My husband would argue that the most important life skill to have is this: if you are first in line at a red light, you must be prepared to step on the gas the very first second that it turns green. Much like sitting in the emergency exit row on an airplane, he thinks there should be a little Q & A before you accept the responsibility of being first at a stop light. Furthermore, he believes there should be some sort of punishment should you fall short of your duties as first-in-line. If you aren’t paying attention, accelerate too slowly or cause the cars behind you to honk, you should be subjected to some form of public shaming, like the videos of dogs whose owners make them wear signs alerting you that they ate their owners’ shoes/underwear/walls.
On the other hand, I happen to think that the most important life skill is to be able to yell loudly enough from anywhere in the house that your teenager can hear you, even and especially if he has his headphones on and is behind a closed door. The trick to this is taking a deep cleansing breath, both for projection and patience, and shout the name, loud and quick. You have to get it out fast because if you drag out their name in one long yell, it will just blend into the background. But the quick, loud burst will break through whatever YouTube video they are watching. There’s always a bit of a delay in their response, kind of like with Skype or Facetime, but you get used to it. You might have to do it twice, but it still beats hoofing it around the house when you need them to take out the garbage.
All kidding aside, life skills are all about values and perspective. And when and how to teach your kids depends on their personality, independence and motivation. And maybe the most important life skill is recognizing areas you want to improve and then doing it.
I have vivid memories of my youngest son as a toddler, climbing kitchen counters and opening cupboards to get himself a bowl of cereal. Or climbing out of his crib as soon as he was physically able to explore the world. If he wants something, he usually figures out a way to make it happen. He is a ball of energy and motion.
My older son is a little more willing to sit back and be waited on. This is largely because he is on the autism spectrum (albeit very high functioning) and his brain functions differently. Creative problem solving, thinking outside the box or coming up with a solution on his own - those executive functions of the brain do not come easily to him. Learning another language? Check. Calculating complex math problems completely in his head? Done. Handily beating every single one of his friends at Super Smash Bros to the point that they have set up special rules to handicap him so that the other players have a shot? Yep. But being attentive and ready with his order when the waitress comes to our table? We are still working on that.
Not all kids learn life skills the same way. My younger son was independently getting himself organized and ready for school each morning at an age far earlier than his older brother. It was a revelation to me because I wasn’t used to that and didn’t know I could expect it. My younger son’s independence has taught me a lot about what both my kids are capable of. Turns out my older son is able to master far more tasks than I previously gave him credit for. I just didn’t know. But now I do and I am improving in my expectations of him.
When I compare them, it’s not in a critical way. In our family we talk a lot about how we all have different gifts and abilities. Not everyone can be good at everything. And there is always something special we have that other people don’t. I illustrate their differences here simply and objectively to...well, compare. Kids are different. Even when they are from the same exact gene pool.
That’s one of the reasons I’m most excited about Kudoso. We can set up motivators and rewards (Kudos) that individually suit each child in your home. Kudoso’s rewards system offers positive encouragement to help us get the progress we want from our boys with less resistance. We can teach our kids to manage their technology and implement strategies to help them learn the life skills that are in line with our family values.
And with the “whole home” solution to turn off all devices when needed, I might even get to replace my most valued life skill (the yelling to pierce the headphones), with something new.
By Lorri Strand, Kudoso Kontributor