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5 Skills Every Kid Needs

When a little kid manages to wrestle her own tights on -- even though the heels are popping out in front of her ankles -- or propels her fork to her lips without bouncing bunny-shaped macaroni onto the carpet, you feel a surge of pride: She's learning to do for herself. And when she gets a little older and tackles her homework without being hounded or teaches you how to set your preferences on your new Pda, you want to cry with gratitude. Kids these days, as they might put it, have mad skillz. But don't let them stop there -- they need to master more than self-care and smartphones to be both happy and successful in life. When was the last time you had a sonic runny-mascara meltdown because there were raisins in your coffee cake and you haaaate raisins? Being able to control your impulses, delay gratification, and identify and manage your feelings are all skills that fall under the category of emotional intelligence. Social intelligence is all about being able to relate to others, respond to their feelings and cues, and negotiate conflicts. Learning these techniques is important not only so your kids will have friends to complain about their parents to, but also so that they can do well in school. Here are five such skills you can help your child develop that will set her up for life.

Skill #1 How to be a loser

No mom wants her child to be a loser in the good-at-nothing, eating-lunch-alone, social-outcast sense of the word. But literally learning how to lose at something, handle it, and then bounce back is critical to beng happy. Think about it: Losing a game of boxball is nice training for when you don't have the winning Powerball ticket, which, odds are you won't.

For little kids: Model being a good loser -- over and over. Say something like "Ooh, you whupped my butt! That was so fun. Let's play again." It's fine to let preschoolers win much of the time, but then gradually wean them off it, says Erika Rich, Ph.D., a child psychologist in Los Angeles who runs social-skills groups for children. When you win, say to your child, "I won this time. But you made a great try" If he gets terribly upset, explain that no one prefers to lose, but that losing is part of playing -- the only person who truly loses is the one who doesn't make an effort. "Starting around age five, your child should not be winning every game, and it's time to let him experience losing, even if it means a tantrum," says Rich. It may take a few million games of Candy Land, but he'll get the hang of it.

For bigger kids: By age 8, says Rich, most children tend to take losing in stride. One reason some still don't is that school-age children -- like many adults -- can become so focused on the outcome of a process (getting to sit next to a friend, being chosen first for a team, scoring the highest) that they lose sight of what's fun along the way, says Pam Schiller, Ph.D., author of Seven Skills for School Success. The trick is to get their eyes off the prize. If your child loses a ball game, for example, Schiller suggests saying, "So you didn't win. Let's talk about some of the other things that happened. Did you enjoy getting out there and playing with the other guys on your team? Did you enjoy the other parents cheering for you? Did you enjoy being outside?" The goal, Schiller emphasizes, is to "take them away from the idea that if they didn't win, it wasn't any fun."

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