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Teenagers can be the worst, sometimes: moody, irritable, introverted, mumbling all the time, even rude. But aside from being in a physically and emotionally tumultuous time in their life, there’s also a big chance that they weren’t able to practice their soft skills as children. Learning and honing soft skills are essential for people to become more empathic and more adept at navigating interpersonal situations when they become adults.
Unfortunately, many of these soft skills are not taught in schools, as the focus is on hard skills like math or science. But teaching soft skills at an early age has been found by researchers to be greatly beneficial to the development of children.
Schools prefer teaching hard skills like math, science, reading, etc., because these are well-defined and measurable. Soft skills, on the other hand, revolve around less measurable skills like communication, self-control, empathy, etc. But soft skills are just as important as hard skills for leading a productive adult life.
But soft skills can be learned outside the classroom too. In fact, the earlier these skills are taught to children, the better their development in school.
Teaching Soft Skills at Home
What exactly are “soft skills”? Soft skills are basically personality traits that are beneficial to a person’s overall development. These skills can range from social graces and language skills, to cognitive/emotional empathy and leadership. These traits, important as they are, are not exactly measurable on a scale of 1 to 10, but they are important enough that parents should take the extra step in trying to develop them at an early age.
The thing about soft skills is that children will often learn them by mimicking, either through their parents or from a personality that they look up to, like a TV character. Because it’s a learned behavior, parents ought to be the first people that children learn these skills from.
Children first learn how to communicate with other people through their parents and how they communicate with them. When talking to your child, make sure you speak to them clearly and concisely. Teach them not to mumble or with their mouths covered. Ensure that they make proper eye contact and posture when speaking to someone.
Probably one of the most important aspects of communication, and probably one of the hardest to teach. When your child speaks to you, show them you’re listening by putting away whatever it is you’re doing and giving them attention, and then teach them to do the same.
This is a skill that they’ll learn at home, but hone in school. If they have proper communication and listening skills, your child will have a strong base for building rapport with other kids. Parents can teach this at home by speaking to their children face-to-face rather than via texting. Ask them about their day, and make sure that they learn how to listen when it’s your turn to speak.
Social Skills and Manners
Get your kids used to saying “please” and “thank you” by doing the same thing when speaking to them. When you are around your friends or other family members, make sure you show them decency and proper decorum, like holding open doors for people or aiding elderly people when they get up.
Manners start at home; if a child grows up with parents who treat them and others with good manners and social grace, then they are more likely to emulate the same.
By teaching your child to see things from another person’ perspective, they become more aware of the consequences of their actions. This helps grow into considerate, kind, and generally nicer people in the future.
While too much of either can be a bad thing, a healthy dose of both helps children grow up to be happy and well-adjusted adults. Always support your child’s endeavors and never embarrass them in public. Never belittle their opinion, and always show them that you respect their thoughts and views.
Children have a hard time controlling their emotions specifically because every feeling is new to them. Over time, however, they learn how to properly react to situations and feelings, but those reactions can further be refined by parents who show, by example, the proper way to react.
Self-control isn’t just about not doing something, it’s also about controlling emotions. A child who knows how to control their outbursts and speak with respect even when they’re feeling angry or frustrated will grow up into a respectful adult.
This is where both hard skills and soft skills can help benefit a child. Hard skills like math and science can help with the technical aspect of problem solving, while soft skills can help with the emotional aspect, like patience, resilience, or even learning how to work with a team to solve something collectively.
In doing so, not only do you teach your child how to solve a problem with a team, but also how to delegate work and how to lead others.
All of these skills have effects in the real world and parents should invest time and effort into developing them in their children early on. Not only does this teach children how to act like proper adults, it also teaches them to appreciate life outside the classroom and to build real, human connections with their friends.
These skills will help your child better understand themselves, other people, and the world around them. But for soft skills to be properly taught, it has to start from home. Always lead by example, and always show your children what a proper adult looks like by acting like one all the time. In this way, they learn about proper behavior and they help YOU become better people, too.
Yes, teenagers can be difficult to deal with, but if you show them, by example, how to act properly, they’ll follow suite. Rather than getting mad at them for being moody, show them that you’re still interested in what they have to say and that you always love and respect them, even if they are being difficult!