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Teach important life skills

By on August 18, 2010

When living on a tight budget, you realize quickly which skills are important. Often, basic skills can be the difference between a small bump in the road and a financial crisis. You can give the next generation a huge gift by teaching them skills that can help them as adults. There are plenty of skills such as gardening, first-aid, childcare/babysitting basics, tool identification and how to use them, etiquette/manners, basic home/car repairs and maintenance, reading food labels or bartering, that you can teach that aren’t useful just during recent tough times but all the time.

piggy bank

You can teach kids gradually and informally or on a schedule. One reader, Denise from Illinois, shares: “We started teaching life skills when my kids were small. My kids have told their friends that they couldn’t go somewhere with them because today was a life skills day, etc. We’ve even had some of their friends come over for lessons at times. My kids have input on what they’d like to learn, and we teach them things we feel are imperative to know. Some things are negotiable. I’d love for my daughter to learn to knit and crochet, but she wants no part of it, so we don’t do that. Some things are not negotiable. They all learned to sew a simple item and mend, and they all learned to plan and fix simple meals. We noticed it was harder and harder to just “find” teachable moments as my kids got older. If we didn’t schedule it, somehow they never happened. My kids liked the idea of learning certain things on certain days during the summer, too. Cooking class on Monday, sewing on Wednesday, budgeting/finances on Saturday and so forth. ”
What life skills do you think are important for kids to know?


It seems like common sense, but it’s amazing that some children don’t have to do many chores. Visit for a handy age-appropriate chore guide. Another reader, Mary C. from Indiana, shares: “Teach kids how to approach the basics of work such as how to work, how to work hard, going the extra mile, organizing work, working efficiently and staying with the work until it’s DONE. To accomplish this, I have always had my kids work beside me. None of this ‘you watch a video and when Mommy’s done with her work, we’ll have some fun.’ This drives me nuts to hear parents say this.”


Kids need to have money experiences. This can start with a piggy bank, books and games that teach money skills and transition to earning their own money to buy some of their own items, how to make/count back change and having their own bank account. Yes, it seems like an obvious thing to teach, but with so many parents using debit or credit cards, kids aren’t exposed to the actual exchanges of money as often as you might think. Take your children to thrift stores or garage sales or have them clip and use coupons to show them the difference between discounted prices and paying full retail price. In other words, be the best financial role model and teach them the best use of their hard-earned money.


This is tough and isn’t taught overnight, but kids need to learn critical thinking, healthy habits, social and research skills. You can’t do everything for them or give everything to them. Kids should struggle sometimes, learn consequences, feel disappointment and understand that the world isn’t fair and no one owes them anything. Kids should have an opportunity to volunteer and be a part of the community, too. Your goal is to give them the tools they need to be resilient and responsible adults.

photo by rosscrawford1

One Comment

  1. cuteoldlady

    9/15/2010 at 5:46 pm

    my kids are mostly grown now (22 y/o (m), 22 y/o (m), 21 y/o (f), & 17 y/o (f)) but growing up they knew I would not buy them candy, period. If they wanted it – they had to buy it. Somehow then that candy was not so important! But if they requested a special fruit or veggie for a snack, would get it in a heartbeat. Same for clothes, most was given or Goodwill etc, but when the boys got to a size where it was impossible to find jeans for and I would have to buy new, they would request specific name brand. I would tell them I know I can get x jeans for $15, the jeans you want are $35, I will give you the $15 for the jeans and you have to come up with the rest of the money. To earn money, they of course had their chores that had to be done no matter what, but there was ALWAYS fences to be mended, posts holes to be dug, rocks to be cleared etc. and it was not gender specific our youngest daughter was out there too digging the holes, repairing fences, or older daughter was welding gates and the sons were mending clothes or washing walls / floors. Whatever extra that needed to be done.

    Now that they are grown, I know they will be ok, they are not afraid of hard work, and they know the difference between “wants” and “needs”.

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