How to Teach Kids to be Street Smart…


No, it’s not too late to teach children to be the above, regardless of age. However, my belief is that the above mentioned qualities stem more from time and attention of the parents, than the school itself.

I will send my child to a traditional big school because I want her to learn about respect for authority, discipline in finishing the work on time, work ethics, the importance of meritocracy and working for what you want step by step, sitting still, and following rules. I love that they are taught how to “si-tak” and memorize concepts.

Have you ever asked a kid to sit still and try to memorize? It’s super tough! I’m glad that the school teaches this so that my child have a good stable foundation in learning as she gets older. These are hard skills to learn if you live in a looser environment.

Personally, I think these traditional traits are super important for adults. You have to know how to follow rules first before you can creatively think of ways to break them.

My child must understand that nothing is served on a silver platter — and if you want something, you have to WORK FOR IT. The danger of progressive learning is in teaching kids that they are important, and their opinions are important.

But I am a cynic. The world does not operate that way. Life is not often fair. So I think a good dose of humility and understanding of the big picture and their role in it is important. Traditional teaching does this very well.


I sincerely believe that these things — being street smart, emotional intelligence, decision making, socialization, etc. — is something parents should nurture, as they are better teachers than the school. It’s not really something we should outsource, as no school does this best than us ourselves.

First, it’s up to us to model these behaviors. To teach kids to be street smart and practice good emotional intelligence, we need to embody these traits ourselves. Are we street smart ourselves? How do we make decisions? If we are not, then how can we expect the school to teach? Our kids sees us on a daily basis. We are the best teachers for them.

We need to be actively involved in teaching our kids AFTER school. Every day is a learning opportunity. So in our family, we take the extra step on explaining to her why we made such decisions when and after an incident happens. We don’t make a decision blindly so after a decision, we take the time to explain our logic to her so she can learn from us.

We make hundreds of decisions all the time, so explaining a little through the days and years teach our kids how to think and make smarter decisions.

We also try to exercise kindness and a wider view of the world. I once gave her grape juice to a beggar, and told her that she needs to give those who are in need. When we pass through the a security guard, I call her attention and ask her to say hi. If she walks past the guard, I stop and call her again to greet the guard. It’s important she thinks the world is not all about her.

We bring her everywhere with us, so she can learn friendliness. When we are eating, we train her to say hi to the waitress, raise her hand to order food and how to ask for the bill. She’s shy, but eventually, she’ll learn how to do it herself. Through repetitive experiences, she is better trained in socialization vs. other kids who spend more time with the yaya.

We also expose her to other skills. Just last week, I brought her with me to an art class where she painted this bag. In the summer, she took swimming classes, ballet, reading and math. Maybe next summer, I will take her for dance and ice skating. These lessons help her discover what she like and don’t like, so she can develop herself holistically.


Instead of asking which school is the best, we can take a step back and ask ourselves how actively involved are we in our child’s development?

For me, school is wonderful as it teaches my child the basics of getting along with peers, following directions, sitting still, working hard to achieve something, and being graded to see how you gauge in terms of performance. This, I happily outsource to the school, as they do a great job and structure in teaching my child these. It’s hard for me to teach the above at home since she’s an only child, so rules and regulations at home are looser than that in school.

But for the rest?

I think it’s up to us parents to guide our children and teach them the logic of making smart decisions, be street wise, and to be socially, mentally and emotionally intelligent too.

As I always tell my friends when they asked me why my child is in a traditional school, “Big school will teach my child structure. But it is at home that she learns creativity and how to be street smart. So I’m not worried that our child is not in Montessori.”


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