What do we need to teach our children as they grow up?

When my eldest son started school, I was proud of the fact he could write his name as well as do some basic reading and counting.

But on his first day, he had a runny nose, and it was then I realised, I hadn’t prepared him at all for school – who would wipe his nose during the day? I always did it for him.

My son had few life skills, although in my defense he’d been loved to bits during those toddler years, even if life had been a little cruisy for him.

I realised that to start school he needed to be able to wipe his own bottom, open his own lunchbox, keep his gear together and to be able to ask for help if he needed it.

I think he could do about half of these. But by the time my second son started school, he was a pro at all of them.

As parents, our job is to prepare our children for the world that’s at their feet. Not just the basic functions of life, and ‘nose wiping’ fits in here, but rather how to be ready to take on the world without us, even if it is just baby steps when they’re young.

A recent poll and detailed study conducted with UK parents identified the 59 most popular life skills our children should have.

Some of the responses are no brainers – according to 80 per cent of parents surveyed, remembering to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ is the most important life lesson we can teach our children. However some of the skills are questionable – do our children really need to know how to do a cartwheel? Or open a bottle of champagne? (I’m hearing a ‘hell yeah!’ on that one!)

So in no particular order, we’ve put together our own list of “Twenty One Life Skills” we should be teaching our children. We just need to ensure we make the time to do this properly:

1) Good manners. This is a ‘fail’ if good manners aren’t ingrained in our kids from an early age. Being able and willing to use good manners is a basic life skill. ‘Please’, ‘thank you’, ‘excuse me’ – good manners are simply a life imperative.

2) Engage with people. Look people in the eye when talking to them and use their name – I get a little thrill whenever my friend’s children say my name when they greet me and make a mental note that I need to work more on this with mine.

3) Put your devices down when talking to people. Sadly, a sign of the times means we could put together a whole separate list about device etiquette. Sigh.

4) Ask for help if you need it. Interestingly, the 5th highest scoring skill on the UK survey was “Don’t talk to strangers”, but sometimes our kids might need to.

Perhaps a different version of this is needed, because if they need help – emotionally or physically our children should know they can turn to anyone.

5) Cyber safety. Like no other generation yet, our children need to know how to be discerning and aware of the risks and what to watch for in the online world.

6) Be kind to others. The old adage of treating others how you’d like to be treated will always be a powerful reminder of how to live your life.

7) Be positive and happy. Make sure the glass is always half full and not half empty. We should teach our children how to bounce through life rather than trudge.

8) Have loving relationships. By being open and generous with their love, this sets the foundation for positive relationships with friends, families, and one day, their partners and their own children.

9) Be respectful – of elders, of each other, of those in positions of authority and of well, everyone. Respect.

10) Learn to swim. We live on an island surrounded by water. Knowing how to swim and be water confident is a must.

11) Personal safety – being self aware and personally safe. Although life is full of adventures waiting to happen, our children need to make the right decisions about their own personal safety.

12) How to work hard for what they want. Very few people in life get what they want without working for it. Our children need to work for what they want rather than just being given it.

13) How to cook and tidy up after yourself. Being able to look after yourself is an empowering emotion for our kids. As parents we don’t have to do it all and nor should we – we’re helping our kids by asking them to help.

14) Make their own fun and adventures. Often children and adults turn to the default entertainment offered on devices rather than go exploring.

We need to teach our kids to get amongst it and find their own fun, rather than one artificially created for them.

15) Believe in the body beautiful: In their lives, there will be so many showing and telling our children what they should or shouldn’t look life as they grow up. Our job is to teach them that their bodies are beautiful and amazing, and that each body shape, size and height is unique and should be celebrated. Can I have another “hell yeah!

16) Stand up for yourself and speak your mind. It’s so important to be able to stand up for yourself – if someone takes your ball, get it back, if there’s a hair in your soup, complain. Nobody puts baby in a corner (for those old enough to remember Dirty Dancing).

17) Fuel your body. With the increasing rates of obesity in Australia, more than ever, our children need to understand what foods are good for their health and what to avoid or have in moderation.

18) Move your body. Make ‘moving’ a natural part of our children’s day and set an example by doing the same.

19) Know when to say no. By teaching our children that it’s ok to say no, and not to succumb to peer pressure, we’re helping provide a solid platform for when those tough decisions come.

20) To be the best they can be. By teaching our children these life skills, we’re helping them to be the best version of themselves. But it’s up to them, and that’s the learning – everything they do in life will be their responsibility.

21) Change the toilet roll. Just slipping a personal one in here. Dear my family, changing the toilet roll actually requires the used one to be placed in the rubbish bin, not the floor.

What life skills do you think are important to teach your children? What have we missed out on?

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  • To remember their parents phone number and their address.


  • Before I was a parent, I loved lists like this and imagined a future where I would help mould a perfect well-rounded little human being. But now, with a neuro-divergent child, I would be happy to get a win on any of these on any given day. You can’t make someone ‘Be positive and happy’, ‘Stand up for yourself’, ‘Engage with people’ etc when these can be massive challenges. All we can do is love them, hope to lead by example, to ask them to at least try in any given situation, and be ready to support them no matter what.


  • Learning to swim is a must. And don’t just get them to learn to swim in their swimmers. They need to learn to swim in their pyjamas too because kids don’t accidentally fall in pools in their swimmers.


  • This is a great list – I don’t have anything to add but I am taking note of these!


  • Social media can be such a problem so being aware is something we should all be doing. Plus the toilet roll changing, that should be number one.


  • Hahaha I love the last one! But such a great list to remind me what to focus on and not to sweat the small stuff!


  • Cyber awareness/bullying is such a big thing bower days. I really worry about my daughter and what could happen.

    I also love the list suggestion about teaching them early to change the toilet roll. This is a huge must.


  • Great skills. I think 16 should have stand up for what you believe is right so not just standing up for own but being able to speak up for others as well or being confident to speak and do the right thing.


  • Love love love this!!! But would add financial skills!


  • Laughing at change the toilet roll…because YES! It’s the simple things in life that are sometimes the daily struggles.


  • Money
    *Never to early to teach kids about money
    *Firstly teach them to save percentage of their pocket money
    *How to shop within there budget
    *How not to be tricked by unnecessary purchases
    *For kids with jobs teach them to evaluate if the item is worth it in hours rather than in dollars


  • Lots of amazing life skills. Even number one manners, so many children in Australia never say please and thankyou. It was always a must in our household in England


  • I agree with this article. Its important for our children to have these skills and the earlier, the better for retention!


  • I love that change the toilet roll is on this list! So many people forget to teach l their little ones the basics, and wonder why no one else is doing it! I still remember my grandma saying that there is nothing more rude then using the toilet before someone and leaving no paper behind. And I guess I always held onto that, and I notice it everywhere! My daughter was changing the empty roll for a full one before she could walk ???? plus the kids rule is if they change it they get to keep it! Yay free craft


  • Great list. My daughter can change the toilet roll without being asked (yay!) but isn’t the best at standing up for herself. I think I need to teach her to be a little more assertive.


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