As I have shared with you before, motherhood wasn’t initially on my radar for many, many years. When Chris and I got married, we were both very focused on building our careers and exploring the world together. We both watched, with genuine delight, as siblings and friends became Moms and Dads and loved spoiling our nieces and nephews, but we still weren’t ready to become parents ourselves. After 13 years of marriage, I gave birth to our first child, Lauren, and both Chris and I fell deeply in love with her the moment we saw her. Two years later, we did it all over again with her little sister, Taylor. I am so grateful that Chris and I had the opportunity to became parents, and I am also so glad we waited until we were ready.
When you become parents, your life changes. Everyone tells you this, of course, but you don’t fully embrace how true it is until you experience it yourself. With sudden clarity, you realize this awesome responsibility you have for your child. They are dependent on you, and not just for food and shelter, but also to teach them how to be good stewards of the world. To instill in them the life skills that will help them succeed. To always love and cherish, no matter what. This is something I think about quite a bit, especially as Lauren and Taylor will turn 12 and 10 before year-end. They are growing up and I can see glimmers of the young women inside of them.
There is a lot of emphasis on academics, which is understandable. We expect the girls to do their best in school too, but I also believe that academics are only part of the education children require. As I’ve told my girls since they were toddlers, it is important that they know four quarters equal a dollar and it is just as important they know how to use that dollar wisely. This is how life skills complement academics. Today, I’m going to focus on three life skills your children need to learn.
If you’ve gone to the mall lately or anywhere tweens and teens hang out, you’ll likely note an interesting phenomena. While they still travel in packs, they aren’t laughing and talking to one another, but instead they are glued to their smartphones. While I enjoy Twitter and texting too, I also know how to communicate beyond 140 characters and emojis.
This is actually becoming a serious problem, and not being able to communicate effectively as adults will make it harder for them to work in teams, to advance to leadership roles and to maintain healthy relationships at work and at home. This is why it is important to me that Lauren and Taylor know how to articulate with actual words what they are thinking and feeling. To learn how to problem-solve, respectfully argue and persuade verbally. To learn how to use their words to express emotions, both good and bad and everything in between, versus acting out instead. And yes, I realize acting out is part of being a teenager. I also know that many teens misbehave or lash out because they don’t know how to express whatever emotion they are feeling in a non-destructive manner.
Never forget that kids mimic how they see others communicate. So if they see Mom and Dad only shout at one another, give each other the silent treatment or worse, than that is how they will choose to communicate as well.
I get up every morning, before the sun even rises, to squeeze in my daily workout, and I am very fussy about what food I put in my body. This is not me being “picky”, but I know what my body needs to work at peak condition. My life is very busy, and I depend on my body and mind to function at a high level to help me power through the day. When I skip a workout or eat something I shouldn’t, I feel it.
It’s important that girls have basic skills around taking care of a home, such as knowing how to cook, do laundry, clean and so on, but I also want to make sure they know how to properly feed and care for their bodies and mind. We exercise; we eat healthy; we practice gratitude; we go to Church and we give back, and the girls know why we do all of those things. I want taking care of their bodies and minds to become an ingrained habit, but also a habit with purpose. Otherwise, it can be easy to let these habits slide, if you don’t understand why they matter so much.
It is an unfortunate reality, but we live in a world where not everyone is kind and good. Some people want to hurt you; sometimes you might even love that person. We, as parents, spend a lot of time teaching our kids right from wrong, not to touch a hot stove and to look both ways before crossing the street, which are all important lessons, but we sometimes overlook teaching them to protect themselves or to recognize signs of danger.
As much as I possibly can, I try to make sure the girls stay in safe environments with trusted adults. I also know that it is impossible to guarantee their safety 100% of the time. It’s why we talk to the girls about the realities of someone hurting them in an age-appropriate way. To understand that while we respect our elders, that they, in turn, should also respect us and never do anything that makes us feel uncomfortable or hurts us. To know that loving someone does not make it okay for them to hit or hurt you. We teach the girls to value their self-worth and to expect others to do the same. And most importantly, to know that we are here for them, always.
Many of my long-time readers probably recognize that these life skills are also important values in the Ryan home. Everything connects from values to life skills to goals to finally creating the life you want for yourself. This is obviously just a small sampling of the many life skills that we want to instill in our girls, but represent some of the key ones. Next Monday, I’ll go deeper on the money life skills that I am instilling in the girls.
What life skills are your instilling in your children?