Life Skills Development

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Written By RobertMaxfield

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It seems to have become a fashion statement of kinds among parents and teachers today to discuss ‘what is wrong with today’s generation’. Every time I address a group of parents or teachers, I spend some time taking to them about their problems with their children or with the students. It is not surprising that most of them start off at the drop of the hat:

• They are too arrogant
• Don’t know what is respect
• Only interested in mobile phones and social media
• No sense of responsibility
• Not interested in anything ‘good’ (I am myself confused of what really is ‘good’)
• Etc.

It seems like a never- ending story. They seem to be genuinely disturbed. And I can empathize with them.

But then I ask the next question: Why do you think they do that?

Starts another round of ammunitions:

• They are too arrogant
• Don’t know what is respect
• No sense of responsibility
• They don’t care
• They have everything too easy so they are not bothered…

Aha… So I ask them next: Why do you give it that easy to them?

“We have to do our responsibilities, every one has everything these days how can we refuse to them? And even when we do they create so much fuss and tantrum that it makes our life more miserable… “

I am sure many of you would be able to associate with the scene described above. But let us know that those with suicidal tendencies, emotional disturbances, behavioral disturbances, addiction problems come somewhere from among these millions of house- holds where such dialogues take place every now and then.

Though I fully sympathize with the parents for all the agony that they have to go through I am repeatedly amused when I hear them justify, “What is it that we have not done for him/her?” and even more “What did we do to deserve this?”

Surprisingly even at the hours of crisis, it is all about ‘us’ the parents and elders and it is still considered that the child was ‘wrong’ as always.

Let us start with this most common ruse, “Where did we fall short? What is it that we did not give him?”

So my question to you, teachers and parents is- what did you actually give them? Let us make a list of it…

So you gave them:

• Admission to good educational institutes
• An environment to study
• Good clothes
• Best possible gadgets
• Best possible comforts
• Teachers gave them explanations for the course material
• Etc.

Well, what else? OK let me put it the other way:

Did you

• Teach them how to communicate openly and with assertion?
• Help them to understand and express their emotions positively?
• Guide them towards understanding relationships and its various aspects?
• Guide them towards understanding themselves?
• Provide them with the tools to face the uncertainties of the world?
• Help them to learn the ways to confident decision- making?
• Show them how wonderful it is to be one’s own best friend?
• Help them to listen to themselves in silence?

I can go on… But it is for you to get a drift of it. Unfortunately I meet parents who in answer to the above questions, respond with something like this:

– Why do we have to teach these things, who taught us? We learnt on our own… he should also…
– There was always so much to do- college, classes, scholarships, competitions… there was never enough time for any of these…
– He never wanted to sit with us and talk… all he was interested in was his friends…

And when I talk to the teachers, irrespective of what classes they teach- from high school to PhD, the responses are somewhat on these lines:

– We have too much work, huge portions to be completed on time and lot of administrative work… we cant do anything else
– We don’t get paid for all that…
– This generation is not interested in anything… let us stick to our classes and focus on finishing the curriculum on time…
– I am a ‘physics’ teacher, they should hire a trainer to do all those worthless things…

No one wants to do it… no one wants to give them what they really need- the life skills – the skills needed to survive the everyday roller coaster ride of emotions, negativity and dangerous competition. We want to give them what is easy. Check this out for yourself and decide which one is easy:

• Completing course curriculum OR Making them understand the real life application of what they learn?
• Giving gadgets OR Spending hours with them observing the wonders of nature?
• Paying for popular expensive tuitions OR Having a one on one personal tutor and keeping a watch on his every day studies?
• Marking the papers OR sitting with each one of them to help them understand their own subject & life related challenges?

And finally

• Blaming them and criticizing them OR investing real time in their every day life?

Under the guise of our love and responsibility for them, we choose what is easier for us. Check out this for example- I work with parents of many children who present with discipline issues. Together we chalk out a workable plan, but in this most of the work needs to be done by the parents. In 90% cases they return after a week or maybe two and complain, “It does not work”. Invariably after a short interview these are the responses I start getting:

• “Every day I have to tell him, I cant go on doing that always… let him do what ever he wants… ”
• “He blames me for being a bad mother, then what can I do… ”
• “All other children have their mothers doing their project and then they get an ‘A’ how can I let my child score less… ”
• She creates so much mess if I tell her to do anything, it is just easier that I do it myself… “

I am sure you can identify with many of these too. If you look closely, what we are doing almost every time is ‘escape’ to our ‘comfort zone’ at the earliest.

Teachers at university level often start with their defense “These students do not want to attend the classes, why should I bother?” Again it is about the easier way out. None wants to think that it is not that the students miss all the classes. There are always some teachers who have their classes full. But it takes efforts to think how they do it. And even without thinking somewhere at the back of our mind we are aware that these “Popular” teachers do have better communication skills and better public speaking skills. We have seen some of these teachers go out of way and talk to the students about their every day life. And we almost hate it when these teachers participate in what the students like on certain occasions.

But because we do not wish to go out of way and certainly not out of our comfort zone, we build up our defenses, “I have more work”, “I do not believe in such frivolous things”, “A teacher should behave according to his/her stature”, “I have bigger family responsibilities”… and so on and so forth… And there are always the students to blame…

Whatever the reasons, I believe that we are parents by choice and teachers by choice and no one has forced us to be in the position of a teacher or a parent that in combination shapes the life of every individual. These two roles can make or break the child. And in these two key positions we have no right to resort to blaming the child and either condemning him to his fate or crying over our own bad luck.

We need to equip our children and our students with the life skills even as they are clamoring text- books and amassing degrees. These life skills cannot be learnt anywhere else and they can be very well learnt at one’s home and at the educational institute where he/she spends maximum of his/her growing up years.

Let us we equip them with these life skills:

1. Self- awareness, self- understanding and self- responsibility
2. Relationship management
3. Emotions management
4. Practical communication skills
5. Decision making skills
6. Failure and success management skills

We wont have to worry about suicides, addictions, wayward behaviour and breakdowns.

Author: Dr. Sapna Sharma

Do you wish to understand yourself and your children better? Do you wish to know in which way you can help your children to be the confident and independent persons that you wish them to be? Do you wish to bring up meantally and emotionally healthy children?