Vernessa Chuah, a mother and the founder of Mindful Space, a holistic and inclusive space that seeks to empower parent and child with life skills, notes that while paper qualifications may be an important stepping stone to more opportunities, it’s even more important to focus on the bigger picture. She says, “The life skills, relationships and social network our children acquire will be the essentials that bring them through life later on.”
She adds that parents can get so focused on a system that measures success by money or achievements, greater things like resilience, empathy, kindness, perseverance, and courage cannot be measured “because it comes from the heart”.
Greater things like resilience, empathy, kindness, perseverance, and courage cannot be measured “because it comes from the heart”.
Agreeing, women’s wellness and business coach Chuah Khai Lin (no relation), and mum of two, also points out. “We must teach our children that it is okay to make mistakes because that’s how we all learn.
These are the character traits that would serve your children well now and into adulthood:
Life is full of ups and downs. Roadblocks your children may encounter range from bullying, dealing with fear from having made mistakes or failed someone’s expectations, and of coping with transition such as to school.
Vernessa notes, “As they grow older, they will face challenges and conflicts in interpersonal relationships. There will always be obstacles in life that are upsetting. They have to learn how to cope with these emotions and stress in order to bounce back up again.”
Resilience is important, notes Khai Lin, “The inability to recover from failure stops children from even trying in the first place. This explains why there are people who just quit their jobs when things get tough instead of having a ‘keep trying’ attitude.
HOW? Vernessa recommends teaching resilience by being a role model to your child. She says, “Share real-life experiences and show them how you cope with stress; nothing beats walking the talk. Whether it is going for a run, listening to music, talking it out with friends, watching a comedy, reading a book or gardening, show them how you unload these emotions in a healthy way.”
HOW? The best way to teach self-regulation is allowing children to express their emotions in a healthy way, Vernessa advises. When they throw tantrums, have meltdowns, kick and bite, the more they shout and scream ― the more we need to let them vent these feelings in an appropriate manner. Such behaviour is a message that they feel overwhelmed and don’t know what to do. Read Sarah Ockwell-Smith’s The Gentle Discipline Book and Daniel J Siegel’s No-Drama Discipline to better connect with your children’s emotions.
#3. A growth mindset
Let your children know that they are in control of their abilities and that they can achieve what they want with effort and persistence. When they know that they have the power to take charge and implement change, they won’t feel helpless in certain situations.
HOW? Instilling a growth mindset starts with positive communication and affirmation from adults. The speech that adults use can heal and encourage, or hurt and damage. “I would suggest, for instance, to replace the word ‘failing’ with ‘learning’,” Vernessa explains.
Khai Lin advocates inquiry-based learning, “A curious child is one who dares to experiment, to explore, to discover and figure things out. The more curious a child is, the more he or she learns.”
HOW? The next time your child asks you how to do something, don’t direct them to Google. Instead, research or find the answers together with them. Go to the library. Ask more open-ended questions. Keep encouraging that curiosity.
#5. A love for learning
Kids will who are hungry for knowledge will enjoy the process if they are curious to explore new things and eager to learn new skills. So that they view challenges as opportunities, let them go beyond their comfort zone.
HOW? Parents can instil a love for learning in their child by doing basic weekly activities together. For example, cultivate their knowledge of nature by hiking or gardening together, and healthy reading habits with weekly library visits. Stir their curiosity and get them to find the answers to their questions. They will shine when they enter the workforce with this attitude.
HOW? Vernessa notes that one method is to set aside 15 minutes of quiet time in a calm area daily to just enjoy the present moment. She explains, “Such moments heighten their focus and reflective thinking.”
“It’s easy to hurl a nasty comment online because one does not have to deal face-to-face with the person in question. Such [a] disconnect gives rise to a lack of consideration for how others feel.”
The ability to put oneself in another person’s shoes and understand how that person feels is important. Nurturing empathy in kids can help them be more compassionate and kind to others. Noting that the rise in cyber bullying as well as school bullying is because society lacks empathy, Khai Lin states that it’s easy to hurl a nasty comment online because one does not have to deal face-to-face with the person in question. “Such [a] disconnect gives rise to a lack of consideration for how others feel ― definitely an undesirable trait in any workplace or society.”
HOW? As parents, we need to be good role models. When our child feels upset or even if they throw a tantrum or are unreasonable, we need to acknowledge how they feel, Khai Lin explains. “By showing them that we understand how they feel, we will connect and communicate better. Teach them about different feelings, take the opportunity to point out how people feel and even how you feel when they say certain things.”
#8. Problem-solving skills
The ability to solve problems is a critical life skill,” Khai Lin notes. Citing a personal example, she notes that her son came home crying after visiting the playground as he and his friends were unable to resolve a conflict. “By teaching him how to problem solve, I gradually got fewer tantrums, but more importantly, I saw his confidence grow when he was able to resolve conflicts himself.”
HOW? Identifying the problem together with your child is the best way is to teach your kids how to solve problems, Khai Lin says. “Then, brainstorm different solutions instead of just telling your child how to solve it. Empower your child by giving them a chance to explain why they chose a specific solution. As parents, our role is to guide, not tell them what to do.”
#9. Take the initiative
People who take the initiative in the workplace and school are sorely lacking these days, Khai Lin says. She highlights that when she was lecturing, many of her teenage students were not proactive in school and project work. “They were constantly waiting for something to happen or someone to initiate what to do instead of taking on a leadership role. I think it’s important to teach our young ones to be more proactive, especially at home.”
HOW? Start with simple things, Khai Lin suggests. For instance, get your kids to set the table for dinner or carry the groceries. In time, children will do this without being told. “And of course, encourage them to lend a helping hand or give up their seat when they see someone who needs it.”
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