The top 3 skills for kids - as voted for by parenting experts

Kavin Wadhar
October 1, 2020

As parents we all want the best for our children. But nowadays it is no longer enough to get top marks in maths, English etc. We need to also enrich our kids with life skills or “soft skills”, to help them succeed and thrive.

Parents are in pole position to do something about this!

Surprising fact - did you know that 80% of a child’s waking hours are actually spent at home? This provides an amazing opportunity for parents to enhance their child’s development.

Parent coach Angela Schreiner told us how a child needs their home environment to develop areas “that other institutions like schools and sport teams aren’t able to teach”.

But where should we start?

Well, there are many “soft skills” that employers look for – the ability to communicate strongly, work well in groups, display empathy, be resilience, think critically, demonstrate leadership etc.

But which are the top skills that we should be developing in our kids? And what specifically can we do as parents to help?

We’ve been surveying several parenting experts to find out. We showed them several soft skills and asked them to pick the top ones that parents can be teaching their children at home…Let’s cut straight to the Top 3.

Coming in at number 3…Empathy.



Machines can’t feel things. Emotions are arguably the thing that will keep us humans differentiated in an “AI” future– so let’s nurture this in our kids already!


Parent coach, Rosie of Orchids and Dandelions, is a “full advocate of building emotional intelligence (EQ) - not only in our children but in ourselves”. Traditionally society has favoured IQ but now there is more and more emphasis on EQ also.


Remember that empathy is a trait that parents need to develop too! Cherie the Parent Coach says that as parents “we naturally focus on the negatives”, but in order to develop empathy in a child they must first be shown it by their parents. As she says, “catch your child when they are good”, not just when they’re bad. Look for the opportunity to praise, not just criticise eg “Thank you for helping me to…” or “You are listening so well to this story.”


❤️ At KidCoach we love these conversation starter questions to build Empathy:


  1. “Can you name 10 different emotions?” The ability to label emotions helps deal with them as they arise. Some examples: happy, angry, tired, hungry, jealous, content, pity, anticipation, disgust, sad, brave, love, hope, confusion.
  2. “How does your best friend make you feel?” Identify your child's best friend and discuss what they are like. Encourage them to be as praiseworthy as possible, and then focus in on the feeling it creates in your child eg loved, trusted, accompanied. Help them realise the effect that people can have on each other
  3. “What advice would you give a friend who is nervous to go to a party?” If your child is normally anxious in this situation, this "friend" mechanism can help them help themselves. If they are normally fine it is a good way to develop Empathy - how would they help their friend etc

👉 Our App has lots more great stuff like this!  There is a free two week trial so go and check it out now!

At number 2…’s Communication.



The ability to communicate well is arguably what has propelled humans to the top of the food chain, according to Sapiens author Yuval Noah Harari. And parent Coach Carrington has curated this book list for parents with some excellent recommendations like “How to Talk so Kids will Listen & Listen so Kids Will Talk”. Every child has great potential to communicate really well, so let’s help them uncover it!


Experts at The Parent Practice, including Melissa Hood (author of Real Parenting for Real Kids), advise asking open-ended questions which build thinking skills in our children aka the “Socratic method of enquiry, a process by which questions are asked to help a person examine ideas and find answers for themselves”


And according to Parent Coach Karen Seiben, it is not only the child who can benefit from improved communication skills. As a parent, it is important to “refine your thinking to become more effective in your parenting and communication with your children.” Whether you are setting boundaries or showing affection, good communication creates a more positive relationship between parent and child.

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💬 At KidCoach we love these conversation starter questions to build Communication skills (for parents and children alike!):


  1. "How would you describe a computer to your grandfather's grandfather?" Tell your child to imagine they met someone from a long time ago who had never seen a computer before. Encourage them to describe what it is, what it does, how it looks /sounds / feels etc. To make it harder, ban the use of "ums" and "errs"!
  2. "What communicates more - the way you look, the tone of your voice or the words you use?" There are 3 ways to communicate and studies show that body language is the most effective , followed by tone and then by content. Explore which you use when speaking in person vs on phone vs by WhatsApp.
  3. "Debating: Should children be allowed to set their own bedtime?" You can take aside each and debate together! Arguments for - teaches responsibility and independence. Arguments against - kids might be on Facebook all night and be tired for school next day. Encourage your child to structure their arguments well, and listen to the counter-arguments for ways to respond.  

👉 Our App has lots more great stuff like this!  There is a free two week trial so go and check it out now!


And coming it at the top spot - number 1…Resilience!



Children are often more resilience than we think. But this is still the #1 area that parenting experts we spoke to recommended as something for parents to focus in on. It is just that important!


Parenting expert, Anita Cleare, expresses the importance of building resilience in her blog Thinking Parenting. She talks about having children set their own goals, rather than being set by parents, “so they are more empowering and flexible and resilient”. Learning from mistakes and putting a child in an environment where they can make judgements is also vital for building resilience.


ITV’s This Morning parenting expert Sue Atkins, also expressed a need for developing a child’s resilience. For example – her free eBook on the 9Cs of confidence covers the role of courage and connection, among other things.


Resilience comes under what we would call a “Feeling” skill, a meta category that includes things like confidence and mindfulness. Instilling “Feeling” skills will help our children manage themselves to succeed and thrive no matter what life throws at them.


💪At KidCoach we love these conversation starter questions to build Resilience:


  1. “What is a growth vs a fixed mindset?” Growth is when you accept you cannot currently do something but know that you have the determination and ability to learn it. Consider these positive affirmations: "I can do it" "I love learning" "I will try a different approach today" "I will learn from my mistakes"
  2. “What do we mean by ‘half glass full’?” Children who are wired to be more positive are often times more resilient and able to cope with a changing and adverse situation. You can instil positivity by talking about the difference between a positive mindset (half glass full) and a negative mindset (half glass empty).
  3. “Imagine your bike had a flat tyre, what would you do?” When something goes wrong it is tempting to fix it for our kids, but this denies them a valuable learning opportunity. Encourage them to have a go themselves first, or look up on YouTube how to do it. Also encourage them to consider alternative options.

👉 Our App has lots more great stuff like this!  There is a free two week trial so go and check it out now!


A final thought


Just imagine.


Just imagine if we all did this.


Just imagine if as parents, we all took 5-10 minutes a day to have a “coaching conversation” with our child.


One that developed empathy, communication, resilience…and other much needed “softer” skills in our children.


What would the world look like in just 30 years time?


Probably full of children who have grown up to have clear voices, creative brains and big hearts…right?


And they will be running the world, making it an awesome place for the rest of us to live in.


THIS is what we are so passionate about accomplishing at KidCoach – and we will continue to work with parenting and other experts as we help parents to get their kids “talking, thinking and feeling”.


Join us now by signing up for free here.



Many thanks to our parent coaches for their expert contributions: Sue Atkins, Karen Seiben, Sonya Moledina, Cherie the Parent Coach, Rosie of Orchids and Dandelions, Carrington Cunnington, Angela Schreiner, Melissa Hood and Anita Cleare.


And thanks to our Intern: Finn Edwards for managing the survey and drafting this article - great work!


Note: full list of soft skills shown in the survey completed by 9 parenting experts were Resilience, Communication, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Mindfulness, Confidence, Empathy, Leadership, Philosophy, Analytics, Interview Skills, Problem Solving, Adaptability, Teamwork, Time Management, Work Ethics

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Written by
Kavin Wadhar

Kavin left a corporate role to pursue his passion. He has built KidCoachApp, which provides parents with hundreds of guided conversations for parents to get their kids talking, thinking and feeling - and building skills they will need to thrive. He lives in London with his wife and 2 kids.

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