In our efforts to make sure our kids are ready for college or a vocation, we can become focused on academics and forget the character traits and learning skills that will carry our young people through any decision, circumstance, or challenge. It is much more important that we give our children these tools than they become math geniuses or musical prodigies, or knit their own sweaters from llama wool. One of the primary desires of Christian parents is that their child have repented and been converted to Jesus Christ, have developed solid habits of Bible reading and prayer, as well as a firm foundation of sound doctrine on which to base their faith and practice. We also have a responsibility to teach them to be moral, ethical, and responsible citizens.
- Have they learned coping skills- dealing with stress, peer pressure, emergency situations?
- Do they possess self-control in areas of temperament, health, finances, time management. . .?
- Do they have a sense of empathy and compassion for others?
- Are they self-motivated with a strong work ethic?
- Do they know how to persevere through difficult situations?
- Are they forgiving, generous, and merciful?
- Do they know how to anticipate needs and problems and be proactive in avoiding trouble and finding solutions?
- Can they work well with others to complete a project?
- Do they understand that their true character will be revealed when they are on their own?
An exercise to help them think through the impact of the decisions they make now is to write an essay:
- Where do you want to be in 5 years, then 10 years?
- If you could talk to your 20-years-from-now-future-self about some of the paths you could take, what would you ask them?
- Imagine that you are sitting in a room with your children and grandchildren- what would you like to be able to tell them about the life you lived when you were young?
There are also some basic skills our students need for college and vocation that are not purely academic:
- Communicate clearly in both written and oral formats
- Manners and behavior appropriate to a variety of situations
- Prioritize, organize, and budget time, money, and possessions
- Understand instructions both written and verbal
- Research a topic with reliable sources
- Use basic technology, such as email, online banking, and making secure purchases online
- Clean a house, cook a meal, wash and care for their own clothes
- Think deeply and critically about information and be able to follow an idea to its logical conclusion
As you think about these life skills, many more will probably come to mind. Some of them are likely to be Things You Wish You Had Known. We've learned from our many mistakes, and Lesson #1 is often the nature of regret.
But just as we made mistakes and learned from them, so will our children. Some of their most important lessons will be learned because they made a poor decision, acted on impulse, didn't pursue all the facts before moving forward. Our heart may break for the pain they experience, the struggles that follow, and the opportunities lost, but if we have given them the tools they need to cope with life, they will most likely come out the other side stronger and wiser. This is the bittersweet truth of parenting.
So don't get too caught up in Algebra 2, vocabulary lists, college applications, and SAT scores. Your children can always conquer those things later if the need arises. It's these other less tangible and testable skills that will help them reach their dreams of an excellent life.