Nurture children’s ‘soft skills’ in your children

Ironically, one of the hardest skills to learn in life, discipline, is a “soft” skill. Everybody is always talking about the importance of the hard skills such as science, technology, engineering, math, and languages; but the soft skills will almost guarantee your child’s success.

It’s simply not good enough to be smart. For example, most bosses would pick a reliable worker with average intelligence over a brilliant but unreliable worker. The point is that your child has a much better chance of succeeding in life by learning how to be a responsible hard worker, than by simply being clever. Clearly, you’re on the right track if your child is a math whiz and a great person, but let’s face it; the hard skills aren’t for everyone.

Soft skills are typically skills that come from your upbringing. They generally come from home and that’s why the ghetto kids tend to stay there when they grow up. Unfortunately, you don’t learn enough soft skills in school, however one of the reasons you can’t be tardy to school is a soft skill: reliability.

It’s pretty hard for a young person to keep a good job these days without the following soft skills: adaptability, commitment to quality (work ethic), teamwork, reliability, drug free lifestyle, a desire to keep learning, and interpersonal communications.

On the other hand, the job outlook is good for average joes with great soft skills. I recently asked a machinist who is making $20 per hour, “When did you know you wanted to become a machinist?” He replied, “Honestly, I hadn’t ever thought about it. I was just a common laborer (manufacturing plant) and I didn’t miss a day of work, like in over a year and a half, so the owner approached me, ‘How would you like to become a machinist? We’ll pay for your training.'”

Moms and dads of the Mahoning Valley, did you comprehend this seemingly insignificant anecdote? So here’s this otherwise very normal guy making minimum wage as an unskilled laborer when his boss notices his amazing soft skills and asks him if he wants free schooling to effectively triple his pay (plus the new job comes with benefits), and offer him lots of overtime ($40 per hour )-and it all happened because he was a very reliable and responsible worker with a good work ethic. It doesn’t always happen that way, but he said they’re always hiring machinists and it’s a one-year program.

A few months ago a former “student” approached me at the gas station, “Hi Mr. Herman, it’s great to see you, since you were one of the only teachers who actually taught me something useful in all those years at school.” I remembered how little he did in my class and drew a blank.

“What did I teach you?”

“Yeah, (he chuckled) as you remember, I wasn’t a very good student, but you explained to me why I always need to learn more than just one thing or keep learning as much as I can all of the time to get ahead. And well, I never forgot it and I have been applying it at work, where I just became the youngest foreman there.”

Funny, but actually I remembered the day he challenged me in front of my class. Mostly he sat listlessly in the front seat of the first row and spoke out too often in general frustration with school, “For years I have been asking my teachers to explain ‘when are we ever gonna use this crap in our lives?’ And not one of them can give me a good answer.”

My immediate response was, “Have you ever seen a football team do sets of push ups during the middle of a football game? Of course not. They’ll never use sets of push ups in a game, just as you’ll likely never use adding equations with exponents in your future job; nonetheless, the football team that does more of sets of push ups in preparation for the game will have stronger muscles and better endurance than an undisciplined team that skips push ups entirely. Similarly, your brain gets stronger and smarter with every lesson you learn regardless of the subject.” Surprisingly, he agreed with me, “That’s actually the first time I got a good answer for that question.”

I could write a long book on this subject, but it really boils down to parents teaching children to have good attitudes in life in general. Because you love your children and want to see them succeed, give them a head start in life by nurturing in them a very healthy set of soft skills.

Herman is a Warren resident. Email him at