Dads stand accused of failing to equip their children with a raft of basic life skills…
A new study highlighting the ‘life skills’ modern fathers are failing to teach their children has caused predictable uproar in the more excitable sections of the media.
The Sun actually titled its report on this collective failure of responsibility “Lazy Dads”. But then what do you expect from The Sun?
The actual poll was a little more nuanced, though not much. Fathers are no longer teaching their children life skills such as reading a map, riding a bike and pitching a tent, it claimed. We are also failing to teach our children how to swim or catch a fish (or indeed how to swim and catch a fish).
Apparently thanks to the laziness of the modern father, our children can neither light a fire nor – should they chance upon a fire created by someone else – make a good cup of tea on it. Predictably, things were different in the good old days, when the British Empire stretched across the globe and more than two thirds of our own dads taught us how to repair a bicycle puncture.
Ed Burgass of Fishing TV, which commissioned the study, said: “The survey has revealed some really interesting insights into the things we teach, and more importantly don’t teach, our children.
“As the study has shown, families are no longer fishing together like they once did. As a child, I went fishing with my father regularly and some of my fondest memories are from the river bank.”
I guess I should feel suitably ashamed?
A study (in PR)
But not really. Let’s dig a bit deeper into this fine piece of academic research. First of all, you’ll have noticed a lot of talk about fishing, which is no surprise when the poll was created to publicise a TV fishing channel. The research was designed to produce easy headlines, not anything approaching actual insight.
Second, even the research shows that dads aren’t doing less of these wholesome activities with their kids because of laziness. They just don’t have time. Dads are either too busy to teach random ‘boys own’ life skills to their children, or their kids are too busy playing computer games. Or both. If there is any worth in the research at all, it’s the implication that children should play out more.
Finally, the poll does trigger an interesting question. In 2018, what is a life skill? Are there life skills that are universally applicable, and that all children should learn? Or should we tailor what we teach to the needs and interests of our own children?
Life skills depend on the life
I take the latter view. I have taught my children just two of the many practical abilities that the PR company responsible for this research has declared ‘life skills’. My children can swim and ride bikes. To my eternal shame, they are as clueless as me when it comes to buffing and polishing shoes.
To be fair, they can tie their shoelaces – also on the list – but I’m pretty sure I didn’t have much to do with that. And there’s another question. Why on earth is tying a shoelace or reading a map the sort of knowledge only dads are supposed to impart?
So am I a lazy feckless dad whose children are destined to one day walk out into the world (in shamefully dirty footwear) and become instantly lost? Will they have to scavenge for scraps, unable to catch a fish, light a fire and make a decent cup of tea? And why do so many of these life skills seem predicated on a belief in the coming zombie apocalypse?
Here’s a few of the things I have taught my children, which I would consider life skills. My children know basic computer coding and how to create a simple website. They have an appreciation of reading and art. They are kind and polite. They can throw together a simple meal.
Indeed my daughter helped me make a fish pie only the other day. I’m embarrassed to say that the fish came from the local supermarket.
Modern life skills for children
I have never polished my shoes, because I have never needed to. But what might make it into a modern life skill list that every child should learn? Here’s a few tongue in cheek suggestions…
- How to delete a Facebook account (leaving no scrap of data for unsavoury organisations to exploit).
- How to trade bitcoin.
- How to recognise a genuine Black Friday bargain.
- How to change the wheel on a robot.
- How to run a pop up coffee shop.
- How to get by on a zero hours contract.