Despite our fixation on academics there are really two categories of skills that will make or break a life: character traits and life skills. And although these are often conflated, they are two distinct areas of development.


Character Traits:




These are some examples of character traits. And the truth is that your opportunity to help your children develop them generally only comes during times of trial, big or small, when our first instinct is to intervene, ignore or offer ONLY comfort. Comfort in many cases should be offered. But you can offer more.


Example: “You didn’t get chosen for the role you wanted. I can see how upset you are. I am really sorry. Part of what is bothering you might be that you really felt you deserved the part. But the committee judged that someone else would do a better job. One of the best ways to overcome a disappointment like this is to be humble: to realize that in this case you weren’t the best one for the role. And that’s ok. That is called humility. I know that I am not better than everyone else, and I can accept that.”


Life Skills


How to Introduce Oneself
How to Communicate with Poise and Maturity
Prepare a Meal
Do Laundry
Handle Money
Make Purchases
Make and Execute a Plan of Multiple Steps
Direct Others
Follow Others Lead


These unfortunately are getting drowned in a tsunami of the pace of life and the breakdown of commonly accepted grace (that is not a matter of diversity, it is a matter of relativism). Treating others well (while it may not mean the same thing to everyone) is a common courtesy and universal cutting across cultures. And intention is everything. You don’t have to get it exactly right, you have to do your best to understand someone and treat him or her the way you think they would appreciate.


Life Skill Example: “When we approach the checkout, it usually makes people feel happy if you look at them and greet them. Sometimes the people working at the checkout line become invisible to the customers. Would you like to be the one to greet him and ask how his day is going? Do you want to practice with me first? Be sure to look up at my face when you talk or it will be hard to hear you. Also, look into my eyes when you are speaking. Ok, you are ready to do it. When we get to the store, you go before me in the check out line and be our family greeter. Let’s see if we can make the cashier smile.”


So many opportunities! Don’t let them get away from you.