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  • Writer's pictureSIEW

Study Hard and Everything Else Will "Fall In Place".  Really?

A few years back during class, one of my students — a 9 year old child, picked up the water bottle she had left behind in the centre from her last lesson about a week ago.  She was about to drink from it when I stopped her.  I was worried that the water was stagnant and unhygienic.  I suggested that she bring the bottle to the basin to rinse it so that we can fill it with fresh, clean drinking water.  I saw a flash of hesitation in her eyes.  She put down the bottle and nonchalantly replied: "It’s ok, I’m not very thirsty.”.  She went without water for the rest of her lesson.

It occurred to me that she had no idea how to wash a water bottle, and she had decided to hide this fact by forgoing the need to quench her thirst.  

Since then, this question has been bugging me: we jump out of our chairs in fear and anger when our children score anything less than 70/100 marks, yet we don’t bat an eyelid when they don’t know how to tie their shoelace.  Why?

Life Skills Have To Be Taught

Today’s parents have high expectations of their children.  Me too.  If I had my way, my girls would be PhD scholars with a Grade 8 certification in piano and ballet, be effectively trilingual, work in a job where they will never become redundant, and earn a 5-figure monthly salary.  (No stress, girls.) After all, we are living in a highly competitive environment and it will only become increasingly more so for their generation.   Going to a good school, doing well academically, being multi-talented will help them have a head start in life.

No doubt about it.  

But in our pursuit of giving them the best advantages in this paper chase, we overlook one important aspect of education.  That is, to equip them with basic life skills.

We assume that as long as our children study hard and get good grades, other things in life will just "fall in place".    

“They will grow up and learn eventually.”, we thought.

After all, isn’t that what happens to us?  We grew up without any enrichment classes teaching us how to wear our shoes, iron our clothes, wash our dishes, make our bed… etc.  Yet, we learn them somehow.

Indeed, our parents belong to a generation who did not even know what "life skills” meant.  But they made us learn how to acquire these skills – by leaving us to tend to ourselves while they were out earning a living, by sending us out to run errands, by tasking us with responsibilities of sibling care, by giving us lots of free (aka "boredom" time) to zone out.  Many parents back then did not have many choices – life did not give them the luxury to spend much time with their children.  Yet this incidentally was what helped us to gradually learn our basic survival skills.  It was so naturally done that we now, as parents, falsely think that our children too will have these skills “naturally” once they grow older.

But will they?

Life has become too easy nowadays.  In Singapore, we are privileged to have stay-in helpers and access to smart devices that do chores for us.  Daily tasks, like packing their school bags, are taken care of for them.  In the desire to give our children “a good life”, we strip them of the opportunities to learn to do things on their own.  And one day, our children will find themselves having to start a painful process of learning to be independent without us in their life.

Trust Our children - They Are More Capable Than We Give Them Credit For

This video of a young boy cooking and taking care of his sister went viral.  Many people marveled at how capable this boy is (some may question the circumstances under which this video was filmed but I shall not delve into the moral and social aspects here).

Do you believe that your child can do what this boy can?  

We like to think that our children are too young and don't know how to do [insert your thoughts].  I assure you that all children are smart and capable – just see how fast they learn (on their own, mind you) to operate a smartphone.  Why do we have this perception that our children won't be able to learn how to fry an egg for themselves?

Of course, I am definitely not suggesting that we start throwing the wok to our children.  But I do suggest that we start to let our children learn how to wash their own water bottles.

"Teach your children practical skills alongside academic knowledge. In the real world, knowing how to cook a meal, balance a budget, and fix a leaky faucet can be just as valuable as any textbook lesson." 
~ Laura Vanderkam

Hi, I’m Siew, a Woman's Life & Wellness Coach who helps mid-career professionals create a roadmap of balance between self, family and work.  I believe in designing my life, while being open to what the universe has in store for me.  Life and Career Transitions, Courage and Motherhood are topics that I am passionate about.  If these are big themes in your life too, let's connect and exchange stories. 

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