Soft Skills are those personal attributes that allow us to interact well with others, allowing us to have peaceful and healthy relationships. They are also known as power skills or personality traits. Soft skills are those skills that everyone seems to implicitly understand and are related to manners and social morays. For kids with learning disabilities, however, soft skills can be elusive and confusing.
Hard skills are easily definable skills that are often job-specific, such as knowing how to speak German, code a computer, or write in cursive; those skills that get us the job. Soft skills are more difficult to define and are those skills that allow us to keep the job. You know the adage,
“You are hired for your hard skills, you’re fired for your soft skills.”
What are Soft Skills?
Integrity is the foundation of all soft skills. It is the quality of basing our behaviors on principles instead of situations, being honest and morally upright—integrity based on the Gospel of Truth, instead of our own or others’ desires.
You might have recently heard about the “4 C’s of Education.” These would include
- Collaboration (Teamwork)
- Critical Thinking
Public Schools are beginning to work specifically to train kids in these basic soft skills, as they are so necessary for success in academics, job ability, and stability, and managing and maintaining healthy relationships.
Communication, in particular, is easily identified as the queen of soft skills, as without it, we can hardly function.
Communication Skills Consist of 4 areas:
Employers are currently stressing the need for students to have excellent communication skills, including the ability to persuade by written and spoken communication. In particular, they want to hire those who can “sell” (i.e., persuade) both orally and using the written word.
Collaboration is better known as teamwork. Can you lead, follow, and interact maturely with other team members? Do you problem solve and handle your own emotions well, or are you causing problems for others on your team? Do you understand the team hierarchy well? Are you willing to lead, follow, and get out of the way?
All of these skills go into being a good team player, at different times and various seasons.
Critical Thinking is the ability to analyze facts and form a conclusion, using deductive and inductive reasoning, formal and informal logic, and the scientific method. Critical thinking allows us to be proactive, instead of constantly reactive, strategize, and take the long view, deferring our own short term gratification for long term pay-offs.
Creativity is all about thinking outside the box, generating new ideas or tweaking old ones to fit new situations, and interacting with materials, people, and resources in unique ways.
Time and Distraction Management
Time and Distraction Management is the ability to manage one’s time effectively to accomplish small and large tasks, repetitive as well as on-going tasks. This also has to do with the ability to manage distractions, be that a little sibling, social media notifications or our own self needs or interest. Developing good time management habits is critical to being able to interact with the world in a mature fashion.
Flexibility and Adaptability
Flexibility and Adaptability require having the ability to change and flex as needed. Our world is growing increasingly complex with radical and sudden shifts occurring on both a micro and macro scale. We must teach our kids to flex and adapt as needed as well as to know how to set appropriate boundaries and to stand firm when time and circumstances demand it.
Work Ethic is the value that hard work is intrinsically valuable and worth doing for its own sake. Having kids who are diligent and detailed oriented in their work can mean the difference between success and failure in so many areas of life.
Leadership is both the ability to research and prepare for what’s ahead as well-being to lead, guide, or instruct a group or individuals, teams, or organizations.
In a world that makes it increasingly easy to “block” or “ghost” someone, loyalty is a soft skill worth developing. Standing by one’s faith, family and friends is the mark of someone with integrity and other well-formed soft skills. Everyone is irritating, demanding, and in need of salvation and standing by and next to each other while recognizing our own and each other’s humanity is what being loyal is all about. The soft skill includes patience, kindness, self-control, and the willingness to overlook the other’s failings.
Soft skills are those skills that take a lifetime to master and can always be improved upon.
All of us have soft skills that come naturally to us, and those that are a struggle. Regardless, we can all develop a lifestyle of learning so that we continue to grow and develop to glorify God-given who He has made us to be, and in doing so, shine His light in a world that is growing increasingly dark.
Where to Find Out More About Teaching Soft Skills
Click on the links in this post to view courses offered by True North Homeschool Academy teachers who have goals that are aligned with yours as a homeschool parent.
We believe in the importance of Soft Skills so much that we host a weekly podcast on Soft Skills 101: Life Skills for a Digital Age!
Please join us over at the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network for more great discussion and information on Soft Skills!
Are you teaching soft skills and career readiness in your homeschool?
A well-known adage in the business world is, “You’re hired for your hard skills, you’re fired for your soft skills.”
Hard skills are those easily measurable and defined skills, like the ability to create an excellent PowerPoint, program a computer, speak a foreign language, or re-build a diesel engine. Soft skills are less quickly defined, perhaps, and can also go by power skills or personality traits. Soft skills are things like your ability to communicate effectively, work on a team, use critical thinking, and live and play with integrity.
Why are soft skills just as, if not more important, than hard skills in today’s quickly changing job market? Hard skills are easily taught through classes or training, but no amount of technical knowledge can make up for lack of integrity or work ethic.
What does this mean for us as homeschooling parents?
In the same way, we spend time, money, and effort looking for the all elusive perfect math curriculum; we should be strategizing ways to help develop our kids’ soft skills.
These skills include things such as:
- Critical Thinking
- Work Ethic
- Time/Distraction Management
Now how do we focus on teaching Soft Skills?
Communication goes hand in hand with academics as we teach our kids to write and speak well. A robust writing curriculum works best in a group setting, in my opinion, where kids are required to read their writing out loud and give and take feedback from teachers and fellow students.
A solid Speech and Debate class or regular presentations or recitations will help develop communication skills as well.
Working on teams, be they sports or academic is a great way to develop teamwork. Your student can learn collaboration skills by getting a job or volunteering or even working with parents and fellow students on projects and events. Also doing simple things, like yard work with your family can require you to develop teamworking skills. Here students learn essential tactics such as communicating clearly, listening well, and doing tasks they wish were delegated to others.
Perplexors, or logic puzzles, are a super fun way to develop deductive reasoning skills. Parents also need to ensure that their students use a solid math and science curriculum. Lego League, Odyssey of the Mind, National History Day and Science Fair Competitions all demand and develop critical thinking skills in a fun and challenging way. Don’t overlook learning Logic- both informal and formal –a tremendous critical thinking training tool.
In my mind, nothing develops creativity better than actually being creative regularly. Take part in daily or weekly writing, painting, drawing challenges, start a blog, take up photography. Students can even join our Writing and Art Clubs. Here students set their own goals (developing critical thinking), get regular prompts, assessments, and challenges. Most importantly, kids are inspired by each other!
In today’s job market, flexibility and adaptability are more important than ever! Today’s students will probably have around 15 jobs during their working life span. Many of them which will probably be Independent Contractors, collaborating with teams from around the world. This global market makes flexibility and adaptability more crucial than ever! Learning foreign language, religions and culture, travel, and campaigning are all excellent ways to develop these areas. Reading about history, and understanding geography allows us to take into account different times, people, and places, which in turn gives us a broader perspective.
The best way to teach work ethic is by having your kids work. Work alongside them and teach them the value of work. Tie their work to meaning, so it doesn’t seem like a time waste. Have them do chores, and contribute to the family in significant ways. For example, setting the table, vacuuming, taking out the trash, etc. They can even work on larger projects, like painting the living room or laying a brick wall. Work can take on many forms, and the academic work of powering through a tough logic curriculum or winning a medal on the Latin National Exam should not be overlooked.
Teach your kids to use planners and daytimers from an early age. Have family planning meetings weekly, so kids get a big picture overview of what is happening in the lives of their families. Teach your kids to SMART goals and how to prioritize so that they can meet their goals.
Have filters and timers on electronics with an electronic free day each week. Use your electronics as tools that you manage, so that your kids aren’t hindered or addicted to them — place parameters around what happens when. For example, you can set between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. as electronic free, because that time is for sleeping. Turn off the wifi, take the phones, and make sure your kids get the right amount of sleep. Their ability to set and accomplish goals will be so much more doable on a good nights sleep. Teach your kids media etiquette (netiquette).
Integrity is all about character. I talked in one of our podcasts about how when my Grandpa shook your hand, it was going to happen, even if it cost him. My Grandpa’s word and commitment was a binding agreement, in his mind, and he would do what it took to make sure he could follow through on whatever he’d agreed to. Telling the truth, showing up, creating and keeping commitments, understanding limits (yours and others) these are all marks of integrity.
We’ve done in-depth Bible studies with our kids from the time they were very young. These studies, along with in-depth history studies, have allowed us to talk about what has worked and what hasn’t in life. Teach your kids empathy; have them get involved in serving others. Develop Grit goals so that your kids can learn to persevere through difficulties, hardship, and trials. Teach your kids to pray and give them living examples of what it means to live our faith out loud.
There’s a lot to think about as you train and educate your kids. It doesn’t have to be either or as we teach our kids hard skills and soft skills- take an integrated approach and use academics to teach soft skills! Not sure where to start? Our Academic Advising program can help!
(For more information on teaching soft skills to your students check out our Podcast – Soft Skills 101 from the Ultimate Homeschool Radio Network.)