What are Life Skills?
Dictionary.com defines it as the ability to cope with stresses and challenges of daily life, especially skills in communication and literacy, decision-making, occupational requirements, problem-solving, time management and planning.
A search on the internet on what exact skill sets constitute Life Skills gives a mixed results. But in general, they include Self Awareness and Dealing with Emotions.
Babies’ First Step in Dealing with Emotions
It is my goal to help my children deal with emotions. Before a person (adult or child) can deal with emotions, one must first learn to (1) Identify Emotions, and (2) be aware of the Cause of Emotions. These two skills takes a long time to practice in order to internalise. They are like habits to be inculcated.
Since my children were sixteen months of age, I have been using several methods to help them deal with emotions (usually outburst of anger, occasionally disappointment). A frequently used method was the naughty spot process. For example, when I put them in their naughty spot, my objective has neither been for Time Out, nor for Classical Conditioning of “Do Not Be Angry” behaviour. My main purpose was for them to be aware of their emotions, and know why they felt so.
The Naughty Spot Process
Naughty spot meant standing my crying child in a child-safe place (usually beside my master bed). I would sit down facing my crying child to have my eyes on the same level as the child (to signal that I only want to listen, and not scold with authority). In a gentle voice after a hug, I would request him/her to tell me what happened. Initially they were not able to articulate as the fear of being in a naughty spot hindered them from speaking up. I kept reminding myself to be patient, and to wait. I would tell him/her it was alright to take his/her time. Usually I would promise no punishment if he/her is able to tell me what happened (in his/her words and perspective), and I have always kept my promise. (Punishment brings short term behaviour changes, but Coaching brings long term behaviour modifications).
When they were between sixteen months to two years old, they could not utter a word. I would ask questions like “Were you angry?”, “Sister snatched your toy?”. They would nod or shake their heads. By the time they were three years old, they would naturally voice out their emotions, and reason as they cry and run to me. For example my boy can now say (in Mandarin) “I am so angry. I was colouring halfway and she took away the paper“, in one breath as he runs to me crying.
Mummy suggests ways to respond
Following the process of identifying emotions and being aware of the cause, I would reward them with a big hug, and praise them for having these skills. By that time they would have calmed down mostly, if not totally. I would then suggest ways they could respond. For example, I would suggest that he/she let the anger past, since time was already spent on showing it with crying. Attention would also be given to the other child who may or may not have intentionally caused hurt. Sometimes, I would request the other child to promise not to repeat an act, and also suggest how she/he can respond in future to avoid causing unintended hurt.
“We Are Family”
The highlight of any episodes of sibling rivalry or quarrels would be to shake hands and hug one another, because “We Are Family”. At times when there was no straight forward way to establish who was right or wrong, I would avoid investigating. My stand would be that I do not care who was right or wrong, and all I care was to see them behave like “We Are Family” or else I would get really upset and angry. They usually would oblige as they do not like their Mummy in an upset and angry state (She roars!)