life skills tying shoesA conversation with my daughter, a third-grade teacher, got me to thinking about evolving life skills. She told one of the boys to tie his shoes. When he hesitated, she asked if he knew how.  He did not. Three other boys were nearby. She asked if they would tie his shoes. Turns out only one of the boys knew how. Furthermore, many of the kids don’t know their house numbers, how to tie knots, or use a telephone land line!

We are not talking about an inner-city school here. It sits in a prosperous neighborhood and only thirteen percent of the students get free or reduced lunches. The school is highly rated, being ranked 75th in 4,600 elementary schools in the state of Texas. Furthermore, the diversity of the student body is startling:

Asian: 38.4%

White: 35.9%

Hispanic: 15.9%

African American: 5.2%

American Indian: 0.1%


What gives?

I must admit I was a lazy parent and made my kids learn to tie shoes early on because I did not want to do it. Why, if your kid does not have this skill, don’t you just put him/her in Velcro or slip on shoes?

Before I throw this generation under the bus, I did some soul searching.


My grandmother lived in rural Alabama in the 1930s. The house was heated with wood burning fireplaces. She must have been an expert with fires.  While I learned this skill in Girl Scouts, neither my children nor grandchildren are good at it. (I must boast here, I can start a fire with one match.)

Then, too, I once saw her shoot a chicken for dinner. Dressing chickens is a skill I do not possess. At least I can clean fish.


I asked my soon-to-be 16-year-old grandson if he knew how to jump a car battery. He was aware that batteries could be jumped. Then, he pointed out that he could look it up on the internet!

In his defense, I had to learn all about tire-changing and battery jumping because cars in my youth always had bad batteries and tires frequently went flat. Today’s cars are much more resilient. Then, too, with cell phones, you can get help immediately whereas, as a teen, I was on my own.

Many other skills I possess such as reading a road map, changing the oil in the car, cooking, reading cursive, placing a phone call through the operator, writing a check, and dialing rotary phones have gone by the wayside.

Yes, and while my 12-year-old grandson can’t dress chickens or light a fire, he knows how to connect a Bluetooth device to his computer.


The bottom line is that we need to teach kids skills they need in their everyday world—personal interaction skills are at the head of the list.

Look at your children and grandchildren. What are you doing for them that they need to learn to do for themselves? Washing clothes? Cooking? Making doctor’s appointments? Teach them as my father taught me. In preschool, we were on an out of state trip and he needed to call his brother to say we would be late. He took me into the phone booth and coached me as I talked to the operator.

Let them loose as my father did. He took my brother and I on his business trip to New York when we were in junior high. He sent us home by ourselves. We went to the Pan Am Building, caught the helicopter to the airport, and the plane home. He coached us carefully.

We owe this to our loved ones.

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