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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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Sally White

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Last Updated on January 6, 2019

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

No one wants to suffer. As a general rule, people like to avoid hurt and pain as much as possible. As a species, humans want a painless existence so much that scientists make a living trying to create it.

People can now choose “pain-free” labor for babies, and remedies to cure back pain, headaches, body-pains and even mental pains are a dime a dozen. Beyond medicine, we also work hard to experience little pain even when it comes to loss; often times we believe a breakup won’t hurt as much if we are the ones to call it off.

But would a world without pain truly be painless? It’s unlikely. In fact, it would probably be painful exactly for that reason.

If people never experienced hurt, they wouldn’t know what it was. On the surface level, that seems like a blessing, but think for a moment: if we didn’t know pain, how would we know peace? If you don’t know you’ve hurt or been hurt, how would you know that you need to heal? Imagine someone only knowing they have an incurable cancer at the final stage because no obvious symptoms have appeared at early stages.

Without the feeling of pain, people won’t be aware of dangerous situations—what should or shouldn’t do for survival.

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Pain Is Our Guardian

Pain serves to protect human beings from harmful actions. It’s the same reason parents teach babies that fire equals hot, and that hot equals hurt. Should the baby still place its hand in a fire or on a stove, the intense pain remains so memorable, that the child is certain never to repeat that action.

In the same way, pain within human bodies can serve as a warning that something is not right. Because you know what it is to feel “well,” you know what it is to feel poorly.[1]

Along with serving as a teacher of what not to do, pain also teaches you what you are made of in terms of what you can handle as an individual.

While the cliche, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a tired term, it’s used excessively for a reason: it’s true. Pain helps you learn to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties and sadnesses— to develop the grit it takes to push past hardships and carry on.

Whether it’s a shattering pain, like the loss of a loved one or a debilitating accident, pain affects everyone differently. But it still affects everyone. Take a breakup as an example, anyone who has experienced it knows it can hurt to the point of feeling physical. Especially the first breakup. At a young age, it feels like the loss of the only love you’ll ever know. As you grow and learn, you realize you’re more resilient with every ended relationship.

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No Pain, No Happiness

You only know happiness when you have known pain. While the idea of constant happiness sounds nice, there is little chance it would be. Without the comparison to happiness, there’s no reason to be grateful for it. That is to say, without ever knowing sadness or pain, you would have no reason to be grateful for happiness.

In reality, there is always something missing, or something unpleasant, but it is only through those realizations that you know to be grateful when you feel you have it all. Read more about why happiness and pain have to exist together: Chasing Happiness Won’t Make You Happy

In a somewhat counter-intuitive finding, researchers found one of the things that brings about the most happiness is challenge. When people are tested, they experience a greater sense of accomplishment and happiness when they are successful. It is largely for this reason that low-income individuals can often feel happier than those who have a sense of wealth.[2]

This is a great thing to remember the next time you feel you would be happier if you just had a little more cash.

Avoiding Pain Leads to More Suffering

Pain is inevitable, embrace it positively. Anyone who strives to have a painless life is striving for perfectionism; and perfectionism guarantees sadness because nothing will ever be perfect.

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This isn’t a bleak outlook, but rather a truthful one. The messy moments in life tend to create the best memories and gratitude. Pain often serves as a reminder of lessons learned, much like physical scars on the body.

Pain will always be painful, but it’s the hurt feelings that help wiser decisions be made.

Allow Room for the Inevitable

Learning how to tolerate pain, especially the emotional kind, is a valuable lesson.

Accepting and feeling pain makes you human. There is no weakness in that. Weakness only comes when you try to blame your own pain on someone else, expecting the blame to alleviate your hurting. There’s a saying,

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.”

Think back to the last time you were really angry with someone. Maybe you were hurt because you got laid off from a job. You felt angry and that anger caused so much pain that you could feel it in a physical way. Being angry and blaming your ex boss for that pain didn’t affect him or her in any way; you’re the only one who lost sleep over it.

The healthier thing to do in a situation like that is acknowledge your pain and the anger along with it. Accept it and explore it in an introspective way. How can you learn and grow? What is at the root of that pain? Are you truly hurting and angry about being laid off, or is the pain more a correlation to you feeling like you failed?

While uncomfortable, exploring your pain is a way to raise your self-awareness. By understanding more about yourself, you know how to deal with similar situations in the future. You can never expect to be numb to difficult situations, but you will learn to better prepare financially for the loss of a job and be grateful for an income since you now know nothing is promised (no matter how much you work or how deserving you may feel).

Pain Hurts, but Numbness Would Be Worse

Pain does not feel good, but the bad feeling of it will help you learn and grow. It makes the sweet moments in life even sweeter and the gratitude more sincere.

To have a happier and more successful life, you don’t learn from success or accomplishment, but through pain and failures. For it is in those moments that you learn how to do better in the future or at least cope a little more easily.

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You are the strong person you are today because of the hardships this life has presented to you. While you may have felt out of control when those hard times came, the one thing you will always have control over is how you choose to react to things. The next time you hurt or you’re angry or sad, acknowledge it and allow yourself to ruminate in it. Then take a deep breath and start learning from that pain. You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1]University of Calgary: Why is Pain Important?
[2]Greater Good Magazine: The Importance of Pain

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