“kid gloves” or “with a silver platter” to make reference of children that are born privileged. I must admit that privilege has a great part to play in a child making it in life. However, it is not as guaranteed as a child being street smart.
Again, if asked to select between having privileged children and having street smart children, I would rather select street smart children. Why? Because in raising a street-smart child, you cannot negate the participation of the child. However, in raising a privileged child, it’s all on you and the child lives “scot free”, for lack of a better word.
Am I against privilege? Nope. In fact, nearly every parent you know out there will want to raise their child on the premise of giving them privileges. We do this because we may have made a vow when we were growing up in difficulty never to have our children go through the same process.
We also do this because we think that we are showing them love and care when we answer all the “privilege related requests” that they make.
I must say this, that privilege of that nature is disempowering. It is creating impotence in the child such that they do not live to develop their personal power. It is important to provide the basic needs of our children as and when they do need them, but to shield them completely from the uncertainties of life is not wise.
A child who has known what pangs of hunger are has a different kind of hunger for life and success probably as compared to a child who has only known privilege. That is not to say that to be street smart, you have to live in squalor, pain, and upheaval. Although these things can create a level of resilience in a child, they are not necessarily the SI Unit of street smartness.
Let me emphasize that point. Hardship does not necessarily crate a street-smart child. If anything, it has some power to kill the dream of a child especially if it is sustained long enough. That is why some children with great potential but living in hardship have failed while others with not so great potential but living in privilege have succeeded.
Still, I would want a child to be street smart and not to just be privileged. To be street smart means that the child has a working knowledge of how the world works, has a level of hunger to become the best version of themselves and see this world from the angle of what they are to offer and not from what they can gain from it.
To be street smart is to be quick on your feet to connect the dots of value addition and problem-solving, have a great degree of emotional intelligence and people skills, and always make the very best of life from what you have. It is to be in charge and make things happen.
It’s a mouthful, I know. Can a privileged child have these qualities? Yes of course. The only problem would be when we think that it is a privilege that will be the golden ticket to life for any child. Nothing can be further from the truth, and this is increasingly becoming evident every passing decade.
The first thing that we need to teach our children, is the art of survival. This is not just done on a weekend when they are out of school where we take them for a boot camp of sorts. Survival is what we teach them on a daily basis.
When a child is born, the parents take delicate care of them until they leave the house. We all give our children some level of privilege to the measure of our capacities. We need to be aware that this privilege has a way of shielding the children from survival skills, and therefore we have to be deliberate in teaching them.
This is what will start creating the level of the street smart in them.
As early as possible, a child has to be taught how to take care of themselves in simple functions. A five your old should bathe themselves and spread their own bed. They should learn to take care of their stuff, not necessarily in a selfish way. This kind of training takes a long while and it increases as the child develops.
A child that is overly privileged has other people employed to take care of them. This is pathetic. It is not helping the child at all and frankly, such a child just never grows and mature as they were supposed to be.
Being responsible is to start connecting their actions and consequences to themselves and to the others. It is not too early for a 9-year-old to draw their own timetable and learned to follow it with less supervision. A child should know that their actions or inactions have some consequences. That is how one starts learning early on to be street smart.
A simple example is their use of power in the house. A responsible child should know that there are bills that are accruing from our use of amenities. Leaving the water tap on translates to a higher water bill. The same applies to leaving the TV and other gadgets on.
When a child starts linking these consequences to their actions, they start becoming responsible, of course under the supervision of the parent. That is how they start learning to be street smart at home.
Giving children answers to everything they ask is not good. I know a child can be impatient, but it is always good to find a way of letting the child learn how to generate their own answers. This comes with patience from the parent and it comes with time.
A resourceful child will learn to find other ways of doing something when faced with different circumstances from what they have always known. If they cannot find the knife they have always used to spread butter on their bread, can they use a spoon? How do we allow such improvisations?
Resourcefulness is such a great contributor to a child being street smart and we should learn to nurture that aspect of their growth at all times.
How well can a child accept defeat? It is easy to see children cry when they are playing board games and they do not win. Resilience in a child teaches them to accept that failure and defeat are part of life but it is not the end of it.
Perhaps this is one of the most difficult aspects of child development especially as we seek them to be street smart. Over and over again, I find myself stopping such games and just taking a long hiatus before we resume because it is not fun when a child loses and the other wins.
The one who wins celebrates and at times laughs at the one who loses. Children have this self-appointed expectation and privilege to always win. They always see themselves as winners. Therefore, developing mental toughness and resilience is critical in raising them to be street smart.
This has already been alluded to. Mental toughness is only developed when the child is challenged over and over again to go outside of the status quo. It can be through physical exercises, mental exercises, or just change in the environment.
Mental toughness is important in raising street smart children because the world is not necessarily a soft place. It needs people who can handle loss, handle growth, maintain the trajectory of development against the odds that they face.
Therefore, let’s teach our children to be survivors so that they can learn to be street smart.