Published on 2012/02/16

Bringing Life Skills On Par With Math Skills

The biggest challenge to audience student engagement is that we have an impoverished narrative for human development.

Every human being alive today, be they a world leader or a knife toting gang member, is working on the same two mandatory assignments – surviving and communicating with others. Free will does not mean we choose the assignments. It merely means we choose how much pain we suffer in the learning process.

The skills we use to succeed in these assignments are most commonly called Life Skills.

Tragically, the Life Skills educational process more closely resembles genetic inheritance than academics. If your father has red hair, you have red hair. If your father screams and yells you scream and yell. Children learn what they live, as the famous poem is titled.

Why? Why do we accept that children can learn to read and write from third party educators, but not conflict resolution and interpersonal communication skills? How might the world change if we embraced a more optimistic and dynamic narrative?

Take any societal ill (diabetes type II epidemics, financial collapse, wars) and you will find their origins in an inferior educational process.

Two years ago I founded the (now top ranked) Parenting 2.0 group on LinkedIn. Our mission is for children’s Life Skills Average (LSA) to one day be as appreciated as their Grade Point Average (GPA). Specifically we advocate:

  1. Greater appreciation of the mandatory curriculum.
  2. Benefits of embracing a more dynamic and proactive Life Skills’ educational process.
  3. Greater collaboration among educators.
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Readers Comments

Rob Krown 2012/02/16 at 11:29 am

This is a really interesting concept Marlaine. At what level do you see life skills being integrated into the classroom. I can very different formats at the elementary, secondary and post secondary level. In any case, this system would allow us to greatly accelerate our rate of emotional evolution as a society.

Hillary Childs 2012/02/16 at 1:47 pm

I think this would be best done at the post-secondary level.

Students are old enough to appreciate the importance of their holistic growth at this point and since so many universities talk about how well-rounded their graduates are, maybe it should be their responsibility to begin with?

MamaMarlaine 2012/02/19 at 3:48 pm

Thank you for commenting Rob and Hillary. It is interesting that when a child has difficulting with math we call the math difficult. When children struggle with Life Skills (personal care, organizational skills, respect for self and others, communication & social skills) we call the child difficult – or some other name “bully, messy, disobedient, stubborn, anxiety ridden etc. We focus our attention on their “behavior” rather than seeking a more inspiring educator.

Popular while it is to turn to schools and parents as a first step for effecting change, I actually think a huge volunteer force is waiting to be activated in broader publics throughout the world. For this reason, we are unveiling an international volunteer organization called The Global Presence at our first P20 Talks Conference (Joan Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice San Diego CA August 16th-18th 2012).

Volunteers in The Global Presence will be given the opportunity to “Be the Change” by serving one hour per month facitating communication between Life Skills and parents in their immediate communities. If you are interested in learning more please join the discussions in our Parenting 2.0 groups on LinkedIn and Facebook where we will be providing critical updates. Hugs!!

Paul McGuire 2012/02/24 at 2:45 pm


First, thanks for what you do. Parents place way too much importance on the intelligence and neglect the life development. My last two posts on Emotional Quotient have a lot to say about the problems, the cause, and some practical habits to improve our interactions with one another. It is an ongoing challenge that I face myself, and I have to constantly ask the question will the grades matter once they graduate high school. Life skills need to be integrated at home.

MamaMarlaine 2012/02/24 at 10:51 pm

Thank you Paul. One of the nine panels presenting at our P20 Talks Conference 2012 is focused solely on EQ rising to IQ and I look forward to reading your articles. I think on the whole parents want to nurture children thriving and – like you – see benefits in continued education for themselves but they are completely overwhelmed by the operative paradigm.

Voltaire famously said “The snowflake never feels responsible for the avalanche.” Ironically, Life Skills Educators themselves often perpetuate the existing paradigm by functioning independently – each marketing their own curriculums – despite the burden this places on parents seeking quality,age appropriate, material.

Collaboration is essential to effecting large scale change. For this reason I am intensely grateful for forums like this and LinkedIn that facilitate discussion among a wide array of educators. I hope you will consider joining us at Parenting 2.0 also. Hugs!

Nancy Waller 2012/04/23 at 10:02 pm

I have seen your Life Skills report card. My kids are older now, but they mastered those things by the time they were in middle school. So by fourteen or fifteen they knew how to take of themselves and not have to rely on anyone else. When they started school I gave them each an alarm clock so they would learn to wake up and prepare for the day themselves. These skills must start as soon as they start walking and talking. Even in the classrooms the kids should already know the beginning stages. The only thing they are still working on is taking control of their own finances. Which no one really knows until you are living on your own. But parents are the ones who have to start teaching life skills from the beginning.

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