Teaching My Teen Practical Life Skills (or, Common Sense Boot Camp)
My little sister’s oldest child just left for his first year of college. She commented on the good it will do him to have to be independent 24 hours a day.
My own daughter will leave for college in three years and I realize the child will either a. need servants to go with her to school or b. need to learn to fend for herself.
Since I am a public school teacher, I don’t think the “have servants” is an option.
I set about making a “ Practical Things to Teach My Daughter” grid. I looked around on the Internet for premade lists and found one that I have adapted for her needs. As I was typing the list into grid form, I realized that many of the items were things I had learned in Junior high school in the 70’s: first aid, reading nutrition labels, shopping for and preparing meals, making a budget, sewing, and car maintenance.
My kid can solve quadratic equations but can’t sew on a button. I had never thought to teach her these things, as they were not things my mom had taught me-school did. My mother did teach me, that these “menial tasks” as I had referred to them, were the stuff that kept life moving forward. And I reacted as any 15 year old does when faced with the possibility that someone knows more than they do-I answered with something akin to, “Well, I’m going to be rich and I’ll hire people to do these things for me”. That hasn’t worked out.
One category not on the premade lists were matters of awareness; noticing what is around you, who is around you, and making decisions accordingly. She seems completely oblivious as we walk through a parking lot. I am forever yelling, “Watch out! That car is backing up! Remember to look for the white backup lights!” She will inevitably answer, “I know! It’s just when you’re here, I don’t have to do it-you do it for me!” Hmmm…it’s not like you can let your kid get hit by a car backing up and then say, “Ha! Told you! You should’ve looked for the white back-up lights!”
I’m trying to teach her how to read people’s body language. My kid has a real affinity for speaking languages (German, French etc..), so how is it, that subtle shifts in facial or body movements by others does not compute as easily? Of course, she could say the same about my non-affinity for learning speaking languages. I would argue back that reading body language is a life skill. Unless you’re living in Germany or France, those languages, are not.
She loves chess, so I have likened people reading, to calculating your opponents next chess move. This, she likes. But then, she corrects me as I misspeak the particular chess pieces and their associated moves.
I’m not going to win this am I? I will take the next three years and make my best effort towards helping her gain practical life skills. I’m not going to be her direct teacher however, as anything I suggest is shot down. It’s what I did to my parents and knowing that, I have come up with a 21st method to my madness.
I am collecting a series of videos posted on You Tube for each of things I want her to learn. For all intents and purposes, she will be taking an online Practical Life Skills course. For anything I can’t find, I will enlist my friends to create videos.
There will be people who read what I am doing and tell me that I am taking “the easy way out”. I am not trying to get “out” of parenting; I am trying to get into my kid’s mind. I am a teacher by trade, and one of the classic “goals” is to “Know Your Learner”. I know mine, and this video method, followed with written instructions (that I have to create) is the way to appeal to her.
I will have to test her skills, and will give her the independence of picking the test dates. As my own mom says, it’ll either work out, or it won’t. Here’s hoping, that in three years, my kid will have enough life skills, to keep food in her belly, clothes on her back, money in the bank and to notice (and stop) when a car is backing up in a parking lot. Wish us both luck.