NURTURE YOUR KIDS FOR SUCCESS
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.
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