From ages one to 12, chil­dren at dif­fer­ent age stages can be taught the es­sen­tial life skills they’ll need later. Use th­ese tips to build a foun­da­tion for their suc­cess.

Simply Her (Singapore) - - Simply Her - BY CH­ERYL LEONG SH

Es­sen­tial life skills for kids from ages one to 12.

From One to Three Years Old

RE­SPECT FOR AU­THOR­ITY Par­ents should start to in­cul­cate dis­ci­pline in their kids now, though they have yet to de­velop the abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate ef­fec­tively.

“The aim is to be firm yet lov­ing – you don’t want to cre­ate ex­ces­sive fear or dis­like of au­thor­ity fig­ures at such a young age. Dis­ci­pline with love builds a strong bond of love and open com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween you and your chil­dren. In do­ing so, they’ll learn to re­spect au­thor­ity and un­der­stand bound­aries,” says Ernest.

Use age-ap­pro­pri­ate dis­ci­pline meth­ods, like time-outs or pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment. Rea­son­ing with them or im­pos­ing rules won’t get you far as they’re too young to un­der­stand. SELF-ES­TEEM Most of us won’t con­sciously re­mem­ber our childhood – what we re­call is of­ten based on what our par­ents tell us. So record your chil­dren’s grow­ing-up years, sug­gests Ernest. When they’re older, share the sto­ries be­hind their pic­tures and videos.

He ex­plains: “Let­ting your kids see, and later, con­sciously re­mem­ber

their happy childhood boosts their self-con­fi­dence. Es­pe­cially when they see their own achieve­ments – ty­ing their shoelaces for the first time or com­plet­ing their first draw­ing.” LAN­GUAGE SKILLS Kids at this age eas­ily ab­sorb ev­ery­thing they hear. So Ernest sug­gests mak­ing it a point to speak in com­plete sen­tences to them – to help them be­come well-spo­ken when they start talk­ing.

And here’s how to get Ju­nior pro­fi­cient in mul­ti­ple lan­guages: One par­ent should speak to him only in English while the other does so only in the mother tongue; their grand­par­ents can work on the di­alects. “This way, young chil­dren won’t get con­fused by the nu­mer­ous speak­ers and lan­guages, and can as­sim­i­late them bet­ter.”

From Four to Five Years Old

CHAR­AC­TER DE­VEL­OP­MENT Ac­cord­ing to Ernest, now is the per­fect time to teach your kids the val­ues you want them to have for life. He says: “For ex­am­ple, if you value fil­ial piety, take them to visit their grand­par­ents ev­ery week so that they form the habit of do­ing so early. At this age, kids can un­der­stand you, so ex­plain why you’re mak­ing them do some­thing.”

Through the sim­ple habit of vis­it­ing their grand­par­ents, you’re also pass­ing on as­so­ci­ated val­ues – be­ing re­spon­si­ble, kind and con­sid­er­ate to oth­ers – which will have a far-reach­ing im­pact, adds Ernest. SELF-CON­FI­DENCE AND DE­TER­MI­NA­TION Let chil­dren ex­plore their in­ter­est in arts, sports and mu­sic. Ex­pos­ing kids to new things – in­stead of forc­ing them to try some­thing – en­cour­ages shy or in­tro­verted chil­dren to come out of their shell.

It’s also a way for them to learn how to pick them­selves up if they don’t do well at some­thing. “If kids know that their par­ents are al­ways there to en­cour­age and sup­port them – even if they fall dur­ing a bal­let per­for­mance or give up on a pi­ano piece be­cause they can’t play it – it will bol­ster their sense of se­cu­rity and give them the courage to try again.”

If your kids are afraid to go out of their com­fort zone, help them take baby steps. For ex­am­ple, if your child is afraid to play a solo piece dur­ing her group pi­ano les­son, ac­com­pany her for the first few ses­sions, un­til she feels con­fi­dent enough to do it on her own.

From Six to Eight Years Old

LEARN­ING ABOUT CON­SE­QUENCES If your kids take a long time to eat and get dressed or dilly-dally when it comes to do­ing home­work, prac­tise what Ernest calls “priv­i­lege-de­pri­va­tion”. He says: “This means tak­ing away some­thing they en­joy – watch­ing car­toons or read­ing – un­til they learn to fin­ish what they’re sup­posed to on time.”

It’s a way of teach­ing kids that their ac­tions have con­se­quences, so they’ll learn val­ues like punc­tu­al­ity and stick­ing to what they say. SHOW­ING EM­PA­THY FOR OTH­ERS Hav­ing the emo­tional in­tel­li­gence to man­age re­la­tion­ships is a skill you can teach your kids now. It starts with lis­ten­ing to oth­ers’ feel­ings.

Ernest says: “For ex­am­ple, if your child says: ‘Mummy, I’m sad that Jane doesn’t want to be my friend any­more’, re­flect the sen­tence back at her by re­peat­ing it, then keep quiet. Your child is likely to add on, per­haps telling you that Jane doesn’t want to play with her at re­cess. Then, say: ‘Does that make you feel like some­thing is miss­ing?’ You may not be mak­ing an ac­cu­rate as­sess­ment, but that’s when your child will ex­plain fur­ther. Con­tinue to prompt her on how she might be feel­ing. This lets her know that you’re try­ing to un­der­stand her.” Over time, your kid will pick up the same pat­terns of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

This ex­er­cise also al­lows chil­dren to con­trol their emo­tions and learn how to cope with them, says Ernest. “Feel­ing words – those ex­press­ing emo­tions – are not nat­u­rally in our vo­cab­u­lary; we pick them up through read­ing or from some­one else. And most of the time, we’re lim­ited to ‘an­gry’, ‘sad’ or ‘happy’. But there’s a range of in­ten­sity in th­ese com­mon emo­tions. By us­ing dif­fer­ent words, you can am­plify or di­min­ish the emo­tions to help your chil­dren man­age their feel­ings.”

From Nine to 10 Years Old

BE­COM­ING A THINKER If you carry on do­ing this, your kids will reach a point where they’ll start think­ing or ask­ing you what to do next. Ernest says: “Guide them with ques­tions like ‘Do you know what you want to do next? How do you plan to get there? Do you have the re­sources to do so?’ If they need time to sort out their thoughts or aren’t sure how to ex­press them­selves ver­bally, get them to write down their plans or draw pic­tures.”

This trains them to be in­de­pen­dent thinkers, while learn­ing how to be tol­er­ant and open to sug­ges­tions from oth­ers.

From 11 to 12 Years Old

MAK­ING THE RIGHT FRIENDS Now’s the time your tweens will be logged on to so­cial me­dia to make friends and in­ter­act with them. At this pre-pu­berty stage, you can still ex­ert some in­flu­ence over their choice of friends. A sub­tle way to do this is to take your kids out to meet your own friends, ad­vises Ernest. “I used to do this with my chil­dren. When we got home from our out­ings, I would ask them what they thought of my friends. We have open con­ver­sa­tions like that; it gives me insight on what qual­i­ties they look for in other peo­ple.”

You can also tell your kids about how you and your friends have al­ways been there for each other, through the good and bad times. It’s a way of lead­ing by pos­i­tive ex­am­ple, he adds.

OUR EX­PERT Dr Ernest Wong, founder and mas­ter trainer of Smartkids Boot­camp, or­gan­ised by Learn­ing Mas­tery

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