The things your child learns in the classroom is important for their future. But in order to raise your child as a well-rounded individual, it’s equally essential that they receive lessons outside of it as well.
That’s because success isn’t just about achieving their academic goals. It’s also about making sure they are physically and mentally resilient enough to navigate the ups and downs of life on their own - the one thing that all parents wish for their children.
As such, our role as a parent is to act as ushers towards these learning opportunities. Here’s a few lessons your child should learn that they probably won’t be receiving in the classroom.
#1: Nurture a creative hobby
We’ve all heard stories about children who constantly ace their exams due to their ability to memorise entire pages of model answers, but require more help when it comes to original thought and logical problem-solving. While they’ve managed to excel in the classic definition of success, the real world is not made up of template questions and fixed scenarios.
It’s therefore important to help our young ones to develop their creativity so that they are well equipped to adapt to changes in their lives, whether big or small. Start by observing their preferred activities and guiding them towards establishing a productive hobby out of it. Do they like music? Think about their favourite instrument and see if they’re interested in learning to play them. If it’s paintings and illustrations, talk to them more about art, and perhaps arrange an outing to the local museum.
Even unconventional interests can be spun off into a productive hobby. Are they interested in the natural world? Time to think about taking trips to zoos, cultivating a mini garden at home, or taking regular walks on nature trails.
Whatever it is they’re interested in, your child can surely use it as a way to develop multiple skills including patience, trial by error, and determination.
#2: Encourage your child to read, research and think about world events
With the internet connecting everyone around the world, it’s almost impossible to miss major world events and cultural shifts as they happen in real time. Our children may even be more acutely aware of them as they were born right in the age of social media and thus would know about more ways to access information than us parents.
It’s therefore vital that they learn how to think for themselves, how these events might shape their lives and their role in society. For example, climate change will become an increasingly important issue within their lives - as parents, we can help them understand the concept and how we as individuals can help to mitigate its impact, whether by taking action such as recycling items at home, or helping them to learn more about it through books or documentaries.
At the same time, it’s also worth pointing out to them the value of looking for verifiable data and avoiding sensational but unfounded claims (i.e. fake news). With so much information available to them, it can be difficult for anyone to get the facts right, much less children and teenagers.
Whenever the opportunity shows itself, try to ask your child their opinions on these matters and have a discussion on their viewpoints. This will help develop their skills of critical and lateral thinking, which will come in useful when they try to understand the world around them.
#3: Teach them the importance of housework
Like most things in life, keeping the house clean and well-kept is unexciting, yet important at the same time. Most people don’t like to do it, but do it we must, if we are to keep the household running smoothly. It’s all about having the discipline to follow through even when the last thing we want to do is to vacuum the house.
Your child will eventually have to look after themselves when they grow up. Now that they’re still living with you, it’s the perfect time to have them start learning about discipline and upholding responsibilities in the family.
Start them off with simple tasks such as letting them stack the dishwasher or making their bed; five minute tasks that they’ll have no trouble completing in their own time. You can also sprinkle in some minor rewards when they’re done with them to help turn it into a habit.
After some time, you can promote them to more important work, such as general cleaning or bringing the laundry in once it’s cleaned. You’ll eventually want them to learn skills as well, such as ironing clothes, cooking, or even sewing if it’s possible. No matter how good they end up becoming, these are important survival skills that will allow your child to be independent later on in their lives.
#4: Demonstrate the benefits of healthy eating and exercise
Entertainment is easy to come by these days; mobile phones, computers and televisions are constantly within easy reach. It’s no wonder that children these days are commonly glued onto tiny screens whenever they’re left to their own devices (pun intended). The same goes for food - with just a tap on an app, they get to savour anything from pizzas to sushi within minutes.
These easily lead to unhealthy diets and a sedentary life, which if left unaddressed may lead to health problems in future. The obvious solution is to start doing the exact opposite by encouraging them to eat healthily and become more active, but that’s easier said than done - as parents, we feel the temptation to indulge after a long day at work as well.
The best way therefore, is to start doing it together, and to do it gradually. Introduce a healthier meal at least once or twice a week, and start going out for some light exercise together. Encourage them to join CCAs that emphasise outdoor activities while you sign up for a gym membership, or talk about how to make delicious dishes that are equally healthy. Then compare notes and experiences together at the dinner table. There’s no need to make them eat and train like an Olympic athlete - we just need to inspire them (and ourselves) to start becoming more healthy than they were previously.
In truth, there is no fixed way of getting your child to learn outside the classroom, but these are some helpful tips to get you started. At the end of the day, what we want is for our child to master the necessary skills and lessons that will benefit them throughout their life - and if it’s something that they can’t learn within the classroom, it’s up to us as parents to teach it to them by ourselves.