem Solving

Sure, you learn what 2y is in Algebra, but there are so many real life scenarios that school kids aren’t usually prepared for – like what to do when the power runs out or how to gather help from fellow employees on a difficult task. Employers often look for independent problem solvers[2].

Self Control

Centering around sharing, controlling emotions, such as angry outbursts or even interrupting people, self-control is a vital soft skill that should be taught from an early age.

Self Esteem/Self-Confidence

No one is born charismatic and overflowing with high self esteem. This comes from learning to be happy with yourself and realizing that ‘you are enough.

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How You Can Teach Your Children Soft Skills

You taught your kids their ABC’s, how to remember their address and phone number, and how to ride a bike and now you have to teach them soft skills?! Before you tear your hair out, children learn a lot of soft skills by example. It’s easy to incorporate them into your daily life – in fact you may already do most of them.

A Trick to Making Kids Learn Soft Skills

Do you find yourself saying: “Don’t slouch. Don’t mumble!” Kids tend to drop that ‘not’ out of everything – so instead of telling them what NOT to do, instead guide them towards what they should do: Stand tall. Speak clearly.

Learning Good Manners

You don’t have to send your kids to etiquette school to learn good manners. Accentuate manners within your life. Always say please and thank you. Hold the door open for people and use ‘excuse me’ and ‘you’re welcome.’ And expect your children to follow suit.

Communicating and Building Good Rapport

Have your kids look directly at the person with whom they are communicating. Ear buds out of ears. Cellphone tucked away in their pocket. They should focus on the person and really listen and respond appropriately. This will aid them to build good rapport with people as well. If they sit in enough adult conversations – with their electronics confiscated -, they will become aware of the give and take in good conversations.

A Lesson in Someone Else’s Shoes

All kids should learn a little empathy. Teens all too often shout out ‘get a job’ to a homeless man on the street corner and call other kids names, without even thinking there might be a story behind their situation. The girl who smells at school may be homeless and without running water. That beggar on the corner may be a decorated veteran out on his luck.

Expose your children to other people’s lives. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate items to the Salvation Army, adopt a kid for Christmas, or help put together food baskets for needy families over the holidays and deliver them together.

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Real World Problem Solving

Involving your child in the day to day problems of life can help build their problem solving skills. Clean up messes together, replace batteries in things, catch a fish, teach them how to run the washing machine and expect them to help washing up.

You can also try Geo-caching, a world-wide treasure hunt. Put them in charge of the GPS and directing the way. Alternately, you can test skills in an Escape Room – a popular trend where a handful of people must team up to solve a series of puzzles and riddles in order to ‘escape’ before the measured time is up.

Taking Control of Themselves

By far one of the most vital soft skills, self-control does not come easy for children. They have to learn no is no and how to share. Start them young on this. Arrange play dates with friends or join a local parenting group with other parents and their children.

It’s hard for some kids to see other kids playing with their toys, so stay alert, but eventually, when they realize the other child isn’t going to take off with their favorite toy truck, they may just get the picture.

Try not to give in to a temper tantrum and when faced with an angry child, a time out is a good idea and break out the bubbles. Blowing bubbles makes it hard for kids to stay focused on their anger.

You may want to include short meditation (1-3 minutes) into their daily routine to keep them calm.

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Feeling Good About Themselves

Kids all too often use things like good grades and popularity as metrics to measure their self-esteem. That’s like trying to shoot a harpoon to the moon – you’ll always fall short of that goal. One day there will be a more popular kid in school, or they’ll face a D on a test or worse. They need to be taught those things really don’t matter in the long run.

If your child gets a bad grade, tell them “it happens” and try not to make a big deal about it.

Have adventures with your kids to build their self esteem and lift their self confidence, like rock climbing, biking, camping or kayaking a river. Set a goal and achieve it together.

Once they start achieving goals outside of the classroom, they may realize that D on the math test was not such a big deal, or so and so may be more popular but heck, they just kayaked an intermediate run!

Your kids may not be taught soft skills in the classroom, but by teaching them these essential skills yourself, and incorporating them into your daily lives, you may find yourself connecting with your kids over stuff that really matters.

Reference

[1] Interpersonalskillsonline.com: More Soft Skills
[2] Childtrends.org: 5 Soft Skills That Help Youth Succeed at Work

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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