The six essential parenting skills I wish I’d acquired before I had kids | #parenting


A survey of 1,000 mums and dads of children aged 11-16 by the online learning service 8billionideas has revealed that the majority of parents wish they had been taught more practical skills at school and not just the typical subjects on the standard curriculum.

Among those mentioned were speaking in public, changing a tyre and putting up wallpaper, while 90 per cent believed that self-care skills were more important in adult life than algebra. 

Which begs the question, who were the 10 per cent that thought they weren’t?

The truth is any parent’s life could be made that much easier if they had already mastered some of the genuinely useful skills that will, sadly, never appear on any curriculum and that won’t really be possible to learn once children arrive in their lives. 

Skills like these…

Advanced domestic science

Learning how to make a fruit salad or an apple crumble at school is not without its merits, certainly, but there are more important tasks that everyone should learn if they want to grow into an obsessive and frighteningly dull adult (like me).

That means tackling those domestic flashpoints that always arise like, for example, your kids refusing to replace an empty toilet roll or maybe cleaning the bath after they’ve used it. And everyone of all ages, without exception, should be taught how to load a dishwasher correctly. In fact, for the right fee, I’ll be the course leader.

New language classes

While the British are world-leading when it comes to queuing, we’re not so good at what to do when we’re actually stuck in one. That’s why every citizen could benefit from language classes, not in French or Spanish but in conversational small talk.

It’s not just queues. Engaging, say, with a tradesperson in your house or maybe with a taxi driver takes real skill and the ability to feign real interest is actually far more important than the topic of conversation, be that the weather or if the taxi driver has been busy that evening. Likewise, when you’re sat in a soft play centre talking to other parents you don’t know or have no intention of getting to know. Learn the lingo. Avoid the pain.

Coping with stress 

Adult life can often be consumed by pressure; at home, at work, in relationships. But you will never feel more pressure than when you are at the business end of an Aldi checkout. Yes, the anxiety of deadlines at work and financial pressures may give you sleepless nights but trying to survive the tsunami of produce and products hurtling towards you as an ever-lengthening queue of shoppers watch you drown. Nobody deserves that, especially if there’s a child or two tugging at your sleeves. 

Dispute resolution

If you’re a parent then there will, inevitably, be times when you need to step in and diffuse some difficult and heated situations, be that between you and your partner or with you and your children. While mediation and conciliation have their place, I find the best way to ensure a lasting peace is to capitulate at the earliest possible opportunity in any disagreement, accepting you’re (probably) in the wrong before offering a weak, insincere and barely audible apology.

It’s an inverse variation of the late football manager Brian Clough’s style of dispute resolution. Once, when he was asked how he settles disagreements with his players, he said “We talk about it for 20 minutes and then we decide I was right.” 

Effective communication

For communication read complaining. We’re hopeless at in this country. Yes, we love a gripe and a grumble but actually complaining? Not so much. There’s an art to effective complaining and it’s something we all need to study. It requires confidence and intent, focus and resolve, none of which you can really exhibit successfully once you have kids in tow.

It’s about projecting an aura of not taking no for an answer, rather than pathetically accepting whatever you’re told and skulking off into the distance, muttering.

Time management

Not so much in terms of squeezing more into your days or juggling the demands of kids and work but on matters like how to set the clock on the cooker because nobody knows how to do this, no matter how many times you may have read the instruction manual.

It many ways it’s like finding love. You can try time and time again but still never stumble on the secret of how to make it happen. Then there’s a power cut or the clocks change and you’re back where you started, randomly pressing all the little buttons, desperately trying to crack the code of which ones to push and when. And, like love, failing.





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