Lately, I’ve been noticing my kids’ soft skills could use some work. Now, I know they’re kids. And I know soft skills isn’t really something as a kid you should necessarily be good at, but a couple things stood out to me recently that didn’t sit well. I did some reflecting and came up with these ways to teach my little humans how to be better humans.
Giving feedback. Raise your hand if you feel like all you do all day long is give your kids feedback?
Sit up in your chair.
Don’t put your feet on the table.
Can you pick up your toys?
Please put the toys away.
Don’t hit him.
Don’t touch him.
TOYS off the floor NOW!
Feedback is like a constant form of conversation in my house. It can also feel like the more feedback you give (or the more times you give the same feedback), the less tactful it becomes. Guess what? Kids pick up on this. And then they think they can give untactful feedback too. We have a Colombian au pair who lives with us. Guess what? She has a Colombian accent when she talks. She says words "wrong", and then my five-year-olds correct her. This isn’t the worst thing. In fact, as a non-native English speaker who is here for a year to improve her English, she may even be appreciative of this feedback. What I’m sure she’s not appreciative of is the often annoyed tone they use to give her that feedback. I’m almost embarrassed writing this right now. Yes, my kids are giving our au pair impatient feedback because that’s the kind of feedback they often hear from, ahhh—me! So, I’m now taking a deep breath before I give any feedback to those little repetitive mini-mes in hopes my efforts will be better received on their outputting end. Lead by example, lead example, lead by example—THE TOYS DAMN IT!!!
Being friendly. Are you ever in such a rush that you make little to no effort to be friendly? In case you can’t see me, I’m raising both hands right now. Being in a rush is the story of my life. Well, actually, being in a rush, followed by being late most times. I’m so busy rushing through life sometimes, I forget that being friendly goes a long way and can often make someone’s day. Asking the cashier how her day is going at the supermarket, complimenting the woman on her shoe choice standing in front of you in line, and striking up a friendly conversation with the mom sitting next to you at the park are all ways to show your kids how important the soft skills of conversation starting and networking are. I can’t tell you how many times a simple conversation like this has led me to feeling that much better about my day or, in some cases, opened the door to an amazing opportunity. Showing kids it’s more normal than not to talk to others and be friendly is a great way for them to build confidence and become social go-getters as adults.
Emotional intelligence. God, I love me an emotionally intelligent person, don’t you? I try to only surround myself with people who are. They’re like the type of people who just get it. But how do you teach emotional intelligence, let alone, teach it to kids? One word: empathy. Model empathy, question empathy, get them to start thinking empathetically from the get-go.
How do you think your friend felt when he forgot his lunch today? What could you have done to help him feel better?
Do you think hitting your brother was the best way to handle that situation? What kind of outcome did you want to get from that? Could you have asked him to just stop putting your Poke-Mon cards in the toilet? How would have felt if you were him?
Teaching soft skills takes time, receptiveness, and patience—patience I can’t say I always have. But, to me, as someone who is a huge proponent of soft skills over hard skills any time I hire a new employee or choose who I want in my inner circle, I know just how crucial these skills are to get you far in life. And I want my kids to go far, farther than I’ll ever even go (and I’m going far-mark my words), just hopefully not that far from me 😊.