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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

(Editor’s note: please welcome Renee with her guest post outlining life skills that need to be preserved. Thanks Renee!)

Kids these days are so enamored with technology that they have a pretty difficult time imagining life without it. With the convenience that machines and gadgets afford, our children are almost always tempted to rely on gadgets, even for simple tasks.

But what happens when technology fails? Below are 5 essential skills to develop in your child so that he grows prepared and self-reliant:

Critical Thinking Skills

Research shows our skills in critical thinking and analysis decline as technology plays a bigger role in our lives. Nowadays, any question or concern that a student may have can easily be answered by an Internet search. Our kids are finding technology as a means of short cuts: Getting things done as quickly as possible with as little effort as possible. This process means that critical thinking skills may be diminishing.

Parents can demonstrate critical thinking in very simple, everyday methods: pondering aloud the most efficient way to do household chores; considering the most economical purchase to make at the grocery store; monitoring your progress toward your personal goals; or approaching social issues in your community. Describing how you think and solve problems is the best way for you to instill similar thinking patterns in your children.

Studies also show that reading develops imagination, induction, reflection and critical thinking, as well as vocabulary. Reading for pleasure, which has declined among young people in recent years, enhances thinking and engages the imagination in a way that visual media such as video games and television do not. As responsible parents, we should encourage our children to read good books instead of watching movies to develop these skills.

Social Skills

Recent studies highlight our children are becoming super skilled when it comes to finding their way around a computer, but less proficient at social skills such as making new friends or knowing what to say in certain social situations. With the popularity of cell phones, text messaging and social networking sites, our children may be losing an essential part of communication.

As a parent, I am personally worried that future generations will have amazing intellectual potential but do not know how to express it. As such, we should take the responsibility to teach our children how to properly socialize before “short cutting” face-to-face interaction.

To prepare children for adult sociability, teach them to communicate politely and correctly. Tell them how to address someone formally as well as informally. It cannot harm them to know these things and one day they might value their own ability to be comfortable at any social level.

Sports Skills

Sports skills are skills for life. Setting goals, working hard, learning from others, and staying positive in the face of adversity are just some of the skills developed each day on the running tracks, playing fields, ice rinks, and gymnasiums. The lessons our children learn through sport will enable them to make healthy lifestyle choices, meet challenges head-on and work with others to achieve goals later in life. Motivate your child to join organized sports instead of playing Wii sports games. As with other computer games, even if played against a real person, Wii cannot beat the interaction and socializing that takes place in a gym or a court. Real sports also offer an easy way to meet new people and get involved.

Wii also falls short in terms of physical benefits. Compared to golfing at a driving range (3.9 calories per minute), playing Wii Golf burned 0.8 calories less per minute. Actual bowling burns nearly twice as much (7.2 calories per minute) as Wii Bowling, while baseball burns 7.3 calories per minute and Wii Baseball burns 2.8 calories per minute less. Similarly, Wii Tennis burns 2.8 calories per minute less than the actual game (8.1 calories per minute). Finally, Wii Boxing burns about 3.0 calories per minute less than conventional sparring at 10.2 calories per minute.

Household (cooking) Skills

With all the fast food restaurants and frozen pizzas, families don’t cook like they used to. But if you don’t want to raise another child who only eats pre-packaged food, you need to go back to cooking real food at home (instead of eating all the unhealthy preservatives and chemicals in prepackaged meals) while involving your kids in the process.

Teaching kids to be kitchen savvy has so many benefits. It is one of the rare opportunities you can spend quality time with them while instilling knowledge, good habits, and responsibility -because you have to be responsible while cooking. This will benefit your kids later in life, say during their college days, when they’d have to create healthy meals by themselves, or when the time comes that they would need to cook for a family of their own.

Navigation Skills

Global positioning systems, or GPS technology, have recently become popular for many consumers and, like any other form of technology, evolved to include features that replace some other skills we once relied upon. But emergency situations happen; the battery in the GPS can die or the GPS itself could malfunction. Therefore, it is always handy to have a navigation strategy that includes a backup to GPS whenever possible.

Navigation and map-reading are essential life skills. Teaching children how to use a map to locate their current position and find their destination provides them with confidence and gives them a powerful tool that can prevent them from becoming disoriented or lost. Most often, children associate maps with treasure hunts and grand storybook adventures. Teaching this skill in a similar game format will instill a lifelong love of map reading in children of all ages.

Technology is here to stay and we, as a society, need to guide our children towards the future because after all, whatever impact technology has on them now is what will shape society’s forthcoming generations. Instill in your child these essential skills and he should grow up prepared for the challenges that lie ahead with or without the aid of technology.

Renee Bedford is a mom and wife who believes in teaching her children to be self-reliant and prepared. She knows that not only will these skills keep them safer, but they will also make them smarter! Besides being a committed mother, she also works for the Christmas Tree Market, where they sell an array of classic and unique artificial Christmas trees.

Photo provided courtesy of Joe Shlabotnik via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

Earnest Parenting: tips for parents who want to raise self-reliant children.