The recent instance of a Gujarati diamond merchant asking his only son to earn a living or the US president Barrack Obama’s 15-year-old daughter working at a seafood restaurant are proof enough that life skills, besides education, are important to help children face life’s challenges. Here are a few ways by which you can prepare your child to be confident and independent.
Introduce them to public transport
On a busy Sunday evening, Sneha Naik, whose son was celebrating his second birthday, took a BEST bus along with her husband. She says, “Whenever we step out, Aarush (her son) keeps looking at the bus until we move away from it. We thought it was time we took him in one and what better day than his birthday? When he grows older, we will make sure that he makes use of public transport.”
Though you may want to limit your children to the comfort of your car, it is equally important to acquaint them with modes of public transport. “It becomes all the more important in a city like Mumbai, where commuting gets difficult,” adds Sneha. You can plan short trips and vacations and use public transport for that, too. Ensure that they are looking around, observing their surroundings. Also teach them about basic traffic rules — especially when you are behind the wheels, and street etiquette.
Teach them how to say no
It may sound simple, but refusal skills are hard to learn. The world wants us to work according to them and in such a scenario, saying no requires a lot of gumption. But asking kids to learn this early on helps in a lot of areas. For starters, anyone acting inappropriately, irrespective of their power and position, needs to be ignored. Saying no to something that you don’t wish to do or wish to be boosts your self-confidence and ensures that no one takes you for granted. Being assertive goes a long way — be it bullying, succumbing to peer pressure, lying or falling in someone’s trap.
For many parents, this may sound too much to handle. But with safety at hand (read: neighbours, CCTV camera, your phone calls, etc), you can be at ease. Write down emergency numbers on a sheet of paper and teach them how to switch off the gas’ regulator. Tell them the importance of keeping bottles of phenyl, pesticides and other objects away. More importantly, ask them to use the peephole before opening the door. Varsha Dubey, mother of a 10-year-old, says, “I’ve to step out at times for some bank work or to purchase groceries on days my daughter is at home. So, I’ve told her to not open the door to delivery boys or any stranger. Secondly, if someone calls on our landline, I’ve advised her to say that I’m busy and she should take the message.” This helps kids to understand how to utilise their time better and gradually, they can get used to managing chores on their own.
Allow them to explore and experience
Be it reading comics, watching movies and cartoons (suited for their age), or letting them step outdoors for treks and camps, don’t say no to something that could help them grow because of your own inhibitions. Ask them to choose their own books or let them spend time with friends. Don’t influence them because they have to make bigger, and more important decisions without any hesitation in the future. Amit Gajbhiye, father of a 14-year-old, says, “Ever since my son was seven, I asked him to get print-outs from the shop below our building and even encouraged him to participate in the overnight educational trips that his school organised. Not only is he more independent than most kids his age but he’s also become more street-smart and good with communication skills.”
At different stages in life, it is necessary to make your kids accident-proof by practising ‘what if’ situations. Preeti Mishra, mother of two kids, aged eight and six, respectively, says, “Since my husband and I both work, and our kids are at the creche, I’ve made sure that they know the emergency numbers as well as remember numbers of our relatives who stay close by with the help of tunes of popular songs, so they may remember it better. Many a times, it so happens that whenever the song plays, they start reciting the numbers.” Similarly, warning them about strangers, informing them about unsafe spots around important landmarks near their house are of importance, too. While they need to follow the protocol, under careful supervision, you could also test them to keep a check on them.