5 Days of Discipling Your Kids: Life Skills

Before I jump into today's post, I wanted to say a quick welcome to those of you who are visiting from the TOS Crew Blog Hop! I'm so glad you dropped by. (If you don't know what in the world I'm talking about, check this announcement out here!)

Each month on my blog, I "teach" a class Monday through Thursday through my posts. This month, we have been talking about the basics of discipleship. For the blog hop this week, I will be focusing on five particular areas of discipleship: life skills, work and vocation, service and missions, gender roles, and worldview. So come back every day for a new installment in the series!

This month's topic was inspired by a workshop I did for my church last month. A lot of the resources that my husband and I are created, as well as the talk itself, is available as a free gift when you sign up for my monthly newsletter. If you like what you read, then I invite you to join us via the sign-up boxes on the right!

As parents, God has given us the incredible privilege of raising our children to walk in His ways. Throughout our days, we can teach our children the Gospel and how to live it out. Whether it is through formal Bible teaching, personal devotions or Scripture memory, we want to help our children lay a strong foundation in God's ways.

However, I am also a believer that we are to teach our children along the way. Last week, we talked about going to school as a means of discipleship. Today, let's take a look at discipleship through learning life skills. While school is an important facet of life, my guess is that our kids are going to spend far more time cooking, doing laundry, or managing their time than they do in balancing chemical equations, calculating the rate of change in interest, or doing literary analysis. (Just a wild guess.)

Most of us have done a lot of this already when our kids are young. We teach our kids how to get dressed, use the toilet, brush their teeth and tie their shoes. Even if you don't think of yourself as a homeschooler, you have already taught your kids a lot. And as parents we have the responsibility to keep teaching them what they need to know in order to live successful and productive lives here on earth.

So, What Do We Teach?

But let's not stop with personal care. What else do our kids need? Take a moment and jot down the things that are essential for successful functioning right where you are. What will your kids need to know by the time they leave home? Go ahead and write your list...I'll wait!

Got it? Now, while our lists will vary somewhat depending on our family's values, where we live, what we do, and so forth, I have a feeling that there's also a lot of overlap. Here's some of the things on my list:

  • Nutritious meal planning
  • Food preparation
  • Grocery shopping
  • Writing and living within a budget
  • Money management
  • Infant/child development and care
  • Car maintenance and basic repair
  • Home maintenance and basic repair
  • Basic first aid
  • Goal setting
  • Study skills
  • Time management and scheduling
  • Computer safety and etiquette
  • Social and relational skills

As I look at my list, I see at least two underlying reasons for teaching life skills: stewardship and service. I want my children to learn how to best steward God's resources for them, whether it be money, possessions or even themselves! When my children are able to manage these resources well, they are then able to have the skills and time available to serve others.

Okay, So What Do I Do Now?

That seems like an awful lot! Well, that's the good thing about being parents. We don't have to teach everything all at once! We can spread it out over the years that we have with our children. Some of these skills, like cooking, will require years to develop. And some, like first aid, may need regular review.

Instead of trying to tackle everything at once, start with what is appropriate for your kids right now. Another place to start may be what is needed. For our family, with the imminent arrival of our special needs daughter from China, we may need to brush up on understanding Down Syndrome, along with characteristics, limitations, and so forth so that we are better prepared to understand and help her integrate into our family.

While we like to do things together as a family when possible, there may also be skills one child may need more than others. One of my kids needs training in timeliness and gauging how long it takes to do something. Another child needs help in breaking down larger assignments into smaller tasks. And yet another is learning how to focus on one task until it is completed.

Putting It Into Action

There are as many ways to do this as there are families. Here are a few ideas:

1. Hands-on, along the way. This is by far the best. Whether it is learning homemaking skills or relational skills, there are many opportunities if we are willing to capitalize on them. My husband often invites our son to work in the garage with him. For one of our school days, Matthew took the morning off to help paint our house. Priceless!

2. Read a story. Sometimes stories present situations like decision making or relational issues. When a character has to make a decision, pause and ask the kids what they would choose if they were in that situation or what they would say in that circumstance. This is a great way to discuss options without actually having to go through it yourself!

3. Have your kids do chores. There are so many home management skills your kids can learn for the future when they help in the home. Not only that, these skills can become ways that they can serve others or earn a little pocket money (lawn mowing service anyone?). I write more about this in my Chore Time ebook, included with a newsletter subscription.

4. Set aside time for formal training. One of my goals is to teach my kids to cook, boys and girls alike. They both need to eat! I go into this in more detail in my Cooking with Kids ebook, also included in the newsletter subscription.

Look at each of the skills on your list. What would be the best way to help your kids to learn them?

A Few Final Thoughts

  • Look for ways to weave it into your life. Take a look at your schedule. Is there a way to include your kids in the things that you do? Invite them to sit on your lap when you work on the budget, even if it is for a moment. Explain to them what you are doing, with as much detail as they can handle. Let them sort the socks or mix the cake batter for you. Walk the dog together. It may take extra time, but consider the long-range benefits for the short term inconvenience.
  • Make time. I know we all want the best for our kids, so we focus on academics and giving them all kinds of extra-curricular experiences. But as I mentioned earlier, they are probably not going to spend all their days studying, doing artwork or playing basketball. We need to invest time to cultivate these other skills. This is especially true in the teen years, when they are more independent. Having an activity to do may help ease the awkwardness some of us may feel during these years.
  • Link it into the bigger picture of stewardship and service. When my kids complain about things, I take the time to explain why I want them to clean the toilets, or why we are not going to blow our birthday money on one toy. The bottom line of discipleship is training our children's hearts as well as their hands. Even if they don't like it, when I put things into context, this little bit of sugar helps the medicine to go down easier.

Looking for more? Here is some food for thought I found while I was researching this topic.

Additional resources: Christine Field's Life Skills for Kids covers a wide variety of life skills for kids.

One mom's 15 essential life skills list. What would be on your list?

Financial Literacy links

Skills for preschoolers 

Special needs kids' curriculum, created by classroom teachers, but this mom has adapted it to her homeschool. I'll be checking this out for our new daughter! It features step by step activities. It may even be great for all our kids, special needs or not!

Coming up tomorrow: Discipleship through work/vocation

Now it's your turn:

What life skills do you want to teach your kids?

What methods do you recommend?

Feel free to share in the comments!