What skills do your kids have?

Here’s a challenge – besides reading, writing and asking for a better phone what skills do your teenagers have? And what do they need?  For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children follow this blog or get my book Homemade Kids, out of the library. This post is by Nicola Baird, also see www.nicolabaird.com

We sing when we set up camp... "We didn't start the fire," (King Charles) went down well. (c) homemadekids/nicola baird

Learning to light a fire, in the rain.  (c) homemadekids/nicola baird

It’s time to take stock about the practical skills my teenagers now have. When my daughters were little, learning was fun and they were willing to try all sorts of things from street dance and trampolining to modelling with sticks. Now they are teenagers life looks more restrictive – there’s a lot of peer pressure and instinct to shop and chat. Both are absolutely fine.

However both my girls now babysit quite often and the oldest is thinking about what she could do during a gap year between school and university. So what practical skills do they have? And what do they need?

DIY experience: how about re-covering a chair seat using an upholstery stapler? This is a goodbye pic to my chair which I recently passed on to a Freecycler.

DIY experience: how about re-covering a chair seat using an upholstery stapler? This is a goodbye pic to my chair which I recently passed on to a Freecycler. (c) homemadekids/nicola baird

Life saving
One brilliant tick goes to Lola’s school that organised a first aid session, at a very cheap rate, after AS and A level exams last summer – definitely something worth asking your child’s school to do. Everyone needs to know the basics of first aid because it saves lives. Not long after this training Lola had to step in when a friend collapsed with a diabetes emergency. She said it was very scary to be the only one in the room not screaming, but at least she’d had a little bit of training to know how to use the recovery position, how not to panic and the sort of info you need to tell 999. She also accompanied her friend to hospital which was clearly the right instinct. Going back to the party afterwards was definitely not though!

At 18 in the UK some kids have already been at work for two years, but most have just been at school. Entrepeneurship skills are hard to acquire (I have enough trouble myself making ends meet and spreadsheets balance) but table top sales and babysitting start the process off well for school and college-aged kids. The only problem is that most of these “babies” are in bed, or just about to go to bed, so the teenager doesn’t have much responsibility. What they’ve got to be able to do is step in if things go wrong – and that often needs practice, especially keeping a cool head.

Life hack: trying out a clever way to rethread worn out shoe laces.

Life hack: trying out a clever way to rethread worn out shoe laces.

Life hacks
My daughters see my repairing all sorts of stuff – clothes, sofas, chairs,cushion covers etc. I don’t do it well. There’s no such thing as in invisible repair in my home, but I like the story of a repair showing. I hope seeing me mend things (with my sewing kit and sugru) will inspire them to mend stuff. But I don’t think it does. So today when Lola was queuing to buy some tickets on the net I challenged her to rethread some worn out laces into a shoe. At first she said she couldn’t, then she half did it saying that made the shoes look cool. I want to pass these shoes on to a charity shop so I passed her a pencil to see if that helped poke the worn shoe lace through the eyes… and it did.

You can’t teach practical skills – or common sense – but hopefully you can encourage all children, of any age, to think creatively in order to get what they want. Mine are brilliant at using words to browbeat me: now they also need to learn to use the other side of their brains to mend and repair things – not just to save money when they don’t have much, but to avoid having to throw stuff away unnecessarily.

Over to you
What skills do your kids have – or you’d like them to have – which you reckon are essential? Is it washing up, or thoughtfulness or something else?

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5 Comments on “What skills do your kids have?”

  1. mylifetowin Says:

    Hi,I’v nominated you for liebster award; kindly check this out here. : http://mylifetowin.com/2015/10/29/my-first-blog-award-liebster/

  2. paulanz Says:

    Nicola, I found your blog searching on “skills for kids”! I love what you said “teach them to think creatively to get what they want”. I have three (primary and middle school) and I want them to generally know a) how to solve problems, b) how to take action to create the life they want, and c) how to focus, have discipline to complete things. I would like them to be self directed. School teaches them how to follow instructions, respect an authority, do what they are told, but they need leadership practice, and the ability to know their own minds and make sound decisions once they leave school.
    I recently heard a talk by a person from IBM Watson that made me worry about the future for them – with computing taking on a lot of the work that humans do now and knowledge becoming a commodity. I don’t believe you can count on school to adjust fast enough, so the question is what to do at home to fill the gap.


    • Thank you Paulanz for your comment and questions. It sounds like your children are lucky to have you! Thinking creatively is made easier if mistakes are allowed – and learnt from. And of course it helps if they are able to see family members (or their friends) doing this too. But in the end children learn at their own pace and will often get excited about something that might not seem especially creative or interesting to you. So my tip is play to their strengths (even if it may not always seem very self-directed) and have fun too, then with luck the capacity to think and rethink, and build skills will come. I started this blog when my children were little – as they have become teenagers it has been very interesting seeing what sort of things have helped them, and what temptations there are (especially screens!). It’s a joy to watch children grow up. Good luck. Nicola


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