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10 Essential Life Skills to Pass on to Your Kids

a father teaching his children how to cook.

Recently a UK paper published a survey of the top 30 “basic life skills” fathers are no longer teaching their children. The list, topped off with “building a tree house” and “making a catapult,” reads more like a lament on the invasiveness of modern technology than a realistic parenting critique. I know it’s British, but “playing Pooh sticks” isn’t exactly what I’d dub a “basic life skill” in the twenty-first century.

There is, however, a point to be made about what parents aren’t teaching their children any longer. In the era of two-working-parent families with single motherhood on the rise, it isn’t any surprise that parents have learned to rely heavily on educational outlets to pass on the kind of skills children used to learn at home. Even stay-at-home mothers like me who maintain a certain level of flex-time work wind up watching their children learn their letters and numbers from Sesame Street.

Yet, even outsourced education is severely lacking when it comes to critical life skills. Younger children are being forced to consume academics at tender ages from educators who struggle to impart basic social skills. Parents of older children often complain that high school students learn none of the basic life skills they once attained in public school: sewing, financial management, basic home and auto repair. College graduates who used to be able to establish successful careers with broad-based liberal arts degrees now struggle to find work. Trade school students have a better chance of becoming independent business owners than their more elite peers.

That’s not to say that every child needs to become a master plumber, but if I were to make a list of the skills parents no longer pass down to their children I certainly wouldn’t waste my time on Pooh sticks. In fact, here are 10 “real life skills” my husband and I want to pass down to our sons.

Time Management What really matters? And why? So many kids are shuffled around to different activities that they’re on ADHD medication. I bet none of them understand the value their parents place on these things, because their parents don’t either. I want our kids to value the time they’ve been given and know how to use it wisely.

Basic Outdoor Skills An avid camper, my husband looks forward to pitching tents, hiking, and teaching our sons about nature. I’m big on the fun of compasses, pocket knives, and how to read physical maps without the assistance of a computerized voice.

How to Build, Not Just Use a Computer Yes, times have changed since my husband tinkered in the '90s, but the concept is still the same: If you want to appreciate the technology, you need to understand how it works. Our kids won’t just be mesmerized by Minecraft or YouTube.

Home Repair and Maintenance This includes everything from woodworking, to electrical and plumbing basics. It’s amazing how cheap it is to re-do a bathroom when you know what you’re doing.

Auto Repair and Maintenance My husband built his college car with his dad over the course of one summer. He’s saved us thousands in repairs, oil changes and the like ever since.

Financial Management Most “financial advisors” are liberal arts graduates with no finance background who needed a job out of college and practiced with their parents’ and grandparents’ money. Given that most people today confuse Bitcoin with game tokens, our kids are going to need a solid understanding of how money works beyond physical cash. They aren’t going to get that from teachers who trust cash register computers to make change.

Basic Medical Knowledge It starts with healthy eating, proper care, and First Aid and goes from there. Doctors spend on average seven minutes per patient. Mistakes are made. Lives are lost. You don’t need an MD to be your best care provider.

Research Methodology Our kids will know what a primary source is and will not rely on Alexa, Siri, or Wikipedia to answer a question.

Critical Thinking Skills We used to be able to rely on educators to pass down the gifts of Bloom's taxonomy and the like. Today children are being taught more about what to think than how to approach any subject with a critical eye. Parents are now responsible for teaching their children how to analyze knowledge, brainstorm potential solutions, and synthesize experiences in order to reach effective conclusions.

Reverence for God Each day we pray that our children will live a long and happy life fulfilled by the pursuit of God’s purposes for them. If my sons cannot “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God” then all other lessons will be lost along the way.