PARENTS

Teaching Your Children Skills

30/03/2011 10:37 | Updated 22 May 2015

teaching children skillsIn many ways, as a mother, I'm an abject failure. I can't cook, unless 'burning stuff in a variety of different pots and pans' counts. I can't knit, I can't sew, and I can't do anything involving glue, glitter or tissue paper.

So it's safe to say that 20 years from now, my daughter Flea won't be cooking a delicious stew for her friends and telling them, "It's my Mum's recipe."

My friends regale me with tales of the domestic skills they are passing on to their children. My friend Jen is teaching her two sons to cook, and they're expert at weighing the ingredients and whipping up a home-made pizza dough. "I want them to be a real catch some day," she says.

Tasha, meanwhile, tells me that her young daughter knows how to use a computer, and is also a dab hand at loading the dishwasher and turning on the washing machine.

By way of comparison my daughter once pointed at an ironing board and asked, in tones of awe and wonder, "What is THAT?"

Despite my domestic shortcomings, though, I do try and pass on to my daughter the skills I do have. Flea has watched me (and performed vital tool-passing duties) as I've plumbed in the dishwasher, set up the wireless router, fixed the washing machine and put up shelves. She has seen me clear a drain, fix a mortice lock, and take a sledgehammer to a door that got locked from the inside.

These are the skills I picked up from my own dad when I was growing up. My father was an electrician and a cub-scout leader, and I learned all sorts of practical skills from him. It was my dad who taught me to read a map, to make a shelter from wood, to use power tools safely, and make a fire in the winter.

I think it's a generational thing, because my partner's knowledge of maps extends to updating the software on the car sat-nav, and he has two plumbers on speed-dial in his phone. He doesn't do DIY, since I laughed at him for not knowing what a spanner looked like when I asked him to pass me one to put the stabilisers on Flea's new bike.

Some of my friends don't really understand why I want Flea to know these things, in an age of three-star service contracts and Google. But I think it's partly about independence – knowing how things work means I'm (marginally) less likely to freak out when the electrics short out and the house plunges into darkness, or water starts pouring out of a pipe.

But I think it's more than that. Passing on our skills to our children is a great way to spend time together, teaching them about the people we are, and who we hope they will become.

My father passed away some years ago, but when I think of him, I don't remember the times he told me off, or the weekends he was too busy working to play. I remember him teaching me to swim on my back at the local pool, or the afternoons we spent working, side by side, building radios.

And perhaps that's the greatest gift of all.

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What did you learn from your parents?

And what are the gifts you hope to pass on to your own children?

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