The Top 10 Most Important Life Skills for Kids!
I hope you’ll teach your child how to hammer a nail into a piece of wood or how to comparison shop. In fact, there are a lot of practical skills that would benefit your child, and I hope that you’ll take the time to teach your child as many of them as possible! But, today, we are talking about the big stuff! The most essential life skills for kids! The things they MUST know to really thrive and be successful in life!
A great deal of what I’ve learned about what is truly necessary for kids to excel has come not from what I’ve value for my children, but rather what I have seen other moms struggle with over and over.
From dealing with processing issues to crippling shyness to indifference, I’ve taken careful notes and compiled a list of the life skills for kids that, when taught, will actually provide your child with hundreds of subset life skills!
These are the big ones! The life skills for kids, you just don’t want to miss… so let’s get to it.
The Top 10 Most Important Life Skills for Kids!
#1. Speaking to People!
Tellers at the bank, cashiers at the store, waitresses at the restaurant, gas station clerks, job interviews, Realtors when buying a home, and on and on and on.
Your child will HAVE to speak to people for his entire life. People are everywhere and always will be. How a person treats you is very often directly correlated to how you treat him or her.
I have weighty convictions about this. I have talked to moms who are desperate and deeply concerned because her child won’t speak to anyone! Shyness can be legitimately crippling.
Your child will benefit greatly from a firm handshake and knowing the importance of looking someone in the eye when introducing himself!
Learning how to speak to people is the foundation for all of these types of skills.
Take the time and put forth the energy to intentionally train your child how to look someone in the eye and state what they need to say!
Speaking well to people is, by a landslide, far and beyond, the #1 most important life skill for your child to learn!
#2. Setting Healthy Boundaries and Saying NO!
This is so important! Hear my heart loud and clear right now!
If your child can’t look someone in the eye and speak to them, she won’t be able to tell someone, “NO” when she is in an uncomfortable situation!
I got permission from my daughter to share this story because I know it’ll bless you and maybe make you chuckle!
Not long ago, we were at a Chick-Fil-A when my older children were playing with our “baby” (he’s 5) in the play area.
The place was particularly busy, and it seemed like everyone had a wild hair that day.
After being in the play area for about 30 minutes or so, one little boy around four years old came up behind my daughter and smacked her hard – square on the booty!
Mortified, my daughter turned around, pointed her finger, made fierce eye contact, and yelled out, “NO SIR! You DO NOT touch me there!”
Yes! That was a proud mama moment for the books!
In this situation, my daughter’s offender was just a little guy that likely didn’t know much better. His family probably gave booty-smacks on the regular. Though he desperately needs to be taught appropriate boundaries, the truth is, my daughter wasn’t in real danger.
However, it gave her a GREAT opportunity to practice looking someone in the eye and assertively protecting herself, her body, and her space!
Afterward, we had a conversation about what she’d have done if, God forbid, it had been an older boy (or worst case, a grown man.)
She assured me that her response would have been the same and that she’d have run to me screaming and clawing if necessary! And I have confidence that she would, because that girl (and all the kids) have been trained how not to be afraid of people and saying NO is an important element of that!
*Pro-tip: Read about how telling your child NO makes it easier for her to say it when necessary here.
#3. Making Friends
Humans are relational beings. We were not created to live in isolation or solitude.
The very makeup of our minds requires interaction.
Unfortunately, making a new friend and then maintaining that relationship can be a daunting task.
Even for relational people, relationships take work.
Equipping your children with the basic life skills they need to make friends and then teaching them along the way, how to be a good friend will benefit them more than you’ll be able to see in this lifetime.
This is not only a life skill that children need; it’s a gift you’ll be giving them!
#4. Be Slow to Speak
We all have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
James 1:19 says, “Be quick to listen and slow to speak.”
People like to talk about themselves. Teaching your children how to be good and active listeners requires teaching them how to be slow to speak.
Have you ever talked to someone only to have them cut you off with a story of their own before you can finish your sentence?
Of course you have. We all have.
It makes you feel like what you had to say wasn’t all that important or that the other person doesn’t really care about you.
That’s probably not the case. More likely is that she simply had poor conversation skills.
Train your child how to be an active listener by being slow to speak, and she will likely be heard more often as a result. Those speaking to her will appreciate her ability to “hear them out” and return the favor.
While sympathy involves feeling sorry for someone else’s misfortunate, empathy is sharing in the feelings of another.
Most children will develop sympathy. It’s someone intuitive and natural to see someone hurting and wish they weren’t.
Empathy, on the other hand, has to be taught.
Engaging with someone’s feelings in a way that allows you to “feel them too” takes gratitude, understanding, and kindness to a whole new level.
Take steps to train empathy. Empathetic children are the ones who touch the lives of others. One of the most significant life skills for kids, this can’t be overlooked!
#6. How to Find Information
Teach a child to love to read, and there is nothing he can’t do!
Knowing how to find information will be vital to your child’s adult life. There will be ALL manner of questions he’ll have about ALL sorts of things.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of bad information readily available and served up on a very “official” silver platter, thanks to the internet.
Encyclopedias, books, and even the internet CAN be great places to gather information so that your child can make an informed decision.
But, he needs to know how to do so with good judgment and objective selection.
I get asked quite often what kind of homeschooling we do. Unit studies? Textbooks? Classical? Charlotte Mason?
My typical response is, “We read!”
From birth, I read more than is probably normal, to my children.
A child with a love of reading has the ability to learn anything he needs or wants to.
Reading and finding information go hand in hand.
Train your child how to find the information through reading and then how to objectively sort through what’s credible and what’s not!
#7. Problem Solving
My children’s basketball coach makes then run laps if he hears anyone on the team use the words, “I can’t.”
Having the mindset that most things can be figured out and are solvable is the #1 most important element of problem-solving.
After all, if you don’t believe that it can be done, you’re not going to put effort into trying.
Problem-solving requires analyzing a situation, looking at it objectively, brainstorming solutions, and implementation. All of those skills are teachable.
Problem-solving is a skill that requires hands-on help from parents.
Sometimes it may mean taking a step back when you know you could get something done faster.
Other times you’ll have to actually walk your child through a “solution-finding exercise” step by step.
Likewise, being a solutions finder yourself will set the best problem-solving example for your children!
#8. Responsibility for Self
There are a plethora of subset life skills that fall into this category!
You can teach your child how to clean his room, and that’ll be a good thing. Furthermore, you can teach him how to get his homework done without being asked, and that would be a really good thing for everyone.
However, the best way to cover ALL these types of characteristics and traits is to help your child become fully aware of his responsibility for self.
Train her to see what it means to be an individual, independent of the rest of the world, yet connected to it.
Teach her that the only thing she can truly control is her own actions.
Help her understand that her mind, her body, and soul are uniquely hers, and that comes with a responsibility.
Responsibility for self is a life skill that will have a far and wide positive ripple effect for your child.
#9. Time Management
Time management is a difficult life skill for kids to master. Heck, it’s a difficult life skill for adults to master!
Children, in particular, have little concept of time.
When we are rushing out the door and telling them we are going to be LATE, all our children understand is that mommy is frustrated and acting in a way that stresses them out.
They sense the tension of the situation but have NO idea why it’s happening or what it means.
Teaching time management can happen by both example and intention.
If you have an 8 a.m. appointment, get up in plenty of time to get yourself ready, get your child fed, and get out the door, so you are waiting in the lobby with time to spare, you are setting an example of what keeping appointments should FEEL like.
Repeated over and over every time you have an appointment or need to leave the house, and your child will follow suit. This way of living will be all she knows and, as such, will adopt your practices.
Alternately, when you are always rushed, frustrated, and overwhelmed, she will think that’s just how life functions.
You can take steps to intentionally train by using timers for tasks, drawing pie charts on clocks, etc.
Just remember that the greatest tool you have to teach time management for your child is your own actions.
#10. Money Management
You can’t learn how to correctly and responsibly handle money if you don’t have any.
This is why I believe it’s good to pay your children.
How much you pay them is not important!
And whether or not you pay them with cash isn’t even that important. But, there should be some sort of monetary item your child can use for things he wants.
Once he has some money, you can train him how and why to give, how and why to save, and how and why to spend responsibly.
I have to admit, this is one of my favorite things to teach.
I am a saver by nature, and one of my children is a spender.
We have a: tithe, save, spend rule in our home. When the children receive money (other than gift money), they tithe 10%, save 10%, then are free to spend the rest.
However, just because a child HAS 80% to spend, doesn’t mean he or she SHOULD spend.
I often encourage the kids to understand that impulse buying may break your heart later when you find something you’d like to have more, but do not have the money to buy it with because you spend it on something less important already.
Helping your child learn to create habits of holding on to money when necessary and knowing when to let it go will prove very valuable later in life. It could be the difference between your child’s financial well-being and his downfall.
The Most Essential Life Skills for Children
A lot of what we learn, we learn through the school of hard knocks. Trial and error.
I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes learning something the hard way is the best way to learn well!
All that to say, there is enough that your child will learn the hard way. Life is loaded with challenges, and each one of them will present its own lesson that will hopefully provide a few helpful life skills for your kids.
Being intentional to teach these 10 most essential life skills for kids will give your child a “leg-up” as he navigates through turbulent waters of the world.
These life skills will help him cope and conquer obstacles and real-life problems.
Teach them well and enjoy the time and privilege you have been given to do so!
Hey shelley, This is a great post. Everyday I see my son struggling with the most basic life skills. He is only 3 years old, and while he can feed himself and use the potty, he has a hard time doing other things. He can’t tie his shoes or even zip up his jacket. He can’t even hold a pencil to draw, and he can’t even throw a ball, let alone catch one! I know these are simple life skills, but he is way behind.
Thanks so much for writing in! I am curious, has someone told you your son is behind? It is not typical for a 3-year-old to be able to tie his shoes or zip his jacket or catch a ball. Those things take a lot of dexterity and more mature coordination than most 3-year-olds have. I would continue to practice holding a pencil, however, I would buy a large one, as regular pencils are so small, they can be difficult to learn with. Or use a crayon. As a general rule, boys tend to develop gross motor skills more easily and quickly than fine motor skills. I am not at all surprised that he can’t yet do the things you have listed. My strong recommendation would be to take a deep breath, let go of any fear you have about it, and continue to work with him a bit each day. If a medical doctor that you trust has told you he is behind, I would get a second opinion. Otherwise, replace your concerns with daily bonding moments, read out loud, interact on the floor together, and build memories!