Tuesday, May 03, 2011

GUEST BLOG POST: 5 Critical Life Skills Every Child Should Know by Renee Bedford

Even if we refuse to admit it, many of us have become reliant on technology. Nowadays, different gadgets do almost everything for us, and we have become dependent upon them. Technological innovations help us to get the job done faster and easier. But what happens when technology fails? This is what prompted me to go back to basics and teach my children to be gadget independent.

If you want your kids to grow up as prepared adults, you can start by instilling in them these 5 essential life skills:

1. Critical Thinking

The more that technology plays a bigger role in our lives, the more we become too lazy to think. These days, the answer to most questions can easily be found on the Internet. For example, students are almost always tempted to resort to Google to get homework done as quickly as possible. This practice, in the process, diminishes their ability to analyze and rationalize things. As parents, it is our responsibility to ensure that our children develop their skills in critical thinking, as this is essential for effective functioning in the modern world. Critical thinking plays a fundamental role in making any choice. It helps a child to formulate the right questions, assess possible answers, judge the credibility of information and sources, and make solid judgments based on the evidence.

To help develop your child's skills in critical thinking, demonstrate how you think and solve problems. Setting a good example is the best way for you to instill similar thinking patterns in your children. During dinner, you can also expand on material covered in school by asking higher-level questions and engaging children in discussion.

2. Literacy

The use of SMS and different computer languages has changed the way that people talk and write essays. In these modern venues of writing, abbreviations, and acronyms, shortcuts and misspellings are not only tolerated but encouraged. Widespread reports on the use of text language in school assignments have caused me to become concerned that the quality of written communication is on the decline. To make matters worse, automatic spell and grammar check in computers, rather than improving our children's language skills, have made them dependent on these tools to correct mistakes. It's like tying your child's shoes every day without teaching him how to tie them.

To develop your child's language skills, encourage him to read. Studies have shown that children are more successful in school if their parents read to them when they were younger. Research also shows that reading develops imagination, induction, reflection, and critical thinking, as well as vocabulary.

3. Math

Like language, people's math skills have also been negatively affected by technology. I myself am guilty of this as I would often use the calculator in my mobile phone to compute the simplest math equations when shopping for groceries or paying bills. Another proof of the extent of how much people depend on technology is that students often panic when required to test without a calculator. The multiplication tables seem insignificant to memorize when a calculator knows them already. Graphing information by hand is often seen as useless when a calculator can do it.

But I realized that developing in my child the ability to manually solve equations is important. You'd be surprised to find out that mathematical, sequential reasoning enters into all kinds of daily uses. On a basic level, every person needs to able to count money, add, multiply, subtract and divide. As soon as I realized this, I used numbers in a practical way around the house to improve my children's math skills as well as refresh mine.

4. Socializing

While our culture heralds the Internet as a technological wonder, there are suggestions that Internet use has a negative influence on social skills. For instance, more people are using Facebook to get connected than actually talking directly. Mental health professionals worry that these cyber interactions are a detriment to participants, in that they discourage traditional human interaction. It is far easier to log onto a website and chat with friends than it is to drive to their homes to see them in person, but physical human interaction is important to one's mental well-being. Maintaining contact solely through cyberspace can be damaging, in that it is somewhat superficial and not as meaningful as face-to-face conversation. As such, we should take the responsibility to teach our kids how to properly socialize rather than "short-cutting" interaction.

The way that kids make friends and learn how to value those friendships becomes the way they view friendship as they grow to adulthood. If the only socialization that our kids learn is from cyberspace, friendships will become less valuable in their lives, and as disposable as email. Develop in your child the right social skills and values by encouraging him to communicate and make friends face to face while modelling on the same values.

5. Domestic Skills

As a parent, it is just frustrating to see kids going helpless on a simple task without the help of machines. Many of this generation are computer savvy, but unfortunately clueless with domestic chores. Chores are extremely important for children to learn and do. Not only does it make a child realize that there is work in maintaining the family home, there is also a sense of pride and responsibility by doing a job and doing it well. The skills and values learned by doing chores will benefit children throughout their lives.

Teach your kids practical lessons in life by setting good examples at home. Instead of eating all the unhealthy preservatives and chemicals in prepackaged meals, cook your own meals, and involve your kids in the cooking process. Getting your kids in the kitchen is a great way to spend time with them while honing other important life skills. Also encourage them to do basic house cleaning and laundry. Set up a reward or logical consequences, if you have to, in order to motivate them.

While it is true that a number of gadgets and machines have negated the manual applications of essential life skills, we cannot blame everything on technology. Ultimately, allowing the child access to every opportunity for success in life depends on parental guidance.

Renee Bedford is a mom and wife who believes in teaching her children to be self-reliant and prepared. She knows that not only will these skills keep them safer, but they will also make them smarter! Besides being a committed mother, she works for the Christmas Tree Market, where they sell an array of classic and unique artificial Christmas trees.

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Blogger Von said...

It seems that children are being expected these days to embrace all the old skills while mastering the new ones and preparing for the future as best they can, a future which will have developments we have not yet imagined.The task is heavy and childhood seems to be vanishing.
In some peer groups the use of FB actually enhances contact, is used as a tool and enables contact which might disappear with time to remain.While it is often seen as contact-lite it is one of the most useful tools for engaging groups, building support networks of a very serious nature and as an instrument of fast information release and of change.
I note that encouraging empathy and compassion are not on the list, for some these are the most important life skills.

5:21 PM  

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