The important stuff not found in books

February 23, 2015 | Posted in: Early Learners, Elementary, High School, Middle Years

Some of the most important lessons students learn aren’t found in textbooks. They come from life experiences – in the classroom, with family and out in the real world.

As parents, we want our children to succeed. Equipping them with life skills now will better prepare them to navigate their school years and beyond.

Which lessons can we start with?


Students experience increased responsibility and expectations as they progress through their school years. By middle school, children should be able to take responsibility for their time and their actions. Talk with your children about the importance of organizing time, meeting deadlines and performing their best on assignments. Discuss consequences for not meeting responsibilities, such as a lower grade for missed homework assignment. Our children are bound to stumble, but the experiences, good and bad, enable them to learn and grow.


By giving children freedom to make some choices, we foster their sense of individuality and independence which can in turn build self-esteem. Young children can make simple choices: Would you like to wear the blue shirt or the green shirt? Would you like to have apples or grapes with your lunch? As they get older, children can make choices about bigger issues, such as when and how to study for a test. Research shows that children who have some freedom in making decisions are more likely to be independent and take responsibility for their actions. In addition, they are more inclined to experience success in school and beyond.


As parents, we don’t want to see our children struggle or face disappointment. It can be tempting to step in and “fix” a problem to make it go away. While this can resolve the situation for the immediate future, it also reinforces for children that mom or dad are there to solve any problem. Ultimately, this can lead to low self-esteem and an inability to deal with any type of failure – big or small. Children should learn to speak up for themselves. Successful students are those who learn to ask questions, address problems or present a point of view in a respectful manner to adults and peers. By providing guidance and a sounding board, we give our children the tools and confidence they need to solve problems, overcome challenges and have their needs met.


We live in a world filled with people whose opinions, beliefs, habits and cultures are different from our own. How we, as adults, react to those differences serves as a model for our children. This includes how we express ourselves in front of other people and on social media. When we are respectful of people’s differences, children learn tolerance. When we are critical and disrespectful of people’s differences, children learn prejudice.


By the latter years of elementary school, most children understand the difference between right and wrong. They know if they have done well on an assignment or not so well. As they move through middle school, they are increasingly able to step back and examine themselves and their actions objectively. They can feel proud of their hard work and acknowledge when they did “the right thing.” In addition, they can look at where they have dropped the ball and set goals to improve work habits or behaviors.

Provide a lifeline.

Teens and pre-teens begin to understand that not every problem is easily solved, and sometimes they need the help of a trusted adult to talk through a situation or work through a problem. Adolescents confront some complex physical, social and academic changes, yet few are equipped to face them alone. Encourage children to seek help, if needed, from a responsible and trustworthy adult such as a counselor, teacher, or parent. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength.

As students move through their school years, they work toward increasing independence and greater degrees of responsibility. By helping our children develop important life skills, we prepare them for success in school and beyond.


Copyright ©2015 by Parent Today and Capital Region BOCES; Used with permission

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